This is ISS status report #87 from the European Space Agency outlining ESA’s science-related activities that have taken place on the ISS during the past two weeks for different European experiments and experiment facilities.
The report is compiled by ESA’s ISS Utilisation Department in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus and Payload Operations Management and Mission Science teams from the ISS Utilisation Department.
Point of Interest: On 7 February three years ago Europe’s Columbus laboratory was launched to the International Space Station on STS-122 Shuttle Atlantis. Two days later Atlantis docked with the ISS and on 11 February 2008 Columbus was permanently installed onto the ISS European-built Node 2.
ISS Utilisation Programme
The principal focus of the European utilisation of the ISS is the Columbus laboratory, which was launched and permanently attached to the ISS in February 2008. In addition to the science taking place using the internal and external experiment facilities of the Columbus laboratory, ESA also has some further ongoing research taking place inside the Russian Segment of the ISS and in the US Destiny and Japanese Kibo laboratories. The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:
European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Biolab and experiments
A ground-commanded alignment test on Biolab’s rotor A was successfully completed on 8 February. Continued alignment testing was halted later in the day under engineering recommendation due to a warning signal generated by Biolab, (though related sensors showed values to be nominal). The warning signal is being assessed prior to continuation of the alignment testing.
Biolab is a multi-user facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. Due to the still ongoing functional recovery activities for the Biolab facility the TripleLux experiments’ planning was revised and TripleLux-A was de-manifested from the ULF-6 / STS-134 flight mainly due to the Biolab microscope failure which will be returned from the ISS on ULF-6 / STS-134 and repaired on ground. The objective of the TripleLux experiments is to further understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the aggravation of radiation responses, and the impairment of the immune function under spaceflight conditions.
European Drawer Rack, ERB-2, Kubik Incubators and PADIAC/SPHINX Experiments
The European Drawer Rack was activated on 31 January for downlinking data from the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (ERB-2). After communication was established between ERB-2 and the Rack Interface Computer the index file on ERB-2 was transferred to the Mass Memory Unit of the European Drawer Rack. The data was hereafter downlinked. A downlink of data two days later was not successful though this was resolved by cables being configured on orbit by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli. The files were successfully downlinked to ground from the ERB-2 via the Video Management Unit of the European Drawer Rack on 3 January. The Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 is a high definition 3D video camera conceived by the Erasmus Centre of ESA’s Human Spaceflight Directorate and takes advantage of high-definition optics and advanced electronics to provide a vastly improved 3D video effect for mapping the Station.
The samples from the SPHINX (SPaceflight of Huvec: an Integrated Xperiment’) and the PADIAC (PAthway DIfferent Activators) experiments are undergoing analysis at the respective research team laboratories following the successful conclusion of the experiments on orbit and return of the samples to ground on Soyuz 23S on 26 November. Both experiments utilised the Kubik-6 incubator located inside the European Drawer Rack (PADIAC also utilised a second Kubik incubator outside of the European Drawer Rack)
The objective of the SPHINX experiment is to determine how HUVEC (Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells) modify their behaviour when exposed to real weightlessness. This could provide better knowledge of endothelial function, which could be useful for clinical application. Endothelial cells, which line the interior of the heart and blood vessels, are important in many aspects of vascular function. The scientific objective of the PADIAC experiment is to determine the different pathways used for activation of T cells, which play an important role in the human immune system. Samples for SPHINX and PADIAC were returned to the relevant science teams on 29 November.
The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will also host in the future the Facility for Adsorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) and the Electro-Magnetic Levitator payload from 2012 onwards. FASTER is a Capillarity Pressure Tensiometer developed for the study of the links between emulsion stability and physico-chemical characteristics of droplet interfaces. The Electro-Magnetic Levitator will investigate properties of metal alloys under weightlessness, supporting basic and industrial research.
Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow-2 / FASES experiments
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli removed an optical target from the Fluid Science Laboratory on 29 January. Optical targets are fixed diagnostic test elements placed, instead of an experiment, in the optical path between the various Fluid Science Laboratory illumination sources and CCD cameras as a well defined calibration subject. These are used for on-orbit performance testing of the Fluid Science Laboratory’s various optical diagnostics measurement modes.
On 31 January and 1 February the facility was activated following recent part 2 commissioning activities of the Canadian Microgravity Vibration Isolation Subsystem (MVIS) which is incorporated within the Fluid Science Laboratory. File transfer from MVIS to the Video Management Unit of the Fluid Science Laboratory was first undertaken before downlinking the data to ground. The data has now been transferred to the MVIS team at the Canadian Space Agency. MVIS is equipped with an extremely sensitive accelerometer that can monitor movements or vibration aboard the Station and it has been designed to isolate the core element of the Fluid Science Laboratory from vibrations of the ISS, and from disturbances generated within the rack itself.
The GeoFlow-2 experiment is stowed in the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) of ATV-2 “Johannes Kepler” for launch on 15 February 2011 and subsequent processing of an exhaustive scientific programme for a couple of months in the Fluid Science Laboratory. Final science and experiment operations preparation activities are currently taking place at the involved USOCs (MARS and E-USOC).
The Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment is undergoing extensive science testing using the flight sample cells in the Engineering Model of the Fluid Science Laboratory at the MARS User Support and Operations Centre (USOC) in Naples, Italy. This replanning follows the demanifesting of FASES from the Progress 39P launch in September (due to the upgrade constraints of the Video Management Unit of the Fluid Science Laboratory). The Video Management Unit will be tentatively returned to Earth by ULF-7 / STS-135 for the upgrade implementation, after the execution of the GeoFlow-2 experiment. The flight of the FASES Experiment Container will now be rescheduled to a later Progress launch in 2012. This experiment will be studying emulsion properties with advanced optical diagnostics. Results of the FASES experiment hold significance for oil extraction processes, and in the chemical and food industries.
European Physiology Modules facility and related experiments
The European Physiology Modules facility and its Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (MEEMM) were activated on 4 and 7 February for undertaking, respectively, the Neurospat experiment (see below) and thereafter downlinking associated data. The facility was again activated on 10 February for data downlink for the DOSIS experiment (see below). The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with Science Modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. MEEMM is used for different types of non-invasive brain function investigations and can also easily be reconfigured to support research in the field of muscle physiology. Experiment results from the European Physiology Modules will contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle atrophy.
On 3 February ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli set up the hardware for the Neurospat experiment. The following day Nespoli was assisted by ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman in donning and setting up the Electroencephalograph (EEG) cap and carrying out another session of the experiment. On 7 February Nespoli transferred data from the Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (one of the European Physiology Modules subracks) to the Neurospat memory card and data was downlinked to ground.
NeuroSpat, which was the first experiment to make full use the European Physiology Modules facility in June 2009, is investigating the ways in which crew members’ three-dimensional perception is affected by long-duration stays in weightlessness. NeuroSpat also incorporates an experiment (Prespat) from the European Commission within the SURE project.
Monthly data downlink for the Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment was undertaken on 10 February via the European Physiology Modules facility. DOSIS is progressing well during its time on orbit, with the instrument still acquiring data using one of the active DOSTEL detectors (DOSTEL-2) in the European Physiology Modules. The passive detectors for DOSIS, which were deinstalled and returned to earth on STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis, and sent to the research team to undergo scientific analyses. The DOSIS experiment determines the nature and distribution of the radiation field inside European Columbus laboratory using different active and passive detectors spread around the laboratory. This is the first time that 'area dosimetry' has been undertaken on Columbus to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the module.
On 11 February ESA Astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli started his first session of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment. During two six-day sessions Nespoli will consume a higher salt level diet and a low-salt diet, logging what he eats and drinks on a daily basis. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2) No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 11 February. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA’s Human Research Facility 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory on 1 October 2008. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in the field of respiratory physiology instrumentation, which analyses exhaled gas from astronauts' lungs to provide near-instant data on the state of crew health.
European Modular Cultivation System
The Mass Memory Unit of the European Modular Cultivation System was reformatted on 1 February. This was followed by download of images loaded onto the Mass Memory Unit to confirm that the reformatting had been successful.
EXPRESS Rack 3 (in which the European Modular Cultivation System is located) has also been active for most of the two-week period until 11 February in order to take structural dynamics using the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS).
The European Modular Cultivation System, which was flown to the ISS in July 2006, is dedicated to biological experiments such as the effects of gravity on cells, roots and physiology of plants and simple animals. It was developed by ESA and is being operated jointly with NASA under a bilateral barter agreement which was renewed after the initial 2 years time frame.
Culture chambers for the Genara-A experiment (which took place in the European Modular Cultivation System) are currently in a General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) until their return on Shuttle mission ULF5. Genara-A is studying plant (Arabidopsis) growth at molecular level in weightlessness. This will help to better understand gravitropism and to find plant systems that compensate for the negative impact on plant growth in space. The tentative next EMCS experiment is a NASA experiment, SeedGrowth.
Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES)
No activities were carried out using the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) in the two weeks until 11 February. Once the facility is fully commissioned it will be used for undertaking neuromuscular and exercise research on the International Space Station. MARES is capable of assessing the strength of isolated muscle groups around joints to provide a better understanding of the effects of weightlessness on the muscular system.
Following completion of an electrical checkout of the system (i.e. with no functional testing), MARES will be placed in its on-orbit stowage configuration. In the future this will be tentatively followed up by functional testing of MARES in two parts: the first part (during Expedition 26) without a crew member using the system, the second functional testing (during Expedition 27/28) with a crew member in the loop using the system. These two commissioning parts will include testing of hardware and software as well as testing downlink capabilities.
MARES consists of an adjustable chair with a system of pads and levers that fit to each astronaut and cover different movements, a main box containing the facility motor and control electronics to which the chair is connected by an articulated arm, as well as dedicated experiment software. The system is considerably more advanced than equivalent ground-based devices and a vast improvement on current muscle research facilities on the ISS.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
A new Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to gather scientific data opened on 29 January. Following a continued period of data acquisition the Sun visibility window closed on 9 February, at which time the Solar facility was placed in a safe configuration. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for around 3 years on-orbit. This has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles. Following the conclusion of the detailed technical feasibility study for on-orbit lifetime extension the science team will be able to continue gathering further science data in a period of increasing solar activity up to 2013 and possibly beyond.
Vessel Identification System (VIS)
Successful data acquisition is ongoing for the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as the Automatic Identification System, AIS), using its Norwegian receiver, and telemetry is still being successfully received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Germany. The Vessel Identification System has acquired an extensive amount of data in the past months since its installation in Columbus. N-USOC also supported tracking of the Local Area Network traffic on 3 February during a loss of signal and confirmed a loss of data of ~20 minutes as expected within the timeframe.
The Vessel Identification System consists of the two different receivers (NORAIS and LuxAIS), which were scheduled to be alternated every three months or so, and the ERNO-Box, which is used as a data relay for the Vessel Identification System, whose antenna was installed on the outside of Columbus during an EVA on 21 November 2009. The Vessel Identification System is testing the means to track global maritime traffic from space by picking up signals from standard AIS transponders carried by all international ships over 300 tonnes, cargo vessels over 500 tonnes and all types of passenger carriers. Meanwhile various service entities have been asking to get access to the VIS data which is continuously acquired on Columbus.
European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory
Material Science Laboratory in the Material Science Research Rack
No activities were carried out in the Material Science Laboratory in the two weeks until 11 February. The first batch of samples for the ESA/NASA CETSOL/MICAST experiments completed processing on 18 January. The final sample is currently awaiting return to ground. An additional twelve CETSOL/MICAST experiment samples have already been processed to date in the Low Gradient Furnace (replaced with the Solidification and Quenching Furnace in the Material Science Laboratory earlier in January) with analyses undertaken by the relevant science teams on ground. The second batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples will be the next to be processed in the Material Science Laboratory followed by samples for the SETA experiment.
ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the primary research facility located in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1, which was launched together with a total of six sample cartridges for NASA and for ESA’s MICAST and CETSOL projects on STS-128/17A under a cooperation agreement with NASA and is now installed in the US Laboratory on the ISS. Seven more sample cartridges were launched on 16 November 2009 with STS-129/ULF-3. Project scientists have already presented very promising preliminary scientific results stemming from analysis of the first samples. This constitutes an excellent basis for further materials research with international collaboration.
CETSOL (Columnar-to-Equiaxed Transition in Solidification Processing) and MICAST (Microstructure Formation in Casting of Technical Alloys under Diffusive and Magnetically Controlled Convective Conditions) are two complementary material science projects. The goal of MICAST is to study the formation of microstructures during casting of technical alloys. In space, buoyancy convection is eliminated and the dendritic solidification of the alloys can be quantitatively studied under purely diffusive conditions. The objective of CETSOL is then to study the transition from columnar growth to equiaxed growth that occurs when crystals start to nucleate in the melt and grow independently. The SETA (Solidification along a Eutectic path in Ternary Alloys) experiment will be looking into a specific type of eutectic growth in alloys of aluminium manganese and silicon. Results of all these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.
Microgravity Science Glovebox and SODI experiments
On 9 February Paolo Nespoli located six tapes for NASA’s InSpace experiment that was undertaken in the Microgravity Science Glovebox already a long time ago. These were originally scheduled to be returned on Shuttle flights 17A and 2J/A.
These activities follow the successful conclusion of the SODI-Colloid experiment and the relocation of the Microgravity Science Glovebox rack from Columbus back to the US Laboratory on 21 October 2010. The Colloid experiment covers the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions. The focus is on materials that have a special interest in photonics, with emphasis on nano-structured, periodic dielectric materials, known as photonic crystals, which possess appealing properties and make them promising candidates for new types of optical components. Colloid is the second in the series of three SODI experiments and further experiment runs may be resumed later during 2011. The first SODI experiment performed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox was IVIDIL (Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids), which was successfully completed on 20 January 2010.
The subsequent DSC experiment (‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’) will be the third and final SODI experiment processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox which is now tentatively foreseen towards the end of 2011 after a the implementation of the partially re-defined liquid mixtures in conjunction with the new ELIPS project DCMIX. Further batches of DSC experiments are planned for 2012.
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within a barter agreement with NASA. The Glovebox provides the ability to perform a wide range of experiments in the fields of material science, biotechnology, fluid science, combustion science and crystal growth research, in a fully sealed and controlled environment.
Portable Pulmonary Function System
On 3 February ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman performed her second session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with the NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment. The Thermolab experiment uses the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System to investigate thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise. The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless conditions in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology.
Greenhouse in Space experiment
Paolo Nespoli transferred the ‘Greenhouse in Space’ experiment from Progress 41P on 11 February. ‘Greenhouse in Space’ is an education activity which consists of a greenhouse used to grow plants and observe the life cycle of a flowering plant in orbit, while schoolchildren use a similar greenhouse and observe the same species of plant on the ground.
European science inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory
ESA’s Matroshka payload, which has been located in the Japanese Kibo laboratory since 4 May 2010, is continuously acquiring data about the radiation environment inside the ISS. The accumulated radiation levels are being measured using the passive radiation dosimeters (including PADLES type from JAXA) which were installed inside the Matroshka Phantom, which simulates a human body (head and torso). In the long-term Matroshka may again be accommodated on an external ISS platform to measure cosmic radiation levels in Low Earth Orbit which are of relevance for EVA activities.
European science inside the Russian ISS Segment
GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service was deactivated on 31 May 2009 though negotiations with Russian representatives are ongoing for reactivation of the instrument and continuation of the so-called test mode. GTS will tentatively become a cooperative European-Russian experiment on ISS in the future. This experiment is intended to test the receiving conditions of a time and data signal for dedicated receivers on the ground. The time signal distributed by the GTS has special coding to allow the receiver to determine the local time anywhere on the Earth without user intervention. The main scientific objectives of the experiment are to verify under real space operation conditions: the performance and accuracy of a time signal transmitted to the Earth’s surface from low Earth orbit; the signal quality and data rates achieved on the ground; and measurement of disturbing effects such as Doppler shifts, multi-path reflections, shadowing and elevation impacts.
Additional European science outside the ISS in open space
The deintegrated sample trays for the Expose-R facility are stowed in the Service Module awaiting return to Earth on STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle Discovery at the end of February or Soyuz 24S in March. The Expose-R payload was retrieved in the frame of a Russian EVA on 21 January. It was installed outside the Zvezda Service Module during the Russian- based spacewalk on 10 March 2009, and concluded science acquisition following almost 2 years of exposure to the harsh open space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum). The facility had been functioning extremely well and continuously acquiring scientific data during this time.
Expose-R hosts a suite of nine new astrobiology experiments (eight from ESA, one from IBMP, Moscow), some of which could help understand how life originated on Earth. This suite of experiments was transported to the International Space Station on Progress flight 31P, which docked with the ISS on 30 November 2008. The experiments are accommodated in three special sample trays, which are loaded with a variety of biological samples including plant seeds and spores of bacteria, fungi and ferns.
The individual Expose-R experiments are as follows:
- AMINO: Photochemical processing of amino acids and other organic compounds in Earth orbit
- ENDO: Response of endolithic organisms to space conditions
- OSMO: Exposure of osmophilic microbes to the space environment
- SPORES: Spores in artificial meteorites
- PHOTO: Measurements of vacuum and solar radiation-induced DNA damages within spores
- SUBTIL: Mutational spectra of Bacillus subtilis spores and plasmid DNA exposed to high vacuum and solar UV radiation in the space environment.
- PUR: Responses of Phage T7, Phage DNA and polycrystalline uracil to the space environment.
- ORGANIC: Evolution of organic matter in space.
- IMBP: Exposure of resting stages of terrestrial organisms to space conditions.
Expose-R complements the exobiology science package that was performed in Expose-E, a twin facility which had been in operation on ESA’s EuTEF facility outside of Columbus since February 2008 until EuTEF’s return to Earth with the STS-128/17A Shuttle Flight in September 2009.
In addition a new experiment complement (three European and one Russian) for the tentative Expose-R2 mission has been identified and the implementation in collaboration with the Russian partners is commencing.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli carried out consolidation of the rack stowage for the Human Research Facilities on 31 January, rearranging blood, saliva and urine sampling kits in order to make them more accessible for use by grouping them into in-use items, upcoming use items and excess supplies.
Human Research Facility 1
During the two-week period until 28 January activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. ISS Commander Scott Kelly finished another week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 31 January during which data was transferred to a Human Research Facility 1 laptop from the Actiwatch he was wearing to monitor sleep patterns and light exposure levels.
On 4 February Kelly undertook the first part of troubleshooting activities on the failed Human Research Facility ultrasound equipment. This consisted of decabling the ultrasound keyboard and flat screen display, removing the ultrasound equipment from the rack facility, carrying out ohm resistance testing and relocating equipment for the second part of troubleshooting. This took place on 8 February. Kelly configured a laptop prior to power cycling the hardware. This caused a trip which seems to indicate a problem with the ultrasound itself.
Human Research Facility 2
Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 4 and 11 February for blood and urine collection activities respectively for Palo Nespoli and Catherine Coleman for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol. Nespoli and Coleman assisted each other on the respective days with the blood draws. Blood samples were centrifuged in the facility’s Refrigerated Centrifuge. All samples were thereafter stowed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. Activities were supported by the Columbus Control Centre.
ISS general system information and activities *
Columbus laboratory and Columbus Control Centre
In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above, the Columbus systems have been working well. Some regular maintenance activities have been executed by the crew and the Flight Control Team on top of the regular conferences of the ISS Crew with the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Main points of interest include:
All the portable workstation laptops in Columbus underwent their periodic reboot on 4 February along with US laptops and Japanese system laptops. This included recording the laptops’ states of charge.
System inspection and cleaning
On 9 February ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli carried out the periodic inspection and cleaning of the screens of the Cabin Depress Assembly (part of the Environment Control and Life Support System) and of Positive Pressure Relief Valves in the Port Cone Area of Columbus.
Activities of ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli
System and payload activities
During the last two weeks in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli: calibrated and took readings from two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments (oxygen sensors) from Soyuz 24S; replaced the battery in, and zero calibrated, the prime unit of the Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products devices (which monitor cabin atmosphere to provide quick response during a fire); checked out four isolators on the CEVIS exercise device; relocated the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter, one of the principal radiation measurement devices on the ISS, from the Russian Service Module to Node 3; carried out weekly inspection and maintenance on Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus 4 and 5; updated the port maps for the Joint Station Local Area Network; and installed coaxial cabling with Scott Kelly in the US laboratory for the SGANT (Space to Ground Antenna).
In addition to the European science programme detailed above ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli has carried out additional science activities in support of the science programmes of ESA’s ISS partners. This included being a subject for NASA’s ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance, and for NASA’s Pro K protocol looking into how dietary intake can predict and protect against changes in bone metabolism during spaceflight and recovery.
Health status activities
The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the past two weeks Paolo Nespoli was the subject of: a session of the WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows) experiment; an On-Orbit Hearing Assessment; and generic urine collection as part of generic Human Research Facilty urine collection. In addition Nespoli filled in Food Frequency Questionnaires used to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health, and undertook Crew Medical Officer refresher training.
During the last two weeks Nespoli and the other ISS crew members have had their regular Planning Conferences with ESA’s Columbus Control Centre as well as Mission Control in Houston and Moscow, and the Japanese Flight Control Team at the Tsukuba Space Centre. Nespoli also: initiated runs of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere and used the Service Module amateur radio equipment on 29 and 31 January and 1 February to conduct live radio sessions with students respectively at the Alessandro Cialdi school in Civitavecchia, Rome, Italy, at the Arsaniq School, Kangiqsujuaq, Waken Bay, Northwest Passage Territory, Quebec, Canada, and at the College Joseph Chassigneux, Vinay, France. Nespoli was further involved in a US public affairs event on 9 February with NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Scott Kelly and NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
No activities were carried out on the exercise equipment in Node 3 in the two weeks until 11 February in addition to regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device and T2/COLBERT treadmill.
Regenerative ECLSS and Additional Environmental Control Racks
The two Water Recovery System racks, together with the Oxygen Generation System rack, form the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) which is necessary in support of a six-person ISS Crew to help reduce upload mass. Other environmental control racks in Node 3 include an Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Highlights of the past two weeks include:
Water Recovery System rack 2: Urine Processor Assembly
The Recycle Filter Tank Assembly which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water again underwent periodic replacement on 2 February by NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Scott Kelly.
Water Recovery System Sampling
Weekly water samples were taken and analysed using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (by Kelly on 2 February and by Nespoli on 9 February).
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
Nespoli carried out the periodic change out of items on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment on 11 February including the urine receptacle and insert filter.
Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
Catherine Coleman collected recirculation loop samples from the Oxygen Generation System in the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack on 8 February. This involved rotating the rack forward to access the sampling adaptor installation and rotating the rack back after samples were taken.
Minus-Eighty degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
Currently there are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI-1 and MELFI-3 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI-2 in the US laboratory. During the reporting period blood and urine samples have been placed in one of the MELFI freezers for ISS Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Catherine Coleman for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol. On 11 February Scot Kelly replaced the failed Electronics Unit from MELFI-2 with a spare from MELFI-3. He also removed a failed Electronics Unit from MELFI-1.
HTV-2 and Robotic Activities
HTV-2 External Pallet Robotic Activities
Catherine Coleman moved the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (the Station’s principal robotic arm) to its HTV-2 Exposed Pallet pre-grapple position on 31 January. Hereafter Nespoli and Coleman carried out a simulated training of the upcoming robotic activities. The following day Nespoli and Coleman operated the Space Station Remote Manipulator System from within the European-built Cupola (attached to Node 3) to release the Exposed Pallet from the Unpressurized Logistics Carrier of the HTV-2 and hand it over to the Japanese Robotic Manipulator System operated by Scott Kelly in the Kibo laboratory. Kelly then berthed the Exposed Pallet to the Kibo laboratory’s Exposed Facility. On 2 February the Station’s principal robotic arm was manoeuvred (by ground control) onto the Mobile Transporter and moved along the Station’s Truss where it picked up the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator or “Dextre”.
On 3 February two NASA payloads on the HTV Exposed Pallet were removed using the Dextre by ground control. One of the payloads, the Flex Hose Rotary Coupler, was stowed on a temporary platform on Dextre. The other, a Cargo Transport Container, was grappled by one of Dextre’s arms for relocation. On 4 February the Mobile Transporter with the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (with Dextre attached) was moved by ground control to Worksite 5 from Worksite 7 on the Station’s truss where the Cargo Transport Container was stowed. Hereafter Dextre itself was stowed on a Power and Data Grapple Fixture on the US laboratory followed by the Station’s robotic arm being manoeuvred to Node 2 for the upcoming HTV-2 robotic activities. On 7 February the Exposed Pallet Nespoli, Coleman and Kelly reversed the robotics activities of 1 February to place the Exposed Pallet back into HTV-2 from the Exposed Facility of the Japanese laboratory.
HTV-2 Cargo Transfer/ Undocking Activities
During the two week period until 11 February Nespoli, Coleman and Kelly have been involved in unstowing cargo from HTV-2. Nespoli was also involved in loading trash and excess hardware into HTV-2 and executing a procedure to calibrate two external TV cameras in preparation for HTV departure.
Kobairo Rack Installation
After Paolo Nespoli assisted Scott Kelly in preparatory work, Kelly and Coleman transferred the Japanese Kobairo (meaning ‘stork’) rack from HTV-2 to the Japanese Kibo laboratory on 31 January. Launch locks were then removed and umbilicals mated. Launch locks were removed from its Gradient Heating Furnace the following day and two mechanical stoppers were removed from the heating units inside. On 3 February Coleman took resistance measurements from the heating unit insulation material before closing up the Gradient Heating Furnace. She finished worked on 4 February rotating the rack down, installing structural dynamics sensor equipment and rotating the rack back into position.
Progress 41P Docking
Following launch on 28 January, the Russian Progress M-09M spacecraft on logistics flight 41P to the ISS successfully docked at the Earth-facing port of the Station’s Pirs Docking Compartment on 31 January at 03:39 CET. After docking, ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems. The Progress spacecraft is transporting vital supplies to the ISS including water, food, gases, propellants, consumables and scientific equipment.
Following docking the standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 41P and Pirs was performed followed by hatch opening. Hereafter the quick disconnect clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between Progress and the Station, Progress 41P was deactivated, ventilation ducting was installed and air sampling was carried out in the new logistics spacecraft. On 1 February the Progress docking mechanism was dismantled by Kaleri. Cargo transfers from Progress 41P also started after docking.
Progress 39P/41P Emergency Undocking Preparations
In preparation for Russian EVA-28 (see below), Progress 41P was readied for undocking in the unlikely case of a spacewalk emergency. The Progress docking mechanism was again installed; the spacecraft was activated; ventilation ducting was removed; quick disconnect clamps were removed at the docking port; the hatches were closed; and an interhatch leak check was performed.
Russian EVA-28 Preparations
In the week prior to Russian EVA 28, Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Dmitry Kondratyev configured the Pirs Docking Compartment (and Airlock) and Service Module Transfer Compartment for the upcoming Russian spacewalk. This included preparing spacewalk hardware; configuring and checking out communications equipment; readying the Russian Orlan EVA suits including leak checking relevant equipment and interfaces; performing oxygen and air system pressure checks; and recharging EVA suit batteries. The Progress 41P spacecraft, attached to the Pirs Docking Compartment was also readied for undocking by Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri in the unlikely case of an EVA emergency on 16 February (see above). Nespoli also assisted with configuring an EVA suit battery and gathering tools for use during the spacewalk and the EVA astronauts undertook pre-EVA medical evaluations.
In preparation for upcoming docking of Europe’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) called Johannes Kepler, Alexander Kaleri installed the ATV hand controller on its stand in the Russian Service Module on 2 February. The following day Nespoli worked with Kaleri to check out external TV cameras from the ATV Control Panel.
Orbital debris from a Russian satellite which was in its closest proximity to the ISS on 2 February, was being monitored from the ground though there was no need for avoidance action by the ISS.
Service Module Thermal Control System
ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri carried out maintenance on the thermal control system in the Russian Service Module on 7 February. This included removal of both pumps from a replaceable pump panel in Loop 2 of the system and installing a clamp on a hydraulic unit of the same loop.
ULF-5/US Airlock Activities
From 7 – 11 February a number of activities were undertaken (specifically in the US Airlock) relating to the upcoming STS-133/ULF-5 mission set for launch on 24 February. Paolo Nespoli and Scott Kelly were involved in the discharge/recharge cycle of EVA batteries; Coleman checked out three Pistol Grip Tools, scheduled for use during the ULF-5 spacewalks and scrubbed two EVA suit cooling loops to remove particulate matter; and Coleman and Nespoli carried out a ULF-5 cargo transfer review in a teleconference with ground specialists.
Combustion Integrated Rack
On 8 February Kelly supported test point activities for the Combustion Integrated Rack Multi-user Drop Combustion Apparatus by replacing a CO2 manifold bottle. Paolo Nespoli reviewed procedures for replacing a Combustion Chamber window, which he replaced the following day. Also on 9 February Kelly continued activities by making necessary hardware replacements for the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus, which are needed in order to resume science operations.
Kaleri outfitted Soyuz TMA-01M/24S with four Microamperemeter assemblies (which provide backup capability to monitor vehicle control during descent) on 2 February. On 8 February Kaleri installed new software in the Neptun-ME crew console and Integrated Control Panel in the Soyuz Descent Module before carrying out check out testing of the software and the Microamperemeter assembly connections.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 11 February include: installing a filter cartridge in the air revitalization subsystem in the Russian Service Module; upgrading software of the Russian BSPN Payload Server Hard Disk Drive backup partition (also in the Service Module); downloading structural dynamics data from Russian experiment hardware in the Rassvet module taken during HTV berthing and transfer activities; replacing a gas analyzer in Soyuz 25S; replacing one of four memory/recording devices of the Russian BITS2-12 onboard telemetry measurement system; and reinstalling software on a Russian laptop to regain antivirus application functionality.
(*)These activities are highlights of the past two weeks and do not include the majority of standard periodic operational/maintenance activities on the ISS or additional research activities not mentioned previously. Information compiled with the assistance of NASA sources.
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.
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