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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 89, Increment 26

11/03/2011 1226 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #89 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.

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

ESA astronaut Frank De Winne working with the Biolab facility in 2009
ESA astronaut Frank De Winne working with the Biolab facility in 2009

Biolab and experiments
No activities were undertaken with the Biolab facility in the two weeks until 11 March.

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
No activities were undertaken with the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks until 11 March.

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 thermophysical properties of metal alloys under weightlessness, supporting both basic and namely industrial research and development needs.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow-2 / FASES experiments
On 26 February the rack was activated for taking structural dynamics data using the Fluid Science Laboratory’s Microgravity Measurement Apparatus (MMA) during the docking of STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle Discovery the same day. The facility was deactivated following data acquisition. All acquired MMA data was downlinked on 10 March.

ESA’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2), which docked with the ISS on 24 February, has transported the GeoFlow-2 experiment to the ISS in its Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC). Geoflow-2 is the next experiment to be undertaken in the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) undergoing processing of an exhaustive scientific programme lasting a couple of months. Final science and experiment operations preparation activities have been performed at the involved USOCs (MARS and E-USOC). Activities for Geoflow-2 on orbit are scheduled to begin in the next reporting period with the removal of the Experiment Container from ATV-2 and its installation in the Fluid Science Laboratory by Paolo Nespoli.

Geoflow-2 (which follows on from the Geoflow experiment with new scientific objectives and a different experiment configuration) will be investigating the flow of an incompressible viscous fluid held between two concentric spheres rotating about a common axis as a representation of a planet. This is of importance for astrophysical and geophysical problems such as global scale flow in the atmosphere, the oceans, and in the liquid nucleus of planets. For Geoflow-2 the incompressible fluid will be nonanol and not silicon oil as in the first Geoflow experiment. Nonanol varies in viscosity with temperature (unlike silicon oil) to provide a different aspect of research with more of a simulation to Earth’s geophysical conditions.

The subsequently planned Fluid Science Laboratory experiment “Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability” (FASES) is still 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. The execution of the FASES experiment will require the upgrade of the FSL Video Management Unit which 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
No activities were undertaken with the European Physiology Modules in the two weeks until 11 March.

The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with Science Modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. 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.

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.

Urine samples for test subjects of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment during Expeditions 24 and 25 were returned on STS-133 Shuttle Discovery, which landed on 9 March. 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 March. 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
Cabling between the European Modular Cultivation System and EXPRESS Rack 3 (in which it is located) was disconnected and the rack rotated forward by ISS Commander Scott Kelly on 27 February. This was in connection with upcoming maintenance activities. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli continued activities by removing the failed Water On/Off Valve 8 with its insulation covers and replacing it with a Water On/Off Valve manifold. The rack was tilted up afterwards and cabling was reconnected. The following day Nespoli finished up activities by preparing the spare Water On/Off Valve 8 for long-term storage on orbit. EXPRESS Rack 3 also supported structural dynamics measurements with the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) in EXPRESS Rack 3 on 28 February.

The cell culture chambers for the Genara-A experiment (which already took place in the European Modular Cultivation System in mid 2010) were returned on STS-133 Shuttle Discovery, which landed on 9 March. 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 experiment in the European Modular Cultivation System is a NASA experiment, SeedGrowth. The next ESA experiment is the Gravi-2 experiment which is currently scheduled in the October/November 2011 timeframe. Gravi-2 builds on the Gravi experiment in determining the gravity threshold response in plant (lentil) roots.

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.

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker working with MARES
NASA astronaut Shannon Walker working with MARES

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 March. 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 human muscle groups around joints to provide a better understanding of the effects of weightlessness on the muscular system of ISS astronauts.

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 without a crew member using the system, the second functional testing 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.

Kubik-3 Incubator
A failed electronics box for the Kubik-3 incubator was returned to Earth with STS-133 Shuttle Discovery which landed on 9 March.

The Kubik incubators are portable incubators with microgravity and centrifuge accommodations which were designed in the frame of the ISS Soyuz missions for biology experiments processing.

Coloured Fungi In Space
The four biocontainers for the Coloured Fungi In Space experiment arrived on the ISS with STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle Discovery on 26 February. Three of these contained live cultures, while one contained dry spores. The first photo session of the experiment samples was performed by ISS Commander Scott Kelly on 28 February. The photos were retrieved by the Biotechnology Space Support Centre (BIOTESC) in Zurich, Switzerland the following day. BIOTESC is the Experiment Support Centre for the Coloured Fungi In Space experiment. Kelly carried out a second photo session on 4 March. The three live culture biocontainers for the short-term part of the experiment were returned with STS-133 which landed on 9 March. The dry spore biocontainer is remaining on orbit for several months and is scheduled to return with Soyuz 26S in September 2011. The Coloured Fungi In Space experiment is undertaking an examination of the survival and growth of different coloured fungi species, which can be relevant to spacecraft contamination, panspermia and planetary protection issues.

Greenhouse in Space experiment
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli carried out hydration on the ‘Greenhouse in Space’ education experiment in the Columbus laboratory on 3 March. This was undertaken for both plant growth chambers, one containing lettuce seeds, one containing Arabidopsis (thale cress) seeds. Photos taken on orbit confirmed two plants growing. Unfortunately towards the end of the reporting period the presence of mould growth was seen in photos of the Arabidopsis chamber. In order to stay within the stringent ISS safety guidelines, the chamber was sealed and marked for disposal on 10 March. The lettuce chamber was similarly sealed and marked for disposal the following day. ‘Greenhouse in Space’ is an education activity which attempted to grow plants and observe the life cycle of a flowering plant in orbit, while schoolchildren use similar greenhouses to observe the same species of plant on the ground. The crew of the MARS 500 study are also participating in this education activity.

European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space

SOLAR on Station
SOLAR on Station

The facility was taken out of Sun Pointing Mode for a short period on 26 February during STS-133/ULF-5 docking. The facility was put back into pointing mode afterwards to continue data acquisition in the new Sun visibility window, which had opened on 24 February. Apart from a few additional short periods when the facility was out of Sun Pointing Mode, data acquisition continued until the Sun visibility window closed on 8 March. 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 (Vessel ID)
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. On 2 and 10 March Vessel Identification System system files were uplinked and installed.

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

Catherine Coleman switching Furnace inserts in the Material Science Laboratory
Catherine Coleman switching Furnace inserts in the Material Science Laboratory

Material Science Laboratory in the Material Science Research Rack
The final first batch MICAST sample which completed processing in the Solidification and Quenching Furnace of the Material Science Laboratory on 18 January was returned to Earth on STS-133 Shuttle Discovery which landed on 9 March. This sample followed an additional twelve CETSOL/MICAST experiment samples that had already been processed in the Low Gradient Furnace (which was replaced with the Solidification and Quenching Furnace 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
The flash disks for the SODI-Colloid experiment which took place in the Microgravity Science Glovebox in September/October 2010 were returned to Earth on STS-133 Shuttle Discovery, which landed on 9 March. 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 the implementation of the partially re-defined liquid mixtures in conjunction with the new ELIPS project DCMIX. Further batches of DSC experiments and potentially additional runs of the Colloid experiment 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
No activities were carried out using the Portable Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 11 March.

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.

European science inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory

On 10 March ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli deinstalled the Matroshka facility and relocated the phantom to the Russian segment of the ISS where all the passive radiation dosimeters were deinstalled by ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka. The dosimeters will be returned to earth for analysis on Soyuz 24S on 16 March. ESA’s Matroshka payload, which has been located in the Japanese Kibo laboratory since 4 May 2010, has been 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 following negotiations with Russian representatives, the instrument will be tentatively reactivated in March 2011 for continuation of the so-called test mode as a cooperative European-Russian experiment on the ISS. 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

Refrigerated centrifuge of Human Research Facility-2
Refrigerated centrifuge of Human Research Facility-2

The deintegrated sample trays for the Expose-R facility were returned to Earth on STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle Discovery which landed on 9 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 hosted 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 were 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 first 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 exobiology experiment complement (three European and one Russian) for the tentative Expose-R2 mission has been identified and the joint implementation discussions for a collaborative undertaking with the Russian partners is commencing.

Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Human Research Facility 1
During the two-week period until 11 March 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 started another week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 7 March 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.

Human Research Facility 2
Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 11 March for blood processing. Blood samples for ISS Commander Scott Kelly from NASA’s Nutrition with Repository protocol were centrifuged in the facility’s Refrigerated Centrifuge. 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 *

Paolo Nespoli with Robonaut-2
Paolo Nespoli with Robonaut-2

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.

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: zero calibrated the new units of the Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products devices (which monitor cabin atmosphere to provide quick response during a fire); and calibrated two new Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen units.


  • Experiment activities
    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; NASA’s Spinal Elongation experiment, which is determining the amount of change that occurs in seated height due to spinal elongation in weightlessness; and JAXA’s Mycological Evaluation of Crew Exposure to ISS Ambient Air (MYCO) experiment, which evaluates the risk of microorganisms via inhalation and adhesion to the skin to determine which fungi act as allergens on the ISS. Body samples for MYCO were stored in one of the European-built MELFI freezer units.


  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the past two weeks Paolo Nespoli was the subject of the Russian "Hematokrit" test which measures red blood cell count. 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; carried out the regular monthly inspection of the Automated External Defibrillator in the Crew Health Care Systems (CHeCS) rack; and undertook an audit of medical kit controlled medications swapping out expired supplies for fresh ones delivered on STS-133/ULF-5.


  • Other activities
    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 two runs of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; and was involved with an emergency roles handover review together with ISS Flight Engineers Catherine Coleman (NASA) and Dmitry Kondratyev (Roscosmos) with Expedition 26 coming to an end and Expedition 27 due to start. In addition Nespoli used the Service Module amateur radio equipment on 1, 3 and 8 March to conduct live radio sessions with students respectively at the Mackay State High School, in Mackay MC, Queensland, Australia; the Technological Centre for Innovation in Communications (CeTIC) in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain; and ICS "Marco D'oggiono", in Oggiono, Italy. Nespoli was further involved via live link in an ESA public affairs event at the Advanced Logistics Technology Engineering Centre (ALTEC) in Turin, Italy on 11 March, and a US public affairs event on 3 March together with the whole ISS Crew who received an in-flight call from US President Barack Obama.

Activities in the European-built Node 3

Maintenance on the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly
Maintenance on the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly
  • Exercise Equipment
    No activities were carried out on the exercise equipment in Node 3 in the two weeks until 11 March 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:
    • Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
      On 3 March a new bed was installed in the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly and one of the Air Selector Valves, which regulate air flow into the regenerable desiccant/sorbent beds was replaced by Catherine Coleman and Scott Kelly. This was due to failure of the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly which is a major element of the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli also carried out maintenance on the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly in the US laboratory to identify the cause of an electrical short in the primary heater string. The assembly has been functioning perfectly well on the secondary heater string though now the primary string is again operational.
    • Oxygen Generation System
      On 5 March in resolution of a low pH issue in the recirculation loop and reduced running time of the Oxygen Generation System in Node 3, ISS Commander Scott Kelly flushed the system, installed a filter system to scrub water in the recirculation loop, and took two samples, one for on-orbit analysis and one for return to ground for analysis. Hereafter he removed temporary filters, installed a pressure adapter and closed up the system after leak checks were carried out. The following day Kelly closed out activities.


ATV-2 “Johannes Kepler” Post-Docking Activities
Following docking of ESA’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) ‘Johannes Kepler’ on 24 February, the ATV Proximity Communications Equipment from where the docking was monitored on the ISS, was disassembled, removed from the Service Module and stowed in the Russian Zarya Module by Alexander Kaleri on 26 February. The next day Kaleri took standard photos of the docking assembly where ATV-2 is docked and downlinked them for analysis. On 11 March Paolo Nespoli set up the ATV’s Gas Control Panel and performed the first ISS cabin atmosphere pressurisation from the ATV Gas Delivery System. Kondratyev updated software on two Russian system laptops with new ATV-2 displays the same day.

STS-133/ULF-5 Permanent Multipurpose Module Mission

Paolo Nespoli works with Fluids Integrated Rack
Paolo Nespoli works with Fluids Integrated Rack
  • Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre
    During the Shuttle’s R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre prior to ISS docking, ISS Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Catherine Coleman took high resolution digital photos with 400mm and 800mm lenses. During the manoeuvre at a distance of about 180 m from the station, the photographers had around 90 seconds to take images of all thermal protection tile areas and door seals on Shuttle Discovery, which were downlinked for launch debris assessment.


  • Shuttle docking
    Space Shuttle Discovery (which launched on 24 February) docked to Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 at the forward docking port of the European-built Node 2 on 26 February at 20:14 (CET). Discovery was transporting: the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module which was converted from the Leonardo Multipurpose Logistics Module; the first human-like robot in space, Robonaut-2 (or R2); critical station hardware; and the EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4, which was also transported in the Shuttle’s cargo bay along with the Permanent Multipurpose Module. Discovery has a six-person crew, which includes Shuttle Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe, and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt, and Nicole Stott, all of whom are Shuttle veterans and represent NASA. After docking, the ISS was turned around using Shuttle vernier thrusters so that the Shuttle’s thermally protected underside was facing away from the direction of flight and reduce the risk of micrometeoroid damage.


  • Post-docking procedures
    Following relevant leak checks by Nespoli and Kelly of the docking vestibule and additional general post-docking procedures, hatches were opened and the traditional crew welcome ceremony took place, followed by the safety briefing for the new arrivals. After hatch opening, ventilation ducting was installed between the ISS and the Shuttle, communications/data configuration occurred to account for the Shuttle docked to the Station, and the lines were set up for transferring nitrogen and oxygen from the Shuttle to the ISS. EVA suits were transferred to the US Airlock by Nespoli, Bowen and Drew. During the mission the cargo brought on the Shuttle is gradually transferred to the ISS.


  • EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4 Installation
    Paolo Nespoli set up the robotics equipment on docking day for relocation of EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4 from the Shuttle cargo bay to the external surface of the ISS. Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott used the Station’s principal robotic arm to remove the Logistics Carrier from Discovery’s cargo bay and hand it over to the Shuttle’s robotic arm, which was operated by Boe and Drew. The Station’s robotic arm was then manoeuvred to a different base point on the Mobile Base System of the Station’s truss where it received the Logistics Carrier back from the Shuttle’s robotic arm. EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4 was then installed in its final location on the starboard side of the Station’s truss. The following day the Station’s robotic arm was relocated by Coleman and Stott for upcoming robotic activities.


  • Spacewalk 1 (Bowen, Drew)
    The first mission spacewalk was preceded by standard procedures including the overnight camp out of the EVA astronauts in the Airlock at a reduced pressure and pre-breathing pure oxygen to remove nitrogen from their bodies. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and NASA astronaut Mike Barratt assisted with EVA procedures including airlock hatch closure. Spacewalk 1 was carried out by NASA astronauts Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew starting at 16:46 CET on 28 February. During the 6 hr 34 minutes EVA the astronauts: installed a contingency cable extension needed for installation of the Permanent Multipurpose Module; retrieved a vent tool (to be used on the second spacewalk) and a failed ammonia Pump Module which they stowed on External Stowage Platform 2; folded back multi-layer insulation of a Remote Power Control Module, relocated a tool holder and retrieved a foot restraint (for return to the airlock) all at the Z1 truss section; installed a wedge to provide better panning for a video camera close to the newly installed EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4; installed two rail stubs on the S3 truss to extend travel length of the Crew Equipment Translation Aid carts on the truss; removed two stops on the same truss section; and opened JAXA’s “Message in a Bottle” in order to collect a sample of “Space” as part of this Japanese education activity. Kelly and Barratt were the Station robotic arm operators supporting Steve Bowen in relocating him with the failed ammonia Pump Module to External Stowage Platform 2 during the spacewalk.


  • Permanent Multipurpose Module installation on Node 1
    On 1 March the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module was manoeuvred by robotic arm from the Shuttle’s cargo bay to the Earth-facing port of the Node 1. Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott were the operators of the Space Station’s robotic arm. Inside Node 1 Boe and Coleman engaged the berthing mechanism latches to anchor the new module in place. The vestibule area between the Node 1 and Permanent Multipurpose Module hatches was pressurised by Kelly, a leak check was carried out and the Centerline Berthing Camera System was removed and stowed. The Node 1 hatch was opened and electricity and data cables were connected along with additional manual and computer configuration prior to entering the Permanent Multipurpose Module.


  • Spacewalk 2 (Bowen, Drew)
    The second mission spacewalk was again preceded by standard procedures including the overnight camp out of the EVA astronauts in the Airlock at a reduced pressure and pre-breathing pure oxygen to remove nitrogen from their bodies. Spacewalk 2 was again carried out by NASA astronauts Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew starting at 16:42 CET on 2 March. During the 6 hr 14 minutes EVA the astronauts: vented ammonia from the failed ammonia Pump Module from spacewalk 1; retrieved a lightweight adapter plate assembly which they stowed in Discovery’s cargo bay; removed multi-layer insulation from the EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4 electronic box; retrieved stowage bags from a Crew Equipment Translation Aid (CETA) cart on the Station’s truss; installed a light on a CETA cart; installed Camera, Light, Pan and Tilt Unit Assembly 1 on the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator; removed multi-layer insulation from the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator and Node 3 power cables; repaired multi-layer insulation on a Radiator Beam Valve Module and carried out troubleshooting on Radiator Grapple Fixture Stowage Beams on the P1 truss; and installed lens covers on Camera, Light, Pan and Tilt Unit Assemblies on the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, the Stations principal robotic arm and external payload accommodation. Kelly and Barratt were again the Station robotic arm operators supporting Steve Bowen during various tasks on the spacewalk. Following the spacewalk Airlock activities included regeneration of metal oxide canisters on 3 March used for carbon dioxide removal from the EVA suits during spacewalks, and on 4 March photographing (and downlinking) equipment that had issues during the second spacewalk, as well as stowing EVA tools and equipment.


  • Permanent Multipurpose Module Activities
    On 2 March the new module was outfitted and cargo in the new module was relocated to prepare the central aisle such as a new treadmill, a Common Cabin Air Assembly heat exchanger, Robonaut, a Zero-G Stowage Rack (from the US laboratory to the Permanent Multipurpose Module) and other diverse items. On 4 March all the non-Russian crew members were involved in reconfiguration activities in the Permanent Multipurpose Module. This involved moving an extensive amount of cargo from the US Laboratory to the new ISS module. Similar activities continued the following day.


  • ISS Reboost
    The ISS was reboosted to a higher orbiting altitude on 3 March. The reboost lasting 26 minutes was carried out by STS-133 Shuttle Discovery and increased ISS altitude by 1.7 km. The reboosts were undertaken in connection with phasing for the launches of STS-134/ULF-6 and Soyuz 26S.


  • Public Relations Activities
    On 4 March a symbolic signing of a Permanent Multipurpose Module banner was carried out by the joint ISS/Shuttle crews marking Italian/US cooperation in the Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules. A joint crew news crew conference also took place as well as the customary joint crew photos.


  • Shuttle undocking and landing
    On 6 March following the traditional crew farewell ceremony, air ducting into the Shuttle was removed and the ISS/Shuttle hatches were closed. After the usual leak check was performed the Shuttle undocked at 12:48 (CET) on 7 March followed by a Station fly around by Discovery to take documentary images. Landing took place at the Kennedy Space Center on 9 March at 11:58 local time (17:58 CET) bringing Discovery’s 39th and last mission to conclusion.

Soyuz TMA-01M/24S and Expedition Crew Return


  • Soyuz-TMA seat fit-check
    On 1 March, members of the ISS Crew (Kaleri, Skripochka & Kelly) donned their Sokol spacesuits and carried out a fit-check of the Kazbek shock absorbing seats in the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-01M/24S crew return vehicle in preparation for their return on 16 March.


  • Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
    In the two weeks until 11 March Kaleri, Skripochka and Kelly carried out orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test sessions using the TVIS treadmill whilst wearing Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suits. The Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the Soyuz crewmember would cope with exposure to gravity on return to Earth.


  • Suit Checks
    On 8 March Kaleri, Skripochka and Kelly donned their Russian Sokol spacesuits (worn in Soyuz during undocking return and landing) and carried out leak checks. The following day the three crew members carried out fit checks of their protective Kentavr anti-g suits. These suits are worn under their Sokol suits during return and landing to help the long-duration crewmembers with the return into Earth’s gravity.


  • Soyuz 24S Descent Drill
    A standard Soyuz descent drill was carried out by Kaleri and Skripochka on 9 March. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 24S spacecraft is for the review of Soyuz descent procedures including emergency procedures and manual undocking. The training sessions used a descent simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a descent hand controller.


  • Soyuz 24S Post-Undocking Tests
    Soyuz 24S post-undocking tests were being finalised in the two weeks until 11 March stemming from an instrumentation failure experienced by Soyuz 24S following launch. The two tests will check the manual local vertical/local horizontal attitude-keeping mode of the new digital Soyuz avionics systems, and test data from the roll rate instruments installed in the Neptun-ME crew console in Soyuz 24S by Kaleri in February. If the test is successful the crew have two automatic and two manual landing modes available. If rate gyros do not work in the test then two ballistic landing modes are available to the crew. The proposed flyaround to be undertaken by Soyuz 24S will not now take place due to feasibility reasons.

HTV-2 Activities


  • HTV-2 Relocation Preparation
    Activities for relocating the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-2) back to the Earth-facing docking port of Node 2 (following STS-133 undocking) started in earnest on 8 March. Nespoli and Coleman relocated cargo in Node 2 to clear hatches in Node 2 for relocation activities and the Mobile Transporter was moved along the Station’s truss from Worksite 3 to Worksite 5 in connection with the robotic activities during relocation. The following day HTV-2 was being prepared for relocation by Coleman and Kelly including removing emergency provisions and equipment (fire extinguisher, breathing apparatus etc.), closing the HTV hatch, removing ventilation, atmosphere revitalisation and data lines at the vestibule between HTV-2 and Node 2, and partially installing a thermal cover on HTV-2’s Passive Common Berthing Mechanism. Nespoli and Coleman then installed the Controller Panel Assemblies that are need by the Mission Control Centre in Houston for preparing Node 2’s upper (zenith) docking mechanism for HTV undocking.

    On 10 March Kelly and Coleman finished relocation preparations, finishing thermal cover installation, disconnecting power to HTV-2, installing a centre disc cover and closing the Node 2 hatch. This was followed by vestibule depressurisation and associated leak checks. Kelly installed a Centreline Berthing Camera at the Earth-facing docking port of Node 2 to assist with correct alignment of HTV with the docking port during berthing activities and opened the Node 2 Earth-facing Common Berthing Mechanism latches.


  • HTV-2 Relocation
    Relocation of HTV-2 took place from the European-built Cupola attached to Node 3. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli had activated command and video systems for the activities including the robotic workstation in Cupola. HTV-2 was hereafter successfully relocated from the upper (zenith) Node-2 port facing away from the Earth to the opposite Earth-facing port of Node 2. This was undertaken by Nespoli and Coleman using the Station’s principal robotic arm. After reberthing HTV-2 the latches at the new location were locked and repressurisation and leak checking of the vestibule were carried out by Scott Kelly. The Node 2 hatch was hereafter opened and Kelly and Coleman started outfitting the vestibule by connecting up power and data to HTV-2 and removing the centre disc cover. The following day vestibule outfitting, including reinstallation of cabling/utilities between the HTV and Node 2 hatches was completed. However opening the hatch into HTV-2 was delayed due to the earthquake in Japan and the temporary closing of JAXA’s Space Station Integration and Promotion Centre in Tsukuba, Japan.

Minus-Eighty degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
There are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI-1 and MELFI-2 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI-3 in the US laboratory. On 4 and 6 March science samples were removed from the MELFI freezers and conditioned for return on the middeck of Shuttle Discovery.

During the reporting period saliva and blood samples for Catherine Coleman for NASA’s Integrated Immune experiment; blood and urine samples for Kelly for NASA’s Nutrition with Repository protocol; surface samples from the Japanese laboratory for JAXA’s Microbe-2 experiment; and body samples for Nespoli, Coleman and Barratt for JAXA’s MYCO experiment have been placed in one of the MELFI freezers.

Russian carbon dioxide removal system replacement
On 1 March the Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system in the Russian Service Module was replaced by Kaleri and Kondratyev. After shutting down the old unit, the cosmonauts demated power, telemetry connections and airway ducts, and removed plug-in units before removing the Vozdukh system itself. The following day the new unit and associated plug-in units were installed along with system leak checking and replacing filter cartridges. On 3 March power and telemetry lines were connected, acoustic protection was installed, vacuum valves were evacuated, and the system was activated for functional check out. The system was subsequently operating normally and utilising all three beds for the first time instead of two. Vozdukh did experience a failure during the night of 4 – 5 March due to an overheating pump but the problem was resolved by removing some noise-reduction insulation.

Fluids Integrated Rack
After making preparations the previous day, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli started work on NASA’s Fluids Integrated Rack in the US laboratory on 1 March. Nespoli removed the Constrained Vapor Bubble module and associated hardware from the rack’s Light Microscopy Module, reconfigured lenses, and installed the Bio Base in place of the Constrained Vapor Bubble module. The following day Nespoli installed the associated Bio kit and set up a Bio sample on the Bio Base before closing the rack up. On 5 subsequent occasions until 11 March, Nespoli swapped out the Bio sample for processing.

Progress M-09M/41P Fluid Transfers
On 8 March Kondratyev configured pumping equipment and transferred all the water from one of the Rodnik tanks of Progress 41P docked at the Pirs Docking Module. Two days later Skripochka configured pumping equipment and transferred urine from five different urine containers back into the empty Rodnik tank. Progress 41P is due to undock in April.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 11 March include: servicing the Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator (MERLIN) to prevent internal condensation build up; setting up 30 new area radiation monitors through the ISS; replacing a Remote Power Control Module in Node 1; using the Russian KPT-12 payload with its BAR science instruments to test for signs of microflora at Zarya Module panels; swapping the General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerators (GLACIER) on the ISS and Shuttle Discovery; tests on the Russian Elektron oxygen generator to determine if replacement or new troubleshooting procedures are needed; replacing a Data Formatting Unit of the BITS2-12 telemetry measurement system in the Service Module; replacing jumpers, changing connections and measuring voltage and circuit continuity to troubleshoot a micropump in the RussianThermal Control System; troubleshooting the TVIS treadmill for undue noise; and replacing smoke detectors in the Service Module Transfer Compartment and Transfer Tunnel.

(*)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.

Martin Zell
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department

Rosita Suenson
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer

Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.

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