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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 91, Increment 27

08/04/2011 379 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #91 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

NB: ISS research activities have been at a reduced level in the two-week reporting period awaiting the next Soyuz to again restore the full crew complement of six with the arrival of the additional three ISS Expedition 27 crew members at the ISS on 7 April.

Biolab and experiments
No activities were carried out using the Biolab facility in the two weeks until 8 April. 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 major activities were carried out using the European Drawer Rack facility in the two weeks until 8 April. The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will also host 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
The Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) has been active in the two week period until 8 April to undertake activities for the Geoflow-2 experiment, which has been undergoing experiment processing in the Fluid Science Laboratory since 21 March. Geoflow-2 run 4 was started on 28 March and completed the following day. Geoflow-2 (which follows on from the Geoflow experiment with new scientific objectives and a different experiment configuration) is 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.

These first runs of Geoflow-2 have involved a non-rotation (or very low rotation) at the lowest possible temperature (20 deg C) at the outer sphere and a 6.5 kV central force field to simulate a gravitational effect. The temperature gradient from outside to inside was varied in each of the experiment runs. Good interferometric images have already been received on ground. Two subsequent experiment runs were started on 29 March, one with similar conditions as stated above and a second with the highest possible temperature (30.5 deg C) at the outer sphere. These runs were interrupted due to thermal regulation anomaly issues that are being analysed on ground. The Geoflow-2 science runs form part of an exhaustive scientific programme of experiment processing which will last a couple of months.

The subsequently planned Fluid Science Laboratory experiment “Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability” (FASES) has been 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. These tests allowed a full proof of scientific verification of the emulsions’ composition and the optical diagnostics’ adjustment. 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 carried out using the European Physiology Modules facility in the two weeks until 8 April. The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with different 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.

The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment 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 facility. The passive detectors for DOSIS were already deinstalled and returned to earth on STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis, after which they were 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.

3D Space Experiment
Equipment for the 3D Space experiment (laptop with prepared hard disk, mouse pen and tablet) was set up in the Columbus laboratory by ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman on 4 April. Hereafter Coleman and ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli carried out their fourth sessions of the 3D Space experiment. Data was downlinked and received at the CADMOS User Support and Operations Centre in Toulouse, France the following day. This human physiology study investigates the effects of weightlessness on the mental representation of visual information during and after spaceflight. Accurate perception is a prerequisite for spatial orientation and reliable performance of tasks in space. The experiment has different elements including investigations of perception of depth and distance carried out using a virtual reality headset and standard psychophysics tests.

Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 8 April. 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 in October 2008. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in 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 cell culture chambers for the Genara-A experiment (which already took place in the European Modular Cultivation System in mid 2010) are back with the science teams following their return to Earth 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.

EXPRESS Rack 3, in which the European Modular Cultivation System is located, had been active since 28 February in order to take structural dynamics data (in connection with the Geoflow-2 experiment) using its Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS). The SAMS sensors were powered down on 30 March. The following day the SAMS Electronics Enclosure was moved to the seat track of the European-built Microgravity Science Glovebox in the US Laboratory

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.

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 8 April. 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.

Coloured Fungi In Space
The dry spore biocontainer for the Coloured Fungi In Space experiment remains on orbit and is scheduled to return with Soyuz 26S in September 2011. This follows the return of the three live culture biocontainers for the short-term part of the experiment with STS-133 which landed on 9 March. 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.

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

The new Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to acquire data opened on 27 March. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. The Sun visibility window closed on 6 April. During this period of Sun observation the SOLAR facility was put in a safe (non-observation) configuration during the unberthing of the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-2) from the Station on 28 March. SOLAR was placed back in observation mode thereafter.

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.

The Vessel Identification System consists of the two different on-board 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
The final first batch MICAST sample which completed processing in the Solidification and Quenching Furnace of the Materials Science Laboratory on 20 January is awaiting handover to the science team in the near future prior to undergoing analysis, following return 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 analysis undertaken by the relevant science teams on ground. The second batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples will be the next to be processed in the Materials Science Laboratory Solidification and Quenching Furnace along with samples for the SETA experiment.

Microgravity Science Glovebox and associated experiments
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli activated the Microgravity Science Glovebox on 29 March and replaced a faulty cable associated with the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS). He also realigned a camera lens of NASA’s Boiling eXperiment Facility inside for upcoming experiment activities. Over the course of the following days until 6 April Nespoli serviced the Boiling eXperiment Facility, replacing media in digital and analogue recorders. Activities started with the Microheater Array Boiling Experiment or MABE (which did not need SAMS measurements, as the cable replacement did not solve the related problem). A SAMS sensor unit was relocated to the Microgravity Science Glovebox on 31 April. Activities could then continue with both the MABE and Nucleate Pool Boiling Experiments (the second of which needed SAMS measurements).

The flash disks for the SODI-Colloid experiment which took place in the Microgravity Science Glovebox in September/October 2010 have now been sent to the science team following return 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 4 April. 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

Passive radiation dosimeters for the Matroshka experiment, which took place in the Kibo laboratory and returned to earth on Soyuz 24S on 16 March have now been returned to DLR in Cologne, Germany for analysis. ESA’s Matroshka payload had been located in the Japanese Kibo laboratory since 4 May 2010 to continuously acquire data about the radiation environment inside the ISS. The accumulated radiation levels were 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. The Matroshka payload has now been relocated in the Russian segment of the ISS.

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 the near future 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

The deintegrated sample trays for the Expose-R facility are being disassembled at the Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC) located at the DLR German Aerospace Centre in Cologne, Germany and experiment samples are being prepared for return to the science teams. The sample trays 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. The experiments were accommodated in three special sample trays, which were loaded with a variety of biological samples including plant seeds and spores of bacteria, fungi and ferns.

The individual Expose-R experiments have been 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 25 March activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Actiwatch data for NASA’s Sleep experiment was downlinked on 28 March.

Human Research Facility 2
Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 31 March for blood processing. Paolo Nespoli acted as Crew Medical Officer in taking blood samples for ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol. Samples were centrifuged in the facility’s Refrigerated Centrifuge before being 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. In addition on 8 April NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan adjusted a video camera in Columbus before installing the “Hydrocyclone” device on to Water Pump Assembly 2 in order to degas its water loop.

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: disconnected the Low Temperature Loop return line of the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly in the US laboratory in connection with Russian C02 scrubber performance testing; replaced a battery and zero calibrated the Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products prime unit (which monitors cabin atmosphere to provide quick response during a fire); initiated one run of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; relocated the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter, one of the principal radiation measurement devices on the ISS, from the US laboratory to the Russian Service Module; inspected hatch seals in the US segment of the ISS as part of regular Atmospheric Control System maintenance; and zero calibrated two new Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments.
  • 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; and servicing the Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (EarthKAM) equipment in the US laboratory by replacing batteries several times during orbital night when no images were being captured.
  • 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 NASA Periodic Fitness Evaluation which checks on blood pressure and ECG measurements during exercise. In addition Nespoli acted as Crew Medical Officer for Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Commander Dmitry Kondratyev for undertaking a periodic Russian health test with the Russian “Study of the Bioelectric Activity of the Heart at Rest” cardiological experiment.
  • 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: unpacked cargo delivered on Progress 41P; undertook an emergency depressurisation training exercise together with Kondratyev and Coleman on 29 March; took part in a teleconference on 31 March with Kondratyev and Coleman and with the other three Expedition 27 crew members prior to their launch; reactivated the Service Module amateur radio equipment which had been deactivated for Soyuz 26S rendezvous and docking (see below). With relation to public affairs activities Nespoli supported an event at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne on 30 March in connection with the ‘Mission X – Train Like An Astronaut’ education activity (together with NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman); took part in a MagISStra mission News Conference via live link to ESA’s ESRIN location in Frascati, Italy; and supported three Russian public affairs events on 6 April with Coleman and Kondratyev, downlinking messages in connection with Cosmonautics Day on 8 April and anniversary celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight on 12 April 1961. In addition Nespoli used the Service Module amateur radio equipment on numerous occasions in the two-week reporting period to conduct live radio sessions with students respectively at: the Comprensivo "G.Manzi", Civitavecchia, in Rome, Italy; the Istituto Tecnico Industriale Statale "Enrico Fermi," in Lucca, Italy; and the Scuola Primaria III Circolo "Tiro a Segno," in Fermo, Italy.

Activities in the European-built Node 3


  • Exercise Equipment
    In the two weeks until 8 April, in addition to regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device and T2/COLBERT treadmill in which ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli was involved, Catherine Coleman checked that the T2 treadmill’s grounding strap was securely fastened and showed no damage.
  • 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 Sampling
      ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli carried out periodic Water Recovery System sampling on 29 March and 5 April using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer.
    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment
      On 29 March ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli carried out standard replacement of elements (urine receptacle, insert filter) of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 before performing a functionality check. On 4 April troubleshooting on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment was successfully performed by ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman as there has been a problem of filling the flush water tank and there was indication that there was a restriction or blockage.
    • Oxygen Generation System
      On 6 April Nespoli and Coleman measured the conductivity (pH value) of a sample collected from the Oxygen Generation System recirculation loop collected early in March. This was in connection with remedying the low pH issue of the recirculation loop which had limited the running time of the Oxygen Generation System.

HTV-2 Activities


  • HTV-2 Undocking Preparations
    In preparation for undocking of the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-2) Nespoli and Coleman activated the Re-Entry Breakup Recorder, a kind of black box in the HTV for recording re-entry data, and removed HTV smoke detectors, portable fire extinguishers, breathing apparatus and Restraint and Mobility Aids for reuse. Hereafter the two astronauts: closed the HTV hatch; installed control panel assemblies at the Node 2 nadir (Earth-facing) hatch where HTV-2 is docked; removed ventilation, atmosphere revitalisation, secondary power and data lines; and partially installed HTV thermal blankets.
  • HTV Undocking
    After installing the crew restraint and activating the robotic workstation, in the European-built Cupola module on 28 March, Nespoli and Coleman disconnected the primary power line to HTV-2, finished installing the thermal covers and centre disk cover before closing the nadir Node 2 hatch. Hereafter the inter-hatch vestibule was depressurised, a leak check was undertaken, the docking mechanism bolts were removed and latches deployed. Nespoli and Coleman used the Station’s principal robotic arm to grapple HTV-2, which was then unberthed from the ISS at 15:43 (CEST). HTV-2 was moved by robotic arm to its release position before being released at 17:45 (CEST). HTV-2 went through its deorbit burn early in the morning of 29 March and went through a planned destructive re-entry into earth’s atmosphere.
  • Post-undocking Activities
    After HTV-2 was undocked Nespoli and Coleman parked the Station’s robotic arm. On 29 March Coleman disassembled the HTV Control Panel and placed it in stowage.

STS-134/ULF-6 Shuttle Endeavour Mission Activities


  • US Airlock.
    During the two week period until 8 April Nespoli and Coleman carried out extensive activities in the US Airlock in preparation for the four upcoming STS-134 spacewalks. This included discharge/recharge maintenance on EVA batteries; relocating, configuring and resizing the Extravehicular Mobility Units or EMUs (the US EVA spacesuits); degassing relevant EVA water supplies; partially dumping and refilling EMU water supplies on two units; checking out Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER) units, propulsive units for use during EVAs in the unlikely event that an astronaut becomes untethered from the ISS; inspecting EVA tethers; regenerating metal oxide canisters used for removing carbon dioxide from the EVA suits during spacewalks; filming the inside of the Airlock for instructional purposes for the STS-134 crew; and gathering and configuring EVA tools. This included assembling 4 EVA grease guns, and functionally checking out three Pistol Grip Tools.
  • Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
    On 30 March Nespoli undertook an R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre training session, taking images of the ground with a digital still camera with an 800mm lense. This exercise is in preparation for photographing the STS-134/ULF-6 Shuttle during its pitch manoeuvre during rendezvous and docking. During the manoeuvre at a distance of about 180 m from the Station, the photographers will only have around 90 seconds to take high-resolution digital photographs of all thermal protection tile areas and door seals on Shuttle Endeavour, to be downlinked for launch debris assessment.
  • Robotics Training
    Catherine Coleman carried out a robotics training session on 5 April using the ROBoT training equipment to simulate a task during STS-134 spacewalk 2 of Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator / Latching End Effector lubrication.

Soyuz TMA-21/26S, Expedition 27 Crew Launch and Docking


  • Soyuz TMA-21 launch and docking
    The remaining three members of the ISS Expedition 27 Crew were successfully launched together in the Soyuz TMA-21 “Yuri Gagarin” spacecraft on flight 26S to the ISS on 5 April at 00:18 CEST (04:18 local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz crew consisted of Soyuz Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev and NASA astronaut Ron Garan, both of whom will be Flight Engineers for ISS Expeditions 27 and 28, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko who will be a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 27 and Commander of ISS Expedition 28. Following orbital insertion, Soyuz TMA antennas and solar arrays were deployed and various orbital burns were carried out over the following two days to bring the Soyuz in the vicinity of the ISS to begin docking procedures. Prior to Soyuz TMA-21 docking the ISS crew configured relevant communications and video equipment. The Soyuz spacecraft docked successfully with the Russian “Poisk” Mini Research Module 2 on 7 April at 01:09 (CEST) bringing the crew of the ISS once again up to a total of six.
  • Soyuz TMA-21 post-docking activities
    ISS attitude control was handed back from Russian to US systems after docking. Video of the docking and structural dynamics measurements were downlinked by the crew and the standard leak check between the Soyuz and the ISS was carried out. On completion the hatches were opened and the usual crew greeting took place. Quick disconnect clamps were installed at the interface between the Soyuz and the ISS to further stabilise the connection. Samokutyaev set up the three Sokol spacesuits and their gloves for drying out, and he deactivated the Soyuz spacecraft. The standard crew safety briefing followed. The Russian crew members then started transfer of high priority cargo to the ISS.

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. Paolo Nespoli and Catherine Coleman inserted numerous ice bricks (+4 deg C and -32 deg C) and half box modules into MELFI units on orbit between 26 March and 8 April in connection with upcoming conditioned storage requirements. Blood and urine samples for Catherine Coleman were also placed in MELFI for NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository/Pro K protocol.

ISS Debris Avoidance Manoeuvre/Orbital Debris
Orbital debris generated from the collision between the Russian Cosmos 2251 and US Iridium 33 communications satellites in 2009 was being monitored at the end of March for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS. Following continued observation the ISS undertook a Debris Avoidance Manoeuvre on 2 April at 04:36 (CEST) using the thrusters of the ATV docked at the aft port of the Russian Service Module. The reboost, which lasted 3 min 18 s, increased the velocity of the ISS by 0.49 m/s and raised its altitude by 0.85 km. Hereafter additional debris from a Chinese Feng-yun satellite and from a Chinese CZ-2C rocket was also being monitored though eventually no evasive action was necessary.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 4 April include: replacing frames and filter cartridges of Service Module ventilation system dust collectors; transferring cargo delivered on Progress 41P; replacing an electronic data transmission device in the Japanese laboratory; a new software load of the Rack Interface Computer in EXPRESS Rack 6 in the US laboratory; testing NASA Viewer application software on a laptop in the Russian Zarya Module; replacing two low noise ventilation fans in the Russian Rassvet Module and carrying out acoustic measurements before and after; troubleshooting the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus in the Japanese Kobairo rack; relocating and installing the General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) into EXPRESS Rack 6; replacing a separator of the Condensate Separation and Pumping Unit (in the Service Module Condensate Water Processor); replacing ventilation fans in the Russian Service Module; and replacing parts in the Service Module toilet.

(*)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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