This is ISS status report #92 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 laboratory. The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:
Point of historic interest 1: 21 April marked the 10th anniversary of European and ESA astronauts on the International Space Station. On 21 April 2001 Umberto Guidoni became the first ESA astronaut on the ISS as a member of the STS-100 mission.
Point of historic interest 2: 12 April marked the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight and the 108-minute flight of Yuri Gagarin in Vostok 1 in 1961 as well as the 30th anniversary of the first Shuttle Flight, STS-1 in 1981.
European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Biolab and experiments
Relevant tools and maintenance items were readied by ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman on 13 April before removing Biolab’s microscope and photospectrometer instruments. Later the same day Coleman packed the removed items for return to Earth on Shuttle Flight STS-134/ULF-6.
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 repaired on ground and then returned to ISS to continue the utilisation of Biolab. 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 and associated payloads
The European Drawer Rack and the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (ERB-2) were activated on 14 April. One file was transferred from ERB-2 to the European Drawer Rack’s Video Management Unit before being downlinked to ground. ERB-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 European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will 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 22 April to undertake activities for the Geoflow-2 experiment, which has been undergoing experiment processing in the Fluid Science Laboratory since 21 March. The main experiment parameters of GeoFlow-2 are the rotation speed, electrical field, temperature gradients and liquid viscosity variation. Geoflow-2 run 17a, which is a low rotation run was completed successfully on 12 April. Run 18a which is a medium rotation run was also successfully completed though the two last set points of run 19a, which is a high rotation run, were skipped due to a motor belt issue that is being looked into. Hereafter runs 17b, 17c, 17d, and 17e, which are also low rotation runs were successfully completed by 21 April. Good quality images were received in real time and associated data from the experiment and structural dynamics data from the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus have been downlinked.
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. 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 associated experiment
The European Physiology Modules facility was activated on 19 April for downlinking data for the PASSAGES and DOSIS experiments (see below). 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.
Equipment for the PASSAGES experiment (including the Neurospat headset and laptop) was set up in front of the European Physiology Modules by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli on 19 April. Hereafter Nespoli and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman performed their final sessions of the experiment while Flight Engineer Ronald Garan performed his first session of the experiment. Experiment data was downlinked via the European Physiology Modules facility.
PASSAGES is designed to test how astronauts interpret visual information in weightlessness: it aims at studying the effects of microgravity on the use of the ‘Eye-Height’ strategy for estimating allowed actions in an environment, and whether this could possibly decrease after a long exposure to weightlessness.
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. Monthly data downlink was performed via the European Physiology Modules facility on 19 April. Following a voltage check for the failed DOSTEL 1 detector, DOSTEL 1 was removed and packed along with its power cable for return to Earth with Soyuz 25S in mid May. The passive detectors for DOSIS were already deinstalled and returned to Earth on STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis in May 2010, 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.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 22 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 initial 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.
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 22 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 SOLAR facility is currently in a safe (non-observation) configuration since the closure of the latest Sun visibility window on 6 April. Sun visibility windows for the SOLAR facility to acquire data are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. Since 13 April the SOLAR’s Sol-ACES instrument has been activated to prevent a decrease in its spectrophotometers during the current cold phase.
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
Materials Science Laboratory in the First Materials 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.
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 associated experiments
The European-built Microgravity Science Glovebox was activated on 11 April in connection with activities for NASA’s Boiling eXperiment Facility (BXF). However the Glovebox was deactivated to following day as troubleshooting did not resolve a BXF failure and the situation is being looked into by NASA specialists.
The experimental data for the SODI-Colloid experiment which took place in the Microgravity Science Glovebox in September/October 2010 are now undergoing detailed evaluation by the science team following return of the flash disks 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 and early 2012. 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 in the first half of 2012 after 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 14 April ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman performed her fourth session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment. Coleman replaced the Portable Pulmonary Function System blood pressure microphone hereafter. ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan also carried out his first session of the joint experiments on 21 April. Data has already been transferred to ground. 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.
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli gathered together hardware and removed an empty locker in EXPRESS Rack 8 in the US Laboratory on 22 April in preparation for installation of the ALTEA-Shield experiment hardware the following day. The experiment aims at obtaining a better understanding of the light flash phenomenon, and more generally the interaction between cosmic rays and brain function, as well as testing the effectiveness of different types of shielding material. Once active the experiment will continue undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory which is followed soon by the corresponding measurements of different shielding materials with the ALTEA detectors on the ISS.
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 and stored 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 has been successfully reactivated and functionally tested for continuation 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 have been disassembled at the Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC) located at the DLR German Aerospace Centre in Cologne, Germany and experiment samples are currently being returned 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 implementation discussions with the Russian partners are approaching completion.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Human Research Facility 1
On 19 April Catherine Coleman reconfigured the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in Human Research Facility 1 to allow for better clearance between the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) and the SLAMMD calibration arm. Hereafter Body Mass Measurement was carried out with the SLAMMD equipment for Coleman, Garan and Nespoli. Nespoli stowed the equipment afterwards. Activities were carried out with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.
Human Research Facility 2
Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 14, 15 and 18 April for blood processing. On 14 April Paolo Nespoli provided blood for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol with ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan assisting as Crew Medical Officer in drawing blood samples. The following day the roles were reversed and Nespoli acted as Crew Medical Officer in drawing blood samples from Ron Garan. On 18 April Nespoli assisted Catherine Coleman as Crew Medical Officer in drawing blood samples for the Canadian Space Agency’s Vascular Blood Collection protocol. Following the respective blood draws, the 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 in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.
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. This includes:
On 15 April ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli powered up and thereafter rebooted one of the Columbus laptops so that the Columbus Control Centre could verify the correct status of a laptop application, Data Management System and GPS parameters.
Joint Fire Drill
The Columbus Control Centre participated in the ISS Crew’s first joint fire drill on 19 April together with the Mission Control Centres in Moscow, Kazakhstan, Houston and Tsukuba. The aim is to test procedures and responsiveness in case of specific fire events on the ISS.
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: replaced a battery in the Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products prime unit (which monitors cabin atmosphere to provide quick response during a fire) and zero calibrated all the units; performed a ‘ghost’ load on a laptop for NASA’s new ISS Agricultural Camera; removed (and later installed) alignment guides to permit the Passive Rack Isolation System (PaRIS) to be activated in order to start operations in the US Combustion Integrated Rack; and adjusting an External Wireless Instrumentation System antenna, which had not been communicating with Remote Sensing Units.
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 Pro K protocol which relates to dietary intake and bone metabolism and involves a controlled diet and dietary logging with urine sampling; and the WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows) experiment, which is used for testing cognitive abilities. In addition Nespoli powered up (and later switched off) NASA’s Space Dynamically Responding Ultrasonic Matrix (SpaceDRUMS) payload on 20 April, and serviced the Fluids Combustion Facility the following day configuring the equipment for new research runs.
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 routine Russian Body Mass Measurement; generic Human Research Facility urine collection; the Russian "Hematokrit" test, which measures red cell blood count; a PanOptic eye test and a visual acuity test; and the Russian Biochemical Urinalysis assessment. In addition Nespoli acted as Crew Medical Officer for NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan for the US Periodic Health Status check and carried out a monthly Crew Medical Officer training to refresh ability in a number of critical health areas.
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 took ventilation airflow measurements in the Kibo laboratory and carried out handover activities with Ron Garan to familiarise Garan with Paolo’s work prior to his Nespoli’s departure from the Station in May. In addition Nespoli has been involved in many public relations and education activities in the two-week period. Many of these activities were related to the 50th anniversary of the flight of Yuri Gagarin as the first human in space on 12 April. This included the crew downlinking greetings to, and answering questions from, the London International Book Fair where the show -“Russia is a Guest of Honour at London Book Fair” is being hosted; downlinking answers to questions from residents of the Russian city of Izhevsk, close to where the last preparatory flight for Gagarin (with the dog Zvezdochka) landed in March 1961; downlinking greetings to participants of the gala meeting in Moscow’s Kremlin Palace on 12 April, the meeting and guests of the city of Korolev at the Kalinin TsDK firm in Korolev city and the employees of RSC Energia; as well as additional public relations interviews with the Associated Press, CBS, CNN, and the NEW York Times in the US; and a news conference with media at NASA centres in the US, in Brussels, Belgium, Quebec, Canada and Tokyo, Japan. On 18 April a Russian public affairs event was supported by Nespoli and the Russian crew members by downlinking greetings to the Turin Book Fair (taking place in May). In addition Nespoli used the Service Module amateur radio equipment on three occasions in the two-week reporting period to conduct live radio sessions with students respectively at: the Hopewell Ave Public School, in Ottawa, Canada; the Istituto Sociale, in Turin, Italy; and the Primary School "Dante Alighieri" De Neuquen, in Neuquen, Patagonia, Argentina.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
Internal Thermal Control System
Catherine Coleman installed an Antimicrobial Applicator module on the Moderate temperature Loop of Node 3’s Internal Thermal Control System on 21 April. This introduced an antimicrobial agent into the system’s coolant. The following day Coleman removed the applicator module.
In the two weeks until 22 April, in addition to regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2/COLBERT treadmill in which ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli was involved, Ron Garan received familiarisation training on the two devices from Paolo Nespoli. On 11 April Nespoli took the ARED through an unmanned checkout after its four so-called dashpots were replaced due to a dashpot failure in its Vibration Isolation System. The following day NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman took ARED through a manned activation and checkout session.
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:
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli successfully carried out troubleshooting on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 on 21 April by replacing its Pre-treat tank Water Dispenser Assembly and hose. This was due to a “Pre-Treat Bad Quality” signal that lit up 3 times in a row.
Water Recovery System
After retrieving a replacement unit from the second European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2), Catherine Coleman replaced the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly, which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water in Water Recovery System rack 2 on 11 April.
- Waste and Hygiene Compartment
STS-134/ULF-6 Shuttle Endeavour Mission Activities
During the two week period until 22 April ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli carried out activities in the US Airlock in preparation for the four upcoming STS-134 spacewalks. This included terminating the regeneration of metal oxide canisters used for removing carbon dioxide from the EVA suits during spacewalks; terminating recharge of lithium ion batteries used in the Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs); installing a Rechargeable EVA Battery Assembly into one EMU; connecting an EVA Liquid Cooling Ventilation Garment to an EMU and filling it with water; then scrubbing the cooling loop of EMU for particulate matter. Nespoli and Coleman also fitted four grease guns with multi-layer insulation for the upcoming STS-134 EVAs and installed them with grease cartridges.
Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
On 20 April Paolo Nespoli, Catherine Coleman and ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev undertook an R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre training session. This involved photographing a Shuttle diagram inside the ISS with a Nikon D2X digital still camera using 400 and 800 mm lenses and a D3X camera with a 1000mm lens. 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. Coleman undertook another session with the Nikon D2X digital still camera using a 400 mm lens two days later.
In addition to pre-packing cargo for return to earth on STS-134, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli undertook a video tour of the Station to highlight the stowage situation on board the ISS in preparation for STS-134 mission activities.
Soyuz TMA-21/26S, Post-docking Activities
Following docking of Soyuz TMA-21 on 7 April, on 9 April Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Samokutyaev installed local temperature sensor equipment in the newly arrived Soyuz spacecraft. On 13 April Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Andrey Borisenko removed television cameras from Soyuz TMA-21 (for reuse).
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. Blood and urine samples for Paolo Nespoli and Ron Garan were placed in MELFI for NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository/Pro K protocol and blood samples from Catherine Coleman for the Canadian Space Agency’s Vascular Blood Collection protocol.
Progress M-09M/41P Preparations and Undocking
On 11 April Kondratyev configured pumping equipment and transferred all the water from one of the Rodnik tanks of Progress 41P docked at the Pirs Docking Module to a water storage container in the ISS. Hereafter he started the compression of the soft internal bladder of the Rodnik tank with associated leak check in preparation for transfer of urine back into the tank for disposal after Progress undocks. On 15 April Kondratyev configured pumping equipment and transferred urine from four different urine containers back into the empty Rodnik tank. Urine transfer was continued on 20 April. The ISS atmosphere was also refreshed with O2 from Progress tanks on 20 April and trash and excess items were transferred into the Progress spacecraft during the two-week reporting period for disposal.
The Mission Control Centre in Moscow performed fuel line and oxidizer line purges on 18 April. On 20/21 April Kondratyev and Samokutyaev prepared the Progress 41P spacecraft for departure. The Progress docking mechanism was again installed; temperature sensor equipment and light fixtures were removed from Progress for reuse; Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting was removed; quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 41P and the Earth-facing Pirs Docxking Compartment were removed; and the Progress/Pirs Docking Compartment hatches were closed, followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.
Progress 41P Undocking/Deorbit
On 22 April Progress M-09M/41P successfully undocked from the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment at 13:38 (CEST). The Progress spacecraft will undertake retrograde burns over the next few days with its deorbit burn is scheduled for 26 April to place it into a planned destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
Soyuz-TMA seat fit-check
On 11 April, members of the ISS Crew (Nespoli, Kondratyev and Coleman) donned their Sokol spacesuits and carried out a fit-check of the Kazbek shock absorbing seats in the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-20/25S crew return vehicle in preparation for their return in May. Due to a top of the head clearance issue, Paolo Nespoli repeated the fit check two days later.
The Mobile Transporter was moved from Worksite 2 to Worksite 5 on the ISS truss on 11 April. The following day the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator/Space Station Remote Manipulator System was manoeuvred from the Mobile Transporter to a Power and Data Grapple Fixture (PDGF1) on the US Laboratory where the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator or ‘Dextre’ (a smaller two-armed robot capable of handling the delicate assembly tasks) was attached, powered up and Latching End Effector diagnostics were carried out in preparation for the upcoming STS-134 Shuttle mission. On 13 April the Mobile Transporter was moved to Worksite 7 where the Space Station Remote Manipulator System, the principal ISS robotic arm underwent a base change from PDGF3 to PDGF2.
50th anniversary of human spaceflight
12 April marked the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight and the 108-minute flight of Yuri Gagarin in Vostok 1 in 1961. This is marked by Cosmonaut’s Day in Russia and Yuri’s night around the world. 12 April is also significant in marking the 30th anniversary of the first Shuttle Flight, STS-1 in 1981 with NASA astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen.
ROKVISS Robotics Experiment
The European-built ROKVISS robotics manipulator arm was disassembled and packed for return to Earth on 13 and 17 April by Borisenko. This had been brought inside the ISS during Russian EVA 26 on November 2010. The experiment was operated outside the ISS to evaluate and qualify intelligent light weight robotics components under realistic circumstances for maintenance and repair tasks.
Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo activities
Extensive stowage operations were carried out by ISS Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli, Catherine Coleman and Ron Garan in connection with Europe’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) in the two-week reporting period until 22 April, unloading and transferring cargo to the ISS and transferring cargo and equipment for disposal back into the ATV. These activities will continue through the STS-134/ULF-6 mission.
Progress M-10M/42P Docking Preparations
On 18 April Kondratyev and Samokutyaev carried out a test of the TORU manual docking system between the Service Module and the Progress 41P spacecraft docked at the Pirs Docking Compartment in preparation for the docking of Progress M-10M/42P on 29 April. The TORU system acts as a manually controlled backup to the automatic Kurs docking system.
REGUL Radio Subsystem
Borisenko carried out major maintenance on the Regul-OS radio subsystem on 20, 21 April, removing connectors for the BITS2-12 telemetry system, uninstalling the third string transmitter unit and replacing the failed first string transmitter unit with the third string transmitter unit before reconnecting the BITS-12 connectors. Regul-OS is a subsystem of the Radio Control and Comm System of the Russian Segment for handling two-way voice communication, digital command/programme information, and telemetry transmission via Russian ground sites.
US Laboratory Atmosphere Revitalization Rack
Catherine Coleman replaced an expended charcoal bed in the Atmosphere Revitalization Rack in the US Laboratory on 20 April and removed the Data and Control Assembly from the rack’s Mass Constituents Analyzer chassis to preposition it for future maintenance.
Permanent Multipurpose Module
Paolo Nespoli carried out outfitting activities in the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module on 21, 22 April, replacing knee braces on Resupply Stowage Platforms with Knee-Brace Assembly Replacements for faster rack rotation and better access to stowage.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 22 April include: setting up and testing the “Kedr” microsatellite and its transmitter (as part of Russian UNESCO approved student programme) for transmitting 25 greetings in 15 languages on Cosmonauts Day; reconfiguring power cabling for the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus on the Japanese Kobairo Rack; testing the new Klest KL-103Ts video camera system; setting up a Universal Bioengineering Thermostat in the Russian Mini Research Module 1; replacing a current converter of one of the 800A batteries of the Electrical Power System in the Russian Service Module; and removing the flat cover of the Passive Docking Assembly of the Service Module Transfer Compartment hatch, in preparation for additional work. The Treadmill with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization, the Russian Elektron oxygen generator and the Russian air conditioner are also currently out of service.
(*)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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