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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 93, Increment 27

06/05/2011 359 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #93 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:

European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Biolab and associated experiments
No activities were carried out using the Biolab facility in the two weeks until 6 May. Biolab’s microscope and photospectrometer instruments are currently packed and awaiting return to Earth for refurbishment 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 due to the Biolab microscope failure which will be repaired on ground and then returned to the 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
No activities were carried out using the European Drawer Rack facility in the two weeks until 6 May. 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 6 May 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 core rotation speed, electrical field, temperature gradients and liquid viscosity variation. Five individual medium-high rotation runs (Runs 189 a–e) have been processed in the facility in the two week reporting period. Four of the runs were completed successfully between 26 and 28 April. Run 189c was repeated on 3 May and now only the last set point of data for the run is missing. 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 successfully 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 provided a full 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 or the first SpaceX carrier flight 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 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 CARD experiment
The European Physiology Modules facility was activated on 26 and 27 April in connection with the CARD experiment, undertaken by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli. This also involved use of the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2 (see below). Nespoli donned and activated the Cardiolab Arterial Blood Pressure Holter for 24 hour blood pressure and heart rate measurement and started the associated urine collection. The Pulmonary Function System was also used for undertaking four different rebreathing sessions across the two days of the experiment. On 27 April Nespoli undertook a blood draw for CARD (see Human Research Facility 2 below), the samples of which were centrifuged and stored in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. Data was downlinked on 27 April. The CARD experiment examines increased cardiac output and lowerered blood pressure (caused by dilated arteries) in the face of increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system (which normally constricts arteries) in weightlessness.

The Arterial Blood Pressure Holter is one of the sensor devices of Cardiolab, which itself is one of the Science Modules of the European Physiology Modules facility. Cardiolab is used for performing scientific studies of the adaptation of the cardiovascular system to weightlessness. 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.

Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
The Pulmonary Function System was activated and calibrated by Paolo Nespoli on 26 April to undertake rebreathing sessions in connection with the CARD experiment on 26, 27 April (see above). 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.

DOSIS Experiment
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 failed DOSTEL 1 detector is 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.

European Modular Cultivation System
The water pump servicing activity for the European Modular Cultivation System was successfully performed on 28 April. The next ESA experiment is the Gravi-2 experiment which is currently scheduled in the late 2011 timeframe. Gravi-2 builds on the initial Gravi experiment in determining the gravity threshold response in plant (lentil) roots. The tentative next NASA experiment in the European Modular Cultivation System is SeedGrowth.

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 6 May. 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 gather scientific data opened on 28 April and data acquisition is ongoing. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. The facility was also placed in a safe configuration on 29 April for Progress 42P docking and placed back in Sun Pointing 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 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
On 27 April ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli supported troubleshooting of NASA’s Boiling eXperiment Facility (BXF) by activating and inspecting the European-built Microgravity Science Glovebox (in which BXF is located for research activities) and opening the BXF avionics box. The following day he replaced a BXF hard disk drive.

The experiment 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 (Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument) experiments and further experiment runs may be resumed later during 2011 and early 2012.

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 the Early Utilisation 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
After a partial set up of equipment by Paolo Nespoli the day before, on 5 May ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman performed her final session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment. The Thermolab experiment uses the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System to investigate thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise. The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless conditions in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology.

ALTEA-Shield Experiment
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli installed ALTEA-Shield experiment hardware on EXPRESS Rack 8 in the US Laboratory on 23 April. Hereafter the experiment was activated. Data was not received on ground initially though respective on-orbit and ground system reboots resolved the situation and data acquisition is ongoing. There were also minor issues with two of the six silicon detector units with which communication was lost for a period though this has also been resolved. The ALTEA-Shield 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 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 now an implementation agreement has been found with the Russian partners. the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in Human Research Facility 1 t

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 26, 27 April for undertaking rebreathing sessions for Paolo Nespoli with the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in connection with the CARD experiment (see above). On 27 April Paolo Nespoli also provided blood for the same experiment. Blood 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. On 6 May Nespoli replaced the facility’s laptop with a new model which was loaded with facility software from a DVD.

ISS general system information and activities *

Columbus laboratory and Columbus Control Centre
In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above, the Columbus systems have been working well. Some regular maintenance activities have been executed by the crew and the Flight Control Team on top of the regular conferences of the ISS Crew with the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Main points of interest include::


  • New ISS Amateur Radio Equipment
    On 26 April ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman installed amateur radio equipment in the Columbus laboratory and checked out its functionality with an operator on ground. On 6 May she used the equipment to conduct a radio session with students at a school in Illinois, USA.

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: formatted and configured an ISS Server laptop hard disk drive for updated Local Area Network software; performed maintenance and calibration on sensors of Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen units and built two new alkaline battery packs for the units; changed communications network settings on a Microgravity Measurement Apparatus laptop; set up two new laptops as an ISS server laptop and a domain controller laptop; carried out periodic inspection of Portable Emergency Provisions (breathing apparatus, fire extinguishers etc); and inventorised Coolant Quality Monitoring Kits of the Internal Thermal Control System.
  • 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 Pro K protocol which relates to dietary intake and bone metabolism and involves a controlled diet and dietary logging with urine sampling; JAXA’s Hair experiment; and JAXA’s Biological Rhythms experiment which included ECG recording (and data downlink). In addition Nespoli acted as Crew Medical Officer for: Catherine Coleman for undertaking NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment by preparing electrode sites and helping Coleman to don the Cardiopres device; and for Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Andrey Borisenko for the Russian ‘ Bioelectric Activity of e Heart at Rest’ cardiological experiment
  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the past two weeks Paolo Nespoli was the subject of: an acoustic measurement protocol; an On-Orbit Hearing Assessment; a new Health Maintenance System intraocular eye pressure test; and sessions of the US Periodic Fitness Evaluation and Periodic Health Status which check blood pressure and electrocardiogram during programmed exercise, as well as standard medical checks. Nespoli also carried out a monthly check of the Crew Health Care Systems defibrillator.
  • 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 one run of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere and carried out an inventory/audit of inter-module ventilation duct and cap O-rings. 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 Scuola secondaria di Cingia de' Botti, Solarolo Rainerio; the Italian Air Force Academy, Pozzuoli; and the Scuola Secondaria I Grado "M. Maccioni" Nuoro all in Italy.

Activities in the European-built Node 3


  • Exercise Equipment
    In the two weeks until 6 May, the T2/COLBERT treadmill was used in connection with crew return preparations (see below) in addition to regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2/COLBERT treadmill.
  • Regenerative ECLSS and Additional Environmental Control Racks
    The two Water Recovery System racks, together with the Oxygen Generation System rack, form the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) which is necessary in support of a six-person ISS Crew to help reduce upload mass. Other environmental control racks in Node 3 include an Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Highlights of the past two weeks include:
    • Water Recovery System rack 2: Urine Processor Assembly
      The Recycle Filter Tank Assembly which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water was again replaced on 2 May by ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Ron Garan.

STS-134/ULF-6 Shuttle Endeavour Mission Activities


  • Robotics Preparations
    A Video Streaming Workstation was relocated to Node 2 from the US laboratory on 26 April to provide Shuttle views during STS-134 mission robotics activities. Two days later three laptops were relocated to the Cupola from the US laboratory (2) and Node 3 (1) to monitor robotics operations during the mission. On 2 May Ron Garan carried out a robotics training session focussing on the handover of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System from the Station’s principal robotic arm to the Shuttle’s robotic arm.
  • US Airlock.
    During the two week period until 6 May ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli carried out activities in the US Airlock in preparation for the four upcoming STS-134 spacewalks. This included regenerating lithium-ion long life batteries and metal oxide canisters used for removing carbon dioxide from the EVA suits during spacewalks. Nespoli terminated the regeneration the following day. Nespoli also unstowed and prepared certain EVA items/systems in the Airlock together with Ron Garan such as EVA bags, helmet lights and wrist mirrors.
  • Cargo/Stowage and Relocation Activities
    In preparation for the STS-134 mission numerous pieces of ISS cargo were relocated from Node 2 to other ISS locations and cargo was prepacked for return on STS-134.
  • American-to-Russian-Converter Unit
    Nespoli and Coleman installed a US to Russian voltage converter in Node 1 on 28 April which converts from the US 124V to the Russian 28V.

Automated Transfer Vehicle activities


  • Cargo Transfer Activities
    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) “Johannes Kepler” in the two-week reporting period until 6 May, unloading and transferring cargo to the ISS and transferring cargo and equipment for disposal back into the ATV.
  • ATV Oxygen Supplies
    ATV-2 oxygen stores were used to refresh the ISS cabin atmosphere in the two week reporting period until 6 May.
  • ISS Reboost
    ATV Orbit Correction System thrusters were used to carry out a reboost of the ISS on 5 May in order to set up phasing for Soyuz 25S landing on 23 May. The 4 min 3 sec thruster burn increased the altitude of the ISS by 1.04 km.

Progress M-10M/42P Launch and Docking


  • Docking Preparations
    Roscosmos cosmonauts Dmitry Kondratyev (ISS Commander) and Alexander Samokutyaev (ISS Flight Engineer) undertook refresher training on the Russian TORU manual docking system on 26 in preparation for Progress 42P docking. The TORU system acts as a manually controlled backup to the automatic Kurs docking system. The session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss. On 27 April communications and video tests were carried out.
  • Launch and Docking
    The Russian Progress M-10M spacecraft on logistics flight 42P to the ISS was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz-U rocket on 27 April at 15:05 CEST (19:05 local time) with 2.7 tonnes of cargo consisting of 880 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen, 420 kg water and 1350 kg dry cargo. On 29 April at 16:28 (CEST) Progress 42P docked at the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment under automatic Kurs system control. After docking, ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems.
  • Post-Docking Activities
    On 29 April following docking the standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 42P and Pirs was performed followed by hatch opening by Kondratyev and Samokutyaev. Hereafter the quick disconnect clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between Progress and the Station, Progress 42P was deactivated and ventilation ducting was installed. The Progress docking mechanism was dismantled by Kondratyev and Borisenko and air sampling was carried out in the new logistics spacecraft. Hereafter high priority payloads were transferred to the ISS. On 2 May temperature sensor equipment was installed in Progress 42P.

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 samples for Paolo Nespoli were placed in MELFI for ESA’s CARD experiment on 27 April and hair samples for JAXA’s Hair experiment were placed in a MELFI unit for Nespoli and Garan. In addition. Coleman and Garan transferred samples from the MELFI units to one of the General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) units in the US laboratory in preparation for return to earth on as part of the STS-134/ULF-6 mission.

Crew Return Preparations: Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
On 26 April and 6 May Dmitry Kondratyev carried out orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test sessions wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit whilst undertaking an exercise protocol. The first preliminary session was undertaken whilst using the TVIS treadmill, and the second session was undertaken whilst using the T2 treadmill. The Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the Russian crewmembers would cope with, and prepare them for, exposure to gravity on return to Earth.

Permanent Multipurpose Module
Paolo Nespoli continued outfitting activities in the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module on 28 April and 2 May, removing knee braces at one rack location and removing Knee-Brace Assembly Replacements and associated capture mechanisms from another rack location for use in Node 2.

Russian Passive Docking Assembly Maintenance
Kondratyev, Borisenko and Samokutyaev continued maintenance on the Passive Docking Assembly in the Service Module Transfer Compartment hatch in the two week period until 6 May, reducing the diameter of the flat cover with a jigsaw.

Node 2 Bracket Installation
Paolo Nespoli carried out installation of brackets and fittings on racks and standoffs in the European-built Node 2 on 5 and 6 May. This was not possible whilst the T2 treadmill was located here but with the treadmill now located in Node 3, the installations could take place to allow for quicker and easier rack rotations.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 6 May include: inspection of the TVIS treadmill to determine what is causing a gyro failure; replacing a Payload Ethernet Hub Gateway with an Ethernet Hub and Multiplexer in the Japanese laboratory and preparing it for a ground-commanded checkout; swapping a hard disk drive in a Russian laptop; performing maintenance on the Kobairo Rack in the Japanese laboratory, taking electrical resistance measurements of the heating units insulation material of its Gradient Heating Furnace; replacing a gas supply module in the Vehicle Cabin Atmosphere Monitor in the US laboratory; reinstalling software onto a Russian laptop to allow for antivirus application restoration; and replacing an onboard transmitter of the Russian BR-9TsU-8 Radiotelemetry System.

(*)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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