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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 94, Increment 27

20/05/2011 255 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #94 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 20 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
The Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (ERB-2) was activated by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli on 17 May and a file transfer was carried out from ERB-2 to the Video Management Unit of the European Drawer Rack. Hereafter the data was downlinked to ground from the Video Management Unit. The 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 (EML) 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 20 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. Geoflow-2 run 19c (which is a high rotation run) was successfully completed on 9 May to obtain the set point data missing from the previous run of the same configuration. By 12 May runs 9, 10 and 11 (which are no rotation runs) had also been completed with only one skipped set point for run 9. Additional runs were started from 16 May though there are still a number of set points to be obtained for these runs. 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 thoroughly prepared via a full scientific verification programme 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 the SpaceX demo flight #3 before end 2011 for the pending upgrade implementation, after the execution of the full GeoFlow-2 experiment. The flight of the FASES Experiment Container will 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 (EPM) facility and CARD experiment
Paolo Nespoli carried out stowage operations on the Cardiolab Arterial Blood Pressure Holter kit on 9 May. Nespoli had used the holter for blood pressure and heart rate measurement for the CARD experiment on 26 and 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 investigations using 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)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System facility in the two weeks until 20 May. 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 on 23 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 (EMCS)
No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 20 May. The next ESA experiment to take place in the facility 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 20 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 (CFS-A)
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 Sun visibility window which opened on 28 April for the SOLAR facility to gather scientific data closed on 11 May. A new Sun visibility window the SOLAR facility to gather scientific data opened on 18 May and data acquisition is ongoing. In the intervening period when not in Sun-pointing mode the facility was placed in a safe configuration. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun.

The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for more than 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 (MSL) in the First Materials Science Research Rack (MSRR)
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. The science team has 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 (MSG) and associated experiments
On 9 May ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli carried out a visual inspection and activation of the European-built Microgravity Science Glovebox in support of ground-controlled payload operations for NASA’s Boiling eXperiment Facility (BXF). The BXF is located inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox to support the research activities of two different experiments: the Microheater Array Boiling Experiment and the Nucleate Pool Boiling Experiment. Nespoli replaced tapes and reset the tape counter for the Nucleate Pool Boiling Experiment on 12 May and stowed the BXF the following day after completion of experiment procedures.

The experiment data for the SODI-Colloid experiment which took place in the Microgravity Science Glovebox in September/October 2010 is still 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 (PPFS)
No activities were carried out using the Portable Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 20 May. 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
Data acquisition for the ALTEA-Shield experiment with all six particle detectors has been continuing in the two week period until 20 May and the minimum 20 day acquisition period has now been reached (preferred duration is 30 days or more). 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 joint 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 in the process of 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.

Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Human Research Facility 1
Data for NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment was downloaded to the laptop of NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 by ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman and downlinked to ground on 11 and 12 May. This included data from ESA's Cardiopres device (24-hr blood pressure measurement), a holter device (48-hr ECG measurement) and two Actiwatches (48-hr activity measurements). Activities were carried out with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

Human Research Facility 2
NASA’s Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 9, 12 and 13 May for undertaking blood draw activities for ISS Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli, Ron Garan and Catherine Coleman respectively for the Pro K/Nutrition/Repository protocols. Nespoli assisted Garan and Coleman as Crew Medical Officer for the blood draw while Nespoli himself was assisted by Coleman. The samples were hereafter spun in the refrigerated centrifuge of Human Research facility 2 before being stowed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers (see below). 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
    Following installation of the new amateur radio equipment in the Columbus laboratory on 26 April, numerous amateur radio contacts have been undertaken by members of the ISS crew in the two weeks until 20 May. On 7 and 14 May ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli conducted two sessions with students at three different schools in Italy (the Istituto Tecnico Industriale Statale "Enrico Mattei" in Maglie, the Turin Flying Institute, in Caselle Torinese, and the "Pasquale Luisi" primary school, Castelluccio Valmaggiore, in Foggia). NASA astronauts and ISS Flight Engineers Catherine Coleman and Ron Garan also carried out five amateur radio sessions between them using the Columbus equipment. This included sessions with visitors at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, three different US schools (in Schererville, Indiana; Houston Texas; and Fern Park, Florida) and a school in Podgrodzie, Debica, in Poland.
  • Emergency Communications Test
    On 16 and 20 May the Columbus Control Centre took part in an emergency communications proficiency check together with an ISS crew member and the control centres in Houston, Huntsville Alabama, Moscow and Tsukuba, Japan. On 16 May NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan was the ISS crew member and involving the VHF site at Dryden Flight Research Center in California and the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, USA. On 20 May ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli was the ISS crew member and involving the VHF site at the Wallops Station, Virginia.
  • Internal Thermal Control System
    ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman retrieved a coolant sample from the Internal Thermal Control System in Columbus on 20 May for return to ground for analysis.

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: unlocked and the following day locked the captive locks of the GLACIER (General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator) freezer in order to dry out the unit; checked alignment guides of the Fluids Integrated Rack for proper installation; and initiated one run of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere.
  • 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 blood/urine sampling; and JAXA’s Mycological Evaluation of Crew Exposure to ISS Ambient Air (MYCO) experiment, which evaluates the risk of microorganisms via inhalation and adhesion to the skin to determine which fungi act as allergens on the ISS. Nespoli was also involved in carrying out JAXA’s Spiral Top-II education experiment together with Catherine Coleman demonstrating the action of a spinning top in space, NASA’s “Kids in Micro-G” experiment to demonstrate Newton’s Laws of Motion, and configured equipment for Ron Garan for the NUTRITION/Repository protocol.
  • 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 Russian body mass measurement protocol.
  • 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: had time for standard crew departure preparations; took samples from Russian pre-treated urine containers for return to Earth for analysis; and checked and audited the contents of two cargo bags in the Columbus laboratory.

Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    In the two weeks until 20 May, in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2/COLBERT treadmill (which involved Paolo Nespoli) in Node 3, the T2 treadmill was used for undertaking orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests for ISS Commander Dmitry Kondratyev in advance of return to earth (see Soyuz TMA-20/25S and Expedition Crew Return Preparations below).
  • 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:
    • Total Organic Carbon Analyzer
      In the past two weeks there was a fault alert generated by the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) indicating increased liquid loop pressures (TOCA is used to monitor water quality). Whilst planning is ongoing to develop a permanent resolution to the issue, Coleman and Nespoli have manually closed a TOCA valve on 9 and 16 May respectively to recover from the problem. Coleman and Nespoli have since undertaken Water Recovery System sampling analysis using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer.
    • Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
      ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan assisted by Paolo Nespoli relocated the Data and Control Assembly of the Major Constituent Analyzer in the Node 3 Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack to the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack in the US Laboratory to regain its functionality.

Soyuz TMA-20/25S and Expedition Crew Return Preparations:

  • Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
    On 10 and 14 May ISS Commander Dmitry Kondratyev carried out two additional orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test sessions wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit whilst undertaking an exercise protocol. Both preliminary sessions were undertaken whilst using the T2 treadmill in Node 3. 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.
  • Cargo Transfers
    In the two weeks until 20 May Kondratyev and Nespoli have been involved in packing and stowing cargo in Soyuz TMA-20/25S including stowing return cargo in the Soyuz Descent Module in which the astronauts will land and stowing disposable items in the Orbital Module which will be jettisoned along with the Soyuz Service Module for burning up in the atmosphere.
  • Soyuz-TMA seat fit-check/leak checks
    On 13 May, 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 on 23 May. A Sokol leak check was carried out at the same time.
  • Soyuz 25S Descent Drill
    A standard Soyuz descent drill was carried out by Kondratyev and Nespoli on 17 May. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 25S spacecraft is for the review of Soyuz descent procedures including emergency procedures and manual undocking. The training sessions used a descent simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a descent hand controller. The two ISS crew members carried out another session together with Catherine Coleman on 19 May.
  • Soyuz TMA-20/22S Motion Control System Checks
    ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli supported a ground-commanded checkout of the Soyuz TMA-20 Motion Control System on 16 May including testing the pilot’s translational hand controller and the braking thrusters.

STS-134/ULF-6 Shuttle Endeavour Mission Activities

  • Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
    On 13 May ISS Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli (ESA), Ron Garan (NASA) and Alexander Samokutyaev (Roscosmos) undertook an R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre training session. This involved photographing ground features from the Russian Service Module with Nikon D2X digital still cameras using 400 and 800 mm lenses. 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. Garan and Samokutyaev carried out another session on 15 May.
  • Launch
    STS-134 Shuttle Endeavour launched successfully on its last scheduled mission from the Kennedy Space Center at 14:56 (CEST), 08:56 local time on 16 May on the 16-day ISS ULF-6 mission. The principal payloads that Endeavour was transporting in its cargo bay were the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 (AMS-2) which is a state-of-the-art cosmic-ray detector designed to examine fundamental properties of matter and the origin of the Universe, and an EXPRESS Logistics Carrier carrying spares for location outside the ISS. Endeavour has a six-person crew, which includes Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory Johnson, Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel and Gregory Chamitoff, (all Shuttle veterans and representing NASA) and Mission Specialist and ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori. As well as his duties as ULF-6 Mission Specialist Vittori is also undertaking additional responsibilities as part of the European DAMA Mission.
  • Docking/Mission Preparations
    On 17 May in preparation for STS-134 Shuttle Endeavour docking, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli pressurised and leak checked Pressurised Mating Adaptor 2 at the forward facing port of the European-built Node 2 where the Shuttle will dock and prepared three Battery Powered Speaker Microphone Units for use by the Shuttle Crew. Garan and Nespoli also prepared the US airlock for spacewalk activities.
  • Shuttle docking
    During rendezvous and docking Nespoli, Coleman and ISS Commander Dmitry Kondratyev photographed thermal protection tile areas and door seals of Space Shuttle Endeavour with Nikon D2X digital still cameras using 400 and 800 mm and 1000 mm lenses. Endeavour docked to Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 at the forward docking port of the European-built Node 2 on 18 May at 12:14 (CEST). After docking, the ISS was turned around using Shuttle vernier thrusters so that the Shuttle’s thermally protected underside was facing away from the direction of flight and reduce the risk of micrometeoroid damage.
  • Post-docking procedures
    Nespoli configured audio communications systems between the ISS and Shuttle before undertaking a voice check. Following relevant leak checks of the docking vestibule and additional general post-docking procedures, hatches were opened and the traditional crew welcome ceremony took place, followed by the safety briefing for the new arrivals. After hatch opening, ventilation ducting was installed between the ISS and the Shuttle by Nespoli, Garan and Feustel, communications/data configuration occurred to account for the Shuttle docked to the Station, and the lines were set up for transferring nitrogen and oxygen from the Shuttle to the ISS.
  • EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 3 Installation
    On 18 May Garan set up the robotics equipment on docking day for associated ULF-6 robotics activities. Roberto Vittori and Mike Fincke used the Shuttle’s robotic arm to remove the Logistics Carrier from Endeavour’s cargo bay and hand it over to the Station’s principal robotic arm, which was operated by Chamitoff and Johnson. EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 3 was then installed in its final location on the port side of the Station’s truss on truss section P3. The logistics platform carries ISS external spares, including an ammonia tank, high pressure gas tank, cargo transport container, two S-band antenna assemblies, and a spare arm for the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, as well as a NASA technology payload.
  • Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 Installation
    Roberto Vittori and Drew Feustel used the Shuttle robotic arm to unberth the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 (AMS-2) from the Shuttle cargo bay on 19 May and hand it over to the Station’s principal robotic arm, which was operated again by Chamitoff and Johnson. AMS-2 was then installed in its final location on the port side of the Station’s truss on truss section S3. AMS-2 was fully activated from the ground some time later and it has now started nominal operations.
  • US Airlock and EVA preparations
    In preparation for the ULF-6 spacewalks, activities were carried out in the US Airlock. This included installing spacesuit batteries, lithium hydroxide canisters (for CO2 removal) and Rechargeable EVA Battery Assemblies.
  • Spacewalk 1 (Chamitoff, Feustel)
    The first mission spacewalk was preceded by standard procedures including the overnight camp out of the EVA astronauts in the Airlock at a reduced pressure and pre-breathing pure oxygen to remove nitrogen from their bodies. Spacewalk 1 was carried out by NASA astronauts Greg Chamitoff, and Drew Feustel starting at 09:10 CEST on 20 May. During the 6 hr 19 minutes EVA the astronauts: retrieved Materials International Space Station Experiments (MISSE) 7A and 7B from Express Logistics Carrier 2 and installed MISSE 8; installed a light for the Crew Equipment Translation Aid (CETA) cart situated at the S3 truss section; installed a cover on the starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (one of the principal joints used for rotating the Station’s solar arrays); installed and connected ammonia refill jumpers on the port side truss; vented nitrogen from the ammonia server; reconfigured a quick disconnect tool bag; and installed an External Wireless Communication antenna on the US Laboratory for communications with the EXPRESS Logistics Carriers on the Station’s truss. The EVA finished 10 minutes early due to a faulty carbon dioxide sensor on Chamitoff’s EVA suit.

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 20 May. This mainly consisted of transferring cargo and equipment for disposal from the ISS into the ATV.
  • ATV Oxygen Supplies
    On 13 May ATV-2 oxygen supplies were used to refresh the ISS cabin atmosphere.

Progress M-10M/42P Fluid/Cargo Transfers
On 18 May ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Samokutyaev configured pumping equipment and transferred all the water from one of the Rodnik tanks of Progress 42P docked at the Pirs Docking Module to 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. ISS Expedition 27 Flight Engineer (and Expedition 28 Commander) Andre Borisenko also undertook cargo transfer activities from 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. Samples were placed in the MELFI freezers related to NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol (blood, urine) for ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Catherine Coleman and additional saliva samples from Catherine Coleman for NASA’s Integrated Immune experiment.

Orlan EVA equipment maintenance
On 13 and 16 May Alexander Samokutyaev replaced the BUS-MK Control Unit of the Russian Orlan Interface Unit in the Pirs Docking Compartment with a new spare. The BUS system supplies the Russian Orlan EVA suits with coolant and O2 while in the docking compartment.

Elektron Oxygen Generator System
The BZh Liquid Unit of the Russian Elektron oxygen generator was declared failed in the two week period until 20 May having surpassed its certified lifetime by a factor of three. Additional oxygen supplies are present on the ISS and a new BZh Unit will be delivered by Progress 43P on 23 June. The crew have additionally replaced the failed unit with a spare on orbit, which is also past its certified date, though activation has not yet been successful.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 6 May include: reconfiguring a laptop and checking out an Ethernet Hub and Multiplexer in the Japanese laboratory; relocating Microgravity Experiment Research Locker/Incubator 2 (MERLIN 2) from EXPRESS Rack 8 to EXPRESS Rack 6 in the US laboratory; installing a power cable in Node 1 to increase power feeds to two American-to-Russian Converter Units in the Russian Zarya Module; replacing a Potable Water Dispenser filter in EXPRESS Rack 6 in the US laboratory; replacing the EXPRESS Rack 6 laptop with a new T61p laptop; sampling coolant fluid from the Japanese laboratory’s Internal Thermal Control System; connecting and checking out an Audio Terminal Unit in a Crew Quarters in Node 2; and checking out new Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products units which monitor cabin atmosphere to provide quick response during a fire.

(*)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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