This is ISS status report #97 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 Astronaut and ISS Utilisation Department in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus and Payload Operations Management and Mission Science teams from the Astronaut and 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
On 21 June the Biolab facility was activated and successful rotor alignment tests were carried out on both of Biolab’s rotors. Not all of the tests could be performed with the rotors set to 2g though analysis is underway to determine if the skipped steps/positions are still required. 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. The microscope which is needed for the TripleLux experiments was returned to ground with STS-134 and will be returned to the ISS to continue the utilisation of Biolab after repair. The objective of the TripleLux experiments is to further understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the aggravation of radiation responses, and the impairment of immune function under spaceflight conditions.
European Drawer Rack and associated payloads
No activities were carried out using the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks until 1 July. 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. The European Drawer Rack may also tentatively process NASA’s NIH Ageing experiment which is currently planned for the second half of 2012. This would be carried out in a Kubik Incubator located in the European Drawer Rack. In addition a Kubik incubator is currently scheduled to process ESA’s ROALD-2 experiment at the end of 2011. This will expand on the initial ROALD experiment from 2008 and will determine the role of a certain lipid in the regulation of immune processes and in the cell cycle under weightless conditions.
Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow-2 / FASES experiments
The Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) has been active in the two week period until 1 July to undertake activities related to 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. A sequence of various non-rotation runs were all completed in the two-week reporting period. Good quality images were received in real time and associated data from the experiment and structural dynamics data from the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus has been downlinked. All mandatory experiment runs have now been completed for Geoflow-2 except for the high-rotation runs.
Geoflow-2 (which follows on from the initial 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 is Nonanol which 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 the end of 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 associated experiments
No activities were carried out using the European Physiology Modules facility in the two weeks until 1 July. 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.
Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) Experiment
New Portable Clinical Blood Analyser cartridges for the SOLO experiment, delivered on progress 43P, were inserted into the European-built MELFI 1 freezer on 24 June. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight.
The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment, which had been ongoing since July 2009 is now complete following hardware deinstallation on 17 June. This will be returned on STS-135 in July. The passive detectors for DOSIS were already deinstalled earlier 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 facility in the two weeks until 1 July. 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 (EMCS)
No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 1 July. 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 the Plant Signalling (formerly known as SeedGrowth) experiment in 2012.
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 1 July. 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 STS-135/ULF-7 in July 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
A new Sun visibility window opened on 27 June for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data. 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 Materials Science Laboratory (and Materials Science Research Rack) was activated on 21 June to undertake a six-monthly turbo pump spin up check. The rack was deactivated afterwards. The first six second batch Sample Cartridge Assemblies (two each for CETSOl, MICAST and SETA experiments) have already been delivered for launch on STS-135/ULF-7 Shuttle Atlantis in July. These samples will be the next to be processed in the Materials Science Laboratory Solidification and Quenching Furnace (SQF).
The final MICAST sample from the first batch (belonging to NASA) which completed processing in the Solidification and Quenching Furnace of the Materials Science Laboratory in January is now with the science team at the University of Arizona to undergo post-flight analysis. 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.
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 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
The ESA-developed Microgravity Science Glovebox was activated on 30 June to undertake activities for NASA’s SHERE experiment. ISS Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa prepared the Shear History Extensional Rheology Experiment (SHERE) payload equipment for a new series of sample runs. He configured the SHERE equipment in the glovebox before loading the associated software.
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)
ISS Flight Engineer Mike Fossum performed his first session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment on 27 June. 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.
Data acquisition for the ALTEA-Shield experiment has been continuing in the two week period until 1 July with the minimum 20 day acquisition period having been surpassed on 17 May (preferred duration is 30 days or more). Data acquisition continued with five of the six particle detectors until 19 June when a reboot of the system brought all six detectors back online. This was reduced to four detectors on 22 June when one of the detectors went offline. This means there aren’t any detectors taking measurements in one of the axes, which is not desirable. 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. The experiment continues to undertake 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 Facilities 1 and 2
ISS Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa carried out an Ambulatory Monitoring session for the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 18 to 20 June. The NASA Integrated Cardiovascular experiment consists of an a ultrasound echo session and an Ambulatory Monitoring session, which includes 24-hr blood pressure measurement using ESA's Cardiopres device, 48-hr ECG measurement with a holter device and 48-hr activity measurements using two Actiwatches.
Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 24 June to centrifuge blood samples for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository protocol, drawn from ISS Flight Engineer Mike Fossum. Urine sample collection for the protocol was also concluded for Fossum. The samples were thereafter stowed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. Activities were supported by the Columbus Control Centre.
ISS general system information and activities *
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:
Columbus Ventilation System
On 22 June NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan inspected and cleaned the Return Grid Sensor Housing in the port-side cone of the Columbus Laboratory, installed add-on screens and checked out the air loop.
Automated Transfer Vehicle Undocking Preparations
ATV Preparations for Undocking
Ron Garan installed the Re-Entry Breakup Recorder in ATV-2 Johannes Kepler on 19 June. This device is a kind of black box in the ATV for recording re-entry data. Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Sergei Volkov undertook final activities on the ATV. This included: removing light fixtures, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and other useful equipment for re-use, before removing the quick-release clamps between the ATV and Zvezda hatches, and closing the hatches at 17:20 CEST. This was followed by the inter-hatch depressurisation and leak check.
ATV Undocking and Destructive Re-entry
After the ATV Control equipment was set up and activated in the Russian Service Module, Johannes Kepler, Europe’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle, undocked from the International Space Station on 20 June at 16:46 CEST. A spring mechanism located on the Service Module aft docking port, slowly pushed the ATV away from the Station. After drifting unpowered for one minute to a distance of three metres away from the Station, the ATV deployed its smaller attitude control thrusters to start its departure boost and distance itself further. Two hours after undocking ATV-2 performed a flawless avoidance manoeuvre due to orbital debris in its vicinity. Following undocking Samokutyaev removed the ATV Control Panel from the Russian Service Module. The next day ATV-2 went through its planned destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. At 19:07 CEST, ATV fired its engines for 10 min 9 sec to enter an elliptical orbit. At 22:04 CEST ATV-2 fired its thrusters again for 14 min and 9 sec placing it into its planned destructive re-entry profile into Earth’s atmosphere. Just before entering the atmosphere, Johannes Kepler was commanded to begin tumbling to ensure it would disintegrate and burn up safely.
The undocking was monitored from the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, Mission Control Centres in Moscow and Houston. The ISS crew also monitored the undocking. A Nikon D2X camera was used to take photographs of the ATV front cone from the Zvezda Service Module window especially of the telegoniometer and videometer sensor boxes. The ISS crew also monitored the undocking from a video monitor in the Service Module.
ATV Clear-up Activities
On 22 June Alexander Samokutyaev uninstalled and stowed the ATV Proximity Communications Equipment (used for close proximity communications between the ISS and the ATV) which had been set up in the Russian Service Module.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
A software update for the T2/COLBERT treadmill in Node 3 was installed by Ron Garan on 22 June followed by an unmanned T2 activation and checkout session. This was in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2/COLBERT treadmill in Node 3.
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:
Oxygen Generation System rack
The Oxygen Generation System rack was prepared for unpowering by ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan on 21 June, carrying out hydrogen purging before replacing a hydrogen sensor and cleaning a rack filter.
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 28 June by Ron Garan.
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
The pre-treat tank and hose of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 were replaced on 27 June.
STS-135/ULF-7 Shuttle Atlantis Mission Activities
Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
On 21 June ISS Flight Engineers Mike Fossum (NASA) and Satoshi Furukawa (JAXA) 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. Fossum and Furukawa were joined by Sergei Volkov in another photography session on 1 July, photographing a Shuttle tile diagram inside the ISS. These exercises are in preparation for photographing the STS-135/ULF-7 Shuttle during its pitch manoeuvre during rendezvous and docking in July. 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 Atlantis, to be downlinked for launch debris assessment.
US Airlock Activities
In the two weeks until 1 July Garan, Fossum and Furukawa carried out activities in the US Airlock in preparation for upcoming STS-135/ULF-7 spacewalks. This included resizing two Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), undertaking an EVA dry run in the Airlock (which included a spacesuit fit verification), preparing EVA tools and equipment, scrubbing the cooling loops of two EMUs for particulate matter and biomass, and checking out EVA oxygen equipment.
Berthing Camera Installation
The Centerline Berthing Camera System was installed in Node 2 by Ron Garan on 27 June in preparation for berthing the European built Multi-Purpose Logistics Module ‘Raffaelo’ to Node 2 during the STS-135 mission.
At the end of the reporting period, Furukawa and Fossum manoeuvred the station’s principal robotic arm from the Mobile Transporter on the Station’s truss to an attachment point on Node 2. Activities, which were undertaken from the robotics workstation in the European-built Cupola Observation Module attached to Node 3, were in preparation for ULF-7 mission activities. The Mobile transporter was hereafter moved from Workstation 5 on the Station’s truss to Workstation 4.
Pressurised Mating Adapter 2
The decision has been made to leave Pressurised Mating Adapter 2 pressurised after undocking of STS-135 in July as it will be the last Shuttle mission. Pressurised Mating Adapter 2 will hereafter be used as a stowage area.
Progress M-11M/43P Launch and Docking
ISS Flight Engineers Sergei Volkov and Alexander Samokutyaev undertook refresher training on the Russian TORU manual docking system on 21 June in preparation for Progress 43P 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.
Launch and Docking
The Russian Progress M-11M spacecraft on logistics flight 43P to the ISS was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz-U rocket on 21 June at 16:38 CEST (20:38 local time). On 23 June at 18:37 (CEST) Progress 43P docked at the aft port of the Russian Service Module under automatic Kurs system control. After docking, ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems.
On 23 June following docking, the TORU manual docking system was deactivated and communications equipment was reconfigured to normal operations. The standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 43P and the Service Module was performed followed by hatch opening by Volkov and Samokutyaev. Hereafter the quick disconnect clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between Progress and the Station, Progress 43P was deactivated and ventilation ducting was installed. The Progress docking mechanism was dismantled by Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Andre Borisenko (ISS Commander) and air sampling was carried out in the new logistics spacecraft. The following day light fixtures and temperature sensors were installed in the newly arrived logistics spacecraft.
In the days following docking cargo was transferred from Progress 43P to the ISS. This included Portable Clinical Blood Analyser equipment for ESA’s Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment. On 29 June Samokutyaev set up pumping equipment and started transfer of water from one of Progress 43P’s storage tanks to the ISS. This was finalised the following day.
Soyuz TMA-21/Expedition Crew Procedures and Return Preparations
On 29 June Borisenko, Samokutyaev and Garan carried out fit checks of their protective Kentavr anti-g suits. These suits are worn under their Sokol suits during return and landing to help the long-duration crewmembers with the return into Earth’s gravity.
Soyuz 26S Emergency Descent Drill
An emergency Soyuz descent drill was carried out by Borisenko, Samokutyaev and Garan on 29 June. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 26S spacecraft was 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.
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. Urine and blood samples were also placed in the MELFI freezers from NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Mike Fossum for NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository protocol. In addition Portable Clinical Blood Analyser measurement pouches for the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment, which arrived on Progress 43P were transferred to one of the MELFI units on 24 June. On 1 July Fossum replaced a failed Electronics Unit in MELFI 3.
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer which was installed during the STS-134 mission in May 2011 is collecting around 100 Gbytes of data from 40 million cosmic rays every day with over 3TB of data and 1.4 billion events as of 25 June.
From 22 to 24 June Sergei Volkov set up, tested and configured experiment hardware for the Russian/German KTP-21 Plasma Crystal-3 Plus (PK-3+) experiment in the Russian “Poisk” Mini Research Module 2. This included leak checking the hardware’s electronics box vacuum chamber. An experiment session was started hereafter, which Volkov continued to monitor in the following days. The main objective of this experiment is to obtain a homogeneous plasma dust cloud at various pressures and particle quantities with or without superimposition of a low frequency harmonic electrical field. The PK-3+ experiment was also undertaken during the Astrolab mission with ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter.
Orbital debris was being tracked in the reporting period which had a “red threshold” conjunction with the ISS. The object was discovered too late to prepare a debris avoidance manoeuvre by the ISS so the crew sheltered in their respective Soyuz spacecraft prior to and during the time of closest approach of the debris on the morning of 27 June. The object passed safely by the ISS with no impact which allowed the crew to return inside the ISS.
Progress 43P, which is docked to the aft port of the ISS Service Module, performed a reboost of the ISS on 29 June. Due to the thruster malfunction during Progress 43P docking only 4 of the usual 8 thrusters were used. The 33 min 31 sec reboost placed the ISS at a new mean altitude of 384.9 km. The reboost was undertaken to place the ISS in the correct orbital profile for the arrival of STS-135/ULF-7 in July. A second ISS reboost lasting 29 min 32 sec was undertaken using Progress 43P thrusters on 1 July. This increased the mean altitude of the ISS to 388.3 km.
Major maintenance was carried out on the Treadmill with Vibration Isolation System (TVIS) on 1 July. Borisenko and Volkov removed the treadmill from its pit, removed the failed gyroscope and carried out additional inspection, lubrication and cleaning tasks. A new gyroscope will be delivered on the next Shuttle flight.
Node 2 Common Cabin Air Assembly
ISS Flight Engineers Mike Fossum and Ron Garan carried out major in-flight maintenance in Node 2 on 30 June replacing the failed Common Cabin Air Assembly heat exchanger. The equipment is responsible for removing moisture from the cabin atmosphere.
Major Constituent Analyzer
Activities to replace the Major Constituent Analyzer Mass Spectrometer in the US laboratory were started by Ron Garan on 1 July.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 1 July include: the crew undertaking an emergency ISS departure drill and an ISS fire drill to keep the crew members refreshed on emergency procedures; clearing room in the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module for installation of a zero-g stowage rack; additional troubleshooting on the failed Russian Elektron O2 generator; installing new radiation dosimeters in Crew Quarters in the Russian Service Module; preparing EXPRESS Rack 1 for receiving a new Microgravity Experiment Research Locker/Incubator (MERLIN); a Soyuz 26S and Soyuz 27S communications test; replacing a Hydraulic Loop Pump Panel of the Internal Thermal Control System in the Russian Zarya Module; replacing a power switching device in the BITS2-12 onboard telemetry measurement system; checkout and maintenance on the Russian STTS telephone/telegraph subsystem low-frequency channel and all PA and VHF receivers; and flushing the line of one of the tanks of Progress 42P.
(*)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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