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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 98 Increment 28

15/07/2011 335 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #98 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
No activities were carried out using the Biolab facility in the two week period up until 15 July. 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 downloaded to ground with STS-134 and will be returned to the ISS to continue the fully functional 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
The Electronics Unit of the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility (PCDF) was removed from the European Drawer Rack on 13 July for return on ULF-7 / STS-135. The PCDF is an advanced ISS research payload for the investigation of problems of protein macromolecules’ crystallisation in space, and concluded a 3 ½ month period of science acquisition in 11 July 2009.

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.

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. The Kubik incubator in the European Drawer Rack will also tentatively process NASA’s NIH Ageing experiment which is currently planned for the second half of 2012.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow-2 / FASES experiments
The Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) was activated in the two week period until 15 July to undertake activities related to the Geoflow-2 experiment, which has been undergoing experiment processing in the Fluid Science Laboratory since 21 March. All mandatory experiment runs have now been completed for Geoflow-2 except for the high-rotation runs. Additional runs are being carried out on top of the mandatory runs. A telemetry freeze error occurred on 4 July though system reboots did not resolve the problem. Another attempt was made on 7 July and a partial non-rotation run was undertaken before telemetry again froze. Data for the partial run was downlinked to ground. The following day structural dynamics data from the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus was also downlinked. A recovery plan is in progress though on-orbit activities are on hold until the end of the STS-135/ULF-7 mission. The main experiment parameters of GeoFlow-2 are the core rotation speed, electrical field, temperature gradients and liquid viscosity variation.

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 performance 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
After tilting the rack facility forwards to gain access, the failed Video Unit of the European Physiology Modules facility was successfully replaced by ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan on 7 July. Once the facility was tilted back and associated equipment activated, the Exchangeable Standard Electronic Module trip signal which previously appeared had been resolved. 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
On 8 July blood and urine samples for ESA astronaut Paulo Nespoli for the Sodium Loading in Microgravity experiment were transferred from the MELFI 1 freezer in the Japanese laboratory to the General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) in EXPRESS Rack 2 in the US laboratory prior to return on STS-135/ULF-7. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight.

DOSIS Experiment
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 15 July though samples for the CARD experiment which utilised the Pulmonary Function System were transferred for return to Earth (see below). 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.

CARD experiment
On 8 July blood and urine samples for ESA astronaut Paulo Nespoli for the CARD experiment were transferred from the MELFI-1 freezer in the Japanese laboratory to the General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) in EXPRESS Rack 2 in the US laboratory prior to return on STS-135/ULF-7. The CARD experiment examines increased cardiac output and lower blood pressure (caused by dilated arteries) in the face of increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system (which normally constricts arteries) in weightlessness.

European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS)
The water pump servicing activity for the European Modular Cultivation System was successfully performed on 8 July. The following day ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan loaded new application software onto the European Modular Cultivation System from the laptop of EXPRESS Rack 3 in which the EMCS is located. 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 experiment which will commence after ULF-7 / STS-135 departure. In 2012 there will be the joint ESA-NASA experiment Seedling Growth.

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 15 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. 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

Following one period of scientific data acquisition at the start of the two-week period, the Solar facility was placed in a safe configuration due to thruster firings in connection with a Russian solar array efficiency test on 3 July. The facility was placed back in Sun Pointing Mode hereafter. Up until 9 July the facility was transitioned between Pointing Mode (to gather scientific data) and a safe configuration. On 9 July the facility remained in a safe configuration due to the end of the latest Sun visibility window. 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. A new LuxAIS receiver is currently scheduled to be transported to the ISS on Soyuz 29S towards the end of 2011. 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 first six second batch Sample Cartridge Assemblies (two each for CETSOL, MICAST and SETA experiments) have been delivered to the ISS following launch on STS-135/ULF-7 Shuttle Atlantis on 8 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
No activities were carried out using the ESA-developed Microgravity Science Glovebox in the two week period until 15 July.

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)
The Portable Pulmonary Function System was removed from the front of EXPRESS rack 1 on 6 July by ISS Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa to make room for a new Microgravity Experiment Research Locker/Incubator (MERLIN) arriving on STS-135. 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 has been continuing in the two week period until 15 July with the minimum 20 day acquisition period having been surpassed on 17 May (preferred duration is 30 days or more). Data acquisition is continuing with four of the six particle detectors (since 22 June) which currently 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 all experiment samples have now been 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 and Expose-R2 is currently scheduled for launch on Progress 48P in 2012.

Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Human Research Facilities 1 and 2
On 12 July the failed ultrasound equipment was removed from Human Research Facilty 1 for return to ground on STS-135. The two NASA Human Research Facilities support different areas of physiology research.

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:


  • Emergency Communications Test
    On 6 July the Columbus Control Centre took part in an emergency communications proficiency check together with ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan and the control centres in Houston, Huntsville Alabama, Moscow and Tsukuba, Japan. This was involving the VHF sites at Dryden Flight Research Center in California and the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, USA.


  • Columbus Thermal Control System
    On 8 July NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Mike Fossum collected a sample of the Thermal Control System’s coolant and antimicrobial agent in Columbus for return to ground for analysis.

Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    No activities were carried out on the exercise equipment in the European-built Node 3 in addition to the 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
      The Urine Processor Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 was reintegrated with the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 on 6 July following the failure of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment on 2 July. On 10 July a 300 ml sample was taken from the Waste Water Tank in Water Recovery System rack 2 by NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan. This will be returned to ground by Shuttle STS-135/ULF-7 for analysis.


    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment
      The Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 suffered a failure on 2 July due to a leak on the pump separator which was subsequently replaced by the crew with an onboard spare. The Waste and Hygiene Compartment was put back in operation hereafter.

STS-135/ULF-7 Shuttle Atlantis Mission Activities


  • US Airlock/EVA Preparations
    Prior to STS-135 docking Garan and Fossum carried out activities in the US Airlock in preparation for upcoming STS-135/ULF-7 spacewalk. This included recharging EVA batteries, preparing EVA tools and equipment including three Pistol Grip Tools, checking the water reservoir of an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) for bubbles, and clearing the Airlock of unnecessary items. Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Commander Andre Borisenko also prepared Russian EVA tools and equipment for stowage in the US Airlock for EVA training tasks. Garan and Fossum also undertook a training session on the Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue or SAFER units (propulsion units worn by the EVA astronauts in the unlikely case they become untethered from the ISS) as well as checking out the SAFER units they will use for their EVA during the STS-135 mission.


  • Pre-docking Preparations
    Many hours were spent by ISS Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa (JAXA), Ron Garan and Mike Fossum (both NASA) packing cargo for return on Shuttle Atlantis. In addition Mike Fossum gathered equipment needed in connection with berthing the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (transported to the ISS in the Shuttle’s cargo bay) to Node 2; Fossum and Furukawa cleared and prepared areas in the Permanent Multipurpose Module for receiving food and a stowage rack brought to the ISS on STS-135; Furukawa prepared EXPRESS Rack 1 in the US laboratory for receiving a Microgravity Experiment Research Locker/Incubator (MERLIN); relocated a laptop to European-built Cupola Module and checked it out for robotics operations during STS-135. The day before docking Fossum installed extra ventilation in Node 2 to account for the additional number of crew members on the ISS and Ron Garan pressurised and leak checked the Pressurised Mating Adaptor 2 at the forward facing port of the European-built Node 2 where the Shuttle will dock.


  • Launch
    STS-135 Shuttle Atlantis launched successfully on the last scheduled Shuttle mission from the Kennedy Space Center at 17:29 (CEST), 11:29 local time on 8 July on the 12-day ISS ULF-7 mission. Atlantis was transporting the European-built Multipurpose Logistics Module ‘Raffaelo’ in its cargo bay loaded with cargo for the Station. Atlantis has a four-person crew, which includes Shuttle Commander Christopher Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim all of whom are NASA astronauts and Shuttle veterans.


  • Shuttle docking
    During rendezvous and docking ISS Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa (JAXA), Mike Fossum (NASA), and Sergei Volkov (Roscosmos) photographed thermal protection tile areas and door seals of Space Shuttle Atlantis with Nikon D2X digital still cameras using 400, 800 and 1000 mm lenses. Atlantis docked to Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 at the forward docking port of the European-built Node 2 on 10 July at 17:07 (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
    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, and communications/data configuration occurred to account for the Shuttle docked to the Station. EVA equipment was also transferred from the Shuttle to the US Quest Airlock.


  • Robotics Activities: Shuttle inspection and MPLM Installation
    After setting up the robotics workstation in the Cupola Observation Module on 10 July, Furukawa and Garan used the station’s principal robotic arm to unberth the shuttle’s robotic arm extension and hand it over to the Shuttle’s robotic arm operated by Chris Ferguson and Doug Hurley. This is in the event that a robotic inspection of the Shuttle’s thermal protection areas is deemed necessary.

    On 11 July the European-built Multipurpose Logistics Module ‘Raffaelo’ was attached to the Earth-facing port of Node 2 by Sandy Magnus and Doug Hurley controlling the station’s principal robotic arm from the Cupola Observation Module. Furukawa supported the capture of Raffaelo from inside Node 2 and together with Ferguson carried out the inter-hatch pressurisation and leak checks. Hatch opening occurred hereafter, the MPLM was configured and activated by Ferguson and Magnus and the newly-arrived logistics module was entered to start cargo transfer activities.


  • Spacewalk preparations
    Oxygen supplies were configured on 11 July for the spacewalk the following day. The Equipment Lock area of the Airlock was prepared and an EVA review was undertaken among the non-Russian crew members. Instead of the usual campout in the US Airlock to remove nitrogen from the spacewalking astronauts bodies, the EVA astronauts carried out the new (more efficient) procedure involving light exercise for 100 minutes while partially suited and breathing pure oxygen (tested by NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and drew Feustel on EVA-3 during the STS-134 mission).


  • Spacewalk (Fossum, Garan)
    The only mission spacewalk was carried out by NASA astronauts Mike Fossum and Ron Garan starting at 15:22 CEST on 12 July. Rex Walheim was choreographing the spacewalk from Shuttle Atlantis while Hurley and Magnus were robotic arm operators to help move the astronauts around the outside of the ISS. During the 6 hr 31 minutes EVA the astronauts: retrieved a failed pump module from an external stowage platform and stowed it in the cargo bay of Shuttle Atlantis for return to Earth; transferred the Robotic Refueling Mission experiment, which will demonstrate and test tools, technologies and techniques that could be used to robotically refuel and repair satellites in space, from the shuttle cargo bay to a platform on the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, Dextre; deployed part of the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) 8, which was installed during STS-134; fixed a grounding wire protruding from a Zarya module payload data grapple fixture; and installed a thermal cover on pressurized mating adapter 3.


  • Cargo transfers
    The following days were used as cargo transfer days, relocating the 4.3 tonnes of cargo from Atlantis to the ISS. The Atlantis crew did have a slight disruption during allocated sleep time on the night of 14 to 15 July due to the computer being used as the Atlantis systems management computer dropping off the on-board network. However the systems management tasks were quickly swapped to another computer. The failed computer was recovered on 15 July. By the end of 15 July the ULF-7 mission was more than 70% complete with transfer activities.


  • In-Flight Call
    The combined Shuttle and ISS crews received an in-flight call from the US President, Barack Obama on 15 July, in which he said that the final shuttle mission “ushers in an exciting new era to push the frontiers of space exploration and human spaceflight”.

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. During the reporting period samples were placed in MELFI for: JAXA’s Hair experiment (hair) from Furukawa and Fossum; JAXA’s CsPINs plant biology experiment (plant samples); and NASA’s Integrated Immune experiment (saliva) for Furukawa, Fossum and Garan. In addition Garan and Fossum moved samples from MELFI to the General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) in EXPRESS Rack 2. This included blood and urine samples for Paolo Nespoli for the CARD and SOLO experiments.

Progress M-11M/43P Cargo Transfers
During the two-week reporting period Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Alexander Samokutyaev transferred cargo from Progress 43P to the ISS. On 8 July Volkov set up pumping equipment and carried out transfer of urine from ISS containers to one of Progress 43P’s storage tanks.

Solar Array Efficiency Test
A Russian Service Module Solar Array Efficiency Test was carried in the early morning of 3 July. After handing over attitude control to Russian systems, the ISS was manoeuvred into the correct profile for the test.

Major Constituent Analyzer
Activities to replace the Major Constituent Analyzer Mass Spectrometer in the US laboratory were finished by Ron Garan from 5 to 7 July. After rotating the associated rack down on 5 July Garan installed the new Mass Spectrometer Assembly. The failed spectrometer had already been removed. The following day Garan installed the EXPRESS Rack 1 drawer (Which had previously posed a problem) and attached its utilities and finalised activities on 7 July. The Major Constituent Analyzer is a primary device for monitoring oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Borisenko and Samokutyaev continued work to bring the Elektron oxygen generation system back to full functionality in the two week reporting period. They installed a new BZh Liquid Unit in the Elektron device before connecting cabling to the BITS-12 onboard telemetry measurement system. The system was reactivated hereafter.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 15 July include: checking out cables, connectors and sockets of the Russian TORU manual docking system for both undocking and redocking modes; replacing a failed GPS receiver in the Space Integrated Global Positioning System in the US laboratory; checking location and serial numbers of ammonia detection kits in the Russian ISS segment as these did not match information on-ground; removing the rear deck assembly of the Treadmill with Vibration Isolation System to check for foreign debris; replacing three gas masks in the Russian Zarya Module with new units which arrived on Progress; and replacing a printer with a new unit in the Russian Service Module.

(*)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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