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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 99 Increment 28

29/07/2011 301 views 1 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #99 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.

Highlight: Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center on 21 July bringing the 135th and final Space Shuttle mission to its conclusion. Covering 30 years of flight the Space Shuttle has undertaken many important missions such as the Spacelab missions and the Hubble Space Telescope deployment and servicing missions. The Shuttle has been responsible for transport of a majority of the ISS infrastructure into orbit including 10 ISS modules (under which Europe’s Columbus Laboratory, the European-built Node 2 and Node 3 with the Cupola, and the Permanent Multipurpose Module) four sets of solar arrays, 108 metres of TRUSS, more than 25 research racks, more than 25 external payloads as well as an extensive amount of experiments and supplies.

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 29 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 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 week period up until 29 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.

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
No activities were carried out using the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) in the two week period until 29 July while a recovery plan is in progress to resolve a telemetry problem. This follows on from extensive activities for 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 have also been carried out on top of the mandatory runs. 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 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
The European Physiology Modules facility was activated on 21 July for transferring Portable Clinical Blood Analyser files to the facility in connection with upcoming sessions of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment (see below). The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with different Science Modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. Experiment results from the 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 17 July blood and urine samples for ESA astronaut Paulo Nespoli for the Sodium Loading in Microgravity experiment were transferred to Shuttle Atlantis for return to Earth inside a General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER). On 21 July a Portable Clinical Blood Analyser software update was carried out by ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan prior to starting his first session of the SOLO experiment. Garan carried out his first session of the SOLO experiment, from 22-27 July. During his first six-day session Garan consumed a higher salt level diet and logged what he had eaten and drunk on a daily basis. During this period body mass measurement was taken on 25 and 27 July and blood sampling was undertaken on 26 July. Blood samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 and put into a MELFI freezer (see below) for return to ground for further analysis. Blood was also analysed on orbit using a Portable Clinical Blood Analyser. Garan also started 24 hr urine collection on 25 July, which finished the following day. Samples were again stored in MELFI.

Garan started the same procedures for the second six-day session on 28 July but this time on a low-salt diet. Body mass measurements will again be taken on diet days 4 and 6. Blood samples will be taken, spun and analysed on day 5 and 24 hr urine collection will be concluded on the final day. All samples will again be stored in one of the MELFI units.

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 was returned on STS-135 Shuttle Atlantis which landed on 21 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 29 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 17 July blood and urine samples for ESA astronaut Paulo Nespoli for the CARD experiment were transferred to Shuttle Atlantis for return to Earth inside a General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER). 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 European Modular Cultivation System was initially activated on 20 July to undertake activities for NASA’s Plant Signalling experiment. ISS Flight Engineer Mike Fossum replaced the Experiment Containers on Rotors A and B and file uplinks/transfers were performed by ground commanding . During cooling of the facility, the pressure was reduced more than expected causing an Atmosphere Control System shutdown. There was also a recurrence of a downlink problem though these issues were eventually resolved through system reboots and science was not affected. Run 1 of the Plant Signalling experiment completed processing on 29 July. The Plant Signalling investigation studies the effects of various gravity levels on the growth responses of plant seedlings and will help to gather insights into the cultivation of plants during space flight on long-term missions. It also helps in understanding the mechanisms of plant development and improving crop production and agricultural yields on Earth. The imagery generated showed newly germinating seedlings and the growth rate is as expected.

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 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 29 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 was returned from orbit with STS-135/ULF-7 Shutttle Atlantis which landed on 21 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

The SOLAR facility was placed in Sun Pointing Mode on 19 July, following Shuttle undocking, to start another period of scientific data acquisition due to the opening of a new Sun visibility window. The facility was transitioned between Pointing Mode (to gather scientific data) and a safe configuration until the end of the two-week reporting period. 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)
Following delivery to the ISS on STS-135/ULF-7 Shuttle Atlantis, the first six second batch Sample Cartridge Assemblies (two each for CETSOl, MICAST and SETA experiments) are currently awaiting processing in the Materials Science Laboratory’s 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 25 July in connection with NASA’s Shear History Extensional Rheology Experiment (SHERE). Additional SHERE testing activities were carried out on 27 July though these need replanning due to a failure during testing.

The DSC experiment (‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’) will be the next ESA experiment to be processed in the MSG. This will be the third and final Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument (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.

DSC follows on from the SODI-Colloid experiment which took place in the Microgravity Science Glovebox in September/October 2010 and 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 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)
On 21 and 22 July sessions of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment were performed by ISS Flight Engineers Ron Garan and Mike Fossum respectively. Data was downlinked to ground after each session. The Thermolab experiment uses the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System to investigate thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise. The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless conditions in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology.

ALTEA-Shield Experiment
Data acquisition for the ALTEA-Shield experiment has been continuing in the two week period until 29 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 four of the six particle detectors (since 22 June) until 21 July, which meant that there weren’t any detectors taking measurements in one of the axes, which was not desirable. On 22 July ISS Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa relocated the hardware to a new location. The experiment was reactivated and continued its ISS survey with all six of the particle detectors now working. 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
NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 was activated on 25 and 27 July for undertaking Body Mass Measurements for ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan in connection with ESA’s SOLO experiment (see above). Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 26 July for centrifuging blood samples for Ron Garan in the facility’s Refrigerated Centrifuge, also for the SOLO experiment. SOLO samples were placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers hereafter.

On 16 July NASA’s Human Research Facility 2 was activated for downlink of data from NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment. The failed ultrasound equipment from Human Research Facility 1 was returned 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. In the two-week period a high definition video camera system was installed and checked out in the Columbus laboratory.

Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    In the two-week period NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Mike Fossum carried out a session of the new Treadmill Kinematics programme on the T2/COLBERT treadmill which is making an assessment of current exercise protocols. 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. No major maintenance activities took place involving the racks in the two weeks until 29 July.

STS-135/ULF-7 Shuttle Atlantis Mission Activities


  • Shuttle/ISS Cargo Transfers
    Prior to Shuttle undocking cargo transfers were completed between the ISS and the European-built Multipurpose Logistics Module ‘Raffaelo’. Raffaelo carried more than 4.2 tonnes of cargo to the ISS (in the Shuttle’s cargo bay) and more than 2.5 tonnes for return. An additional cargo of just over a tonne was carried to the ISS in the Shuttle’s mid-decks.


  • Multipurpose Logistics Module ‘Raffaelo’ Unberthing
    On 18 July the Raffaelo Multipurpose Logistics Module was prepared for unberthing from the Earth-facing port of Node 2. Emergency fire fighting equipment and lighting units were removed and the module was deactivated. Cabling was removed, hatches into Raffaelo were closed and the interhatch area was depressurized and leak checked. After pre-unberthing procedures were carried out Raffaelo was grappled by the Station’s principal robotic arm being controlled by Shuttle Pilot Doug Hurley and Shuttle Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus (both representing NASA), unberthed and manoeuvred into the Shuttle’s cargo bay.


  • Undocking and Landing
    On 18 July following the traditional crew farewell ceremony, air ducting into the Shuttle was removed and the ISS/Shuttle hatches were closed and the usual leak check was performed. The Shuttle crew spent the night inside Atlantis prior to undocking. This consisted of Shuttle Commander Christopher Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim all of whom are NASA astronauts and Shuttle veterans. The Shuttle undocked at 08:28 (CEST) on 19 July followed by a Station fly around by Atlantis to take documentary images. This was slightly different to the usual flyaround as the ISS itself was rotated through 90 degrees for the activity. Following the Station flyaround, the Shuttle undertook two separation burns to move Atlantis away from the ISS. Following undocking Station systems were configured back to their non-Shuttle docked configurations. Later the same day Ferguson, Hurley and Magnus used the Shuttle’s robotic arm to undertake a survey of the heat shield of Atlantis. Landing of Shuttle Endeavour and its four-person crew took place at the Kennedy Space Center on 21 July at 05:57 local time (11:57 CEST) bringing Atlantis’ 33rd and the 135th and final Shuttle mission to conclusion.

    This was also the last mission for the Multipurpose logistic modules which have returned 20 tons of supplies and equipment to Earth, and carried another 50 tons into space since their first mission, STS-102 in 2002. The STS-135 mission draws to a close the era of Space Shuttle operations. With relation to ISS operations across 37 missions the Shuttle has carried 10 modules four sets of solar arrays, 108 metres of truss and extensive amounts of experiments and supplies to the ISS.

Russian Spacewalk Preparations
Orlan EVA suits were checked out and EVA tools were collected in preparation for the next Russian-based spacewalk on 3 August. This included a number of US EVA tools. The spacewalk will include deployment of a RadioSkaf-V Satellite, the installation of an external onboard laser communication terminal system on the Russian Service Module, the retrieval of an antenna used for the docking of the “Poisk” Mini-Research Module 2, the relocation of the Strela1 robotic arm from the “Pirs” Docking Compartment to Poisk module, and the installation of Biorisk payload platform on Pirs.

Robotics Operations
In preparation for the upcoming replacement of the Remote Power Controller Module on the P1 truss section the station’s principal robotic arm has been manoeuvred via ground command to grapple the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (otherwise known as Dextre) and release it from attachment point on the US laboratory. The Robotic arm and Dextre were hereafter moved to the P1 truss worksite in order to perform the replacement on 15 August.

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 ESA’s SOLO experiment for ISS Flight Engineeer Ron Garan, along with five kits for JAXA’s Mycological Evaluation of Crew Exposure to ISS Ambient Air (Myco) experiment

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 29 July include: installation of a new Microgravity Experiment Research Locker/Incubator (MERLIN) in EXPRESS Rack 1 in the US laboratory; successfully checking out the second Russian Ku SGANT antenna after rerouting cables; replacing a failed camera in the Japanese laboratory; transitioning the Multipurpose Small Payload Rack in the Japanese laboratory from launch to on-orbit configuration; and verifying the performance of the Active Rack Isolation System (which protects against vibration) in NASA’s Fluids Integrated Rack.

(*)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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