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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report
Increment 17

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

26 September 2008

This is the 8th status report from the European Space Agency outlining the European science related activities that have taken place on the ISS during the past week for different European experiments and experiment facilities, and additional information about European ISS systems and key ISS events for the time period. The report is compiled by ESA’s Human Spaceflight Coordination Office in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus and Payload Operations Management and Mission Science teams.

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 in the US Destiny laboratory and the Russian Segment of the ISS. The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:

European science inside the Columbus Laboratory

Biolab and WAICO experiment
Following the successful testing of Biolab’s centrifuge B on 5 September, ground crews are still assessing the results of the rotor A on-orbit test from 22 August.

Further testing of Biolab’s two centrifuges, the automatic chemical fixation system and the atmosphere control system will be carried out prior to the execution of the second run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment. These final end-to-end performance verification tests will be carried out using the empty WAICO-2 experiment containers, which will finally replace the remaining experiment containers from the WAICO-1 run currently on centrifuge B and the Reference Containers on centrifuge A.

The second run of the experiment WAICO is scheduled to start in Biolab during Increment 19.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
The Geoflow Experiment Container is currently stored outside of the Fluid Science Laboratory awaiting re-installation upon crew time availability and further experiment runs under ground commanding from the responsible User Support and Operations Centres (MARS and E-USOC). A large sequence of additional runs of the Geoflow experiment will continue throughout Increment 18 and continue in Increments 19-20 up to the tentative return on the 17A flight in august 2009.

The Geoflow experiment investigates the flow of a viscous incompressible fluid between two concentric spheres rotating around a common axis under the influence of a simulated central force field. 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.

European Drawer Rack including the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility
The European Drawer Rack houses the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility, which is an advanced ISS research payload for the investigation of problems of protein crystallisation in space. Its very sophisticated in-situ optical experiment diagnostics equipment will allow for precise in-situ monitoring of the organic protein crystals’ growth conditions.

After completion of the exhaustive science preparation programme on ground, the Processing Unit of the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility with a variety of different protein solutions will be flown in active mode (for continuous thermal conditioning of samples) to the ISS in the Shuttle middeck on flight 15A, which is due for launch in February 2009. The Protein experiment series will last 3-4 months.

European Physiology Modules
Final calibration of the Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (MEEMM) has been rescheduled to be carried out during Increment 18. This science module is a subsection of the European Physiology Modules facility and will be used for different types of non-invasive brain function investigations. It can also easily be reconfigured to support research in the field of muscle physiology.

NeuroSpat, the first experiment to use the European Physiology Modules facility will take place when the next European astronaut arrives on the Station. This will be Belgian ESA astronaut Frank De Winne. NeuroSpat will investigate the ways in which crew members’ three-dimensional perception is affected by long-duration stays in weightlessness.

SOLO experiment
The SOLO experiment is now scheduled to be started on 3 October by NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff and be completed by 14 October before the Soyuz docks with the Expedition 18 Crew. The experiment will use capabilities of the European Physiology Modules Facility and Human Research Facility. The SOLO experiment is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects.

3D-Space experiment
NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff has already successfully performed three experiment sessions of 3D-Space during Increment 17, the latest session being completed on 30 July. He is due to undertake a fourth session later in the October timeframe about two weeks before his return on Shuttle flight STS-126 (ULF-2) in November.

This physiology study investigates the effects of weightlessness on the mental representation of visual information during and after spaceflight. Accurate perception is a prerequisite for spatial orientation and reliable performance of tasks in space. The experiment has different elements including investigations of perception of depth and distance carried out using a virtual reality headset and standard psychophysics tests.

Flywheel Exercise Device
The Flywheel Exercise Device will be removed from its storage location in the European Transport Carrier of the Columbus Laboratory for deployment and first functional checkout after Shuttle flight 15A in early 2009. It was launched to the ISS in order to become an advanced exercise device for ISS astronauts and serving human physiology investigations.

European science outside the Columbus Laboratory in open space

European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF)
EuTEF has been operating well on orbit with one experiment powered down having completed the first part of its science objectives. The facility was put in survival heater mode on 1 September in order to resolve an issue with one of the instruments (PLEGPAY) in conjunction with environmental constraints for the ISS, transportation vehicles and EVA activities.

EuTEF was cleared to be reactivated for limited 4-hour periods every other day and science acquisition is ongoing for three of the instruments (Dostel, Expose and MEDET) during this period. Science acquisition for the remaining EuTEF experiments and instruments will continue on resolution of the current full activation constraints. EuTEF is a fully automated, multi-user payload facility mounted on the outside of the Columbus laboratory carrying a suite of experiments that require exposure to the open space environment. The experiments cover a variety of disciplines including material science, physics, astrobiology, astronomy and space technology.

The status of each individual experiment is as follows:

  • DEBIE-2: The ‘DEBris In orbit Evaluator’ is designed to be a standard in-situ space debris and micrometeoroid monitoring instrument. It has successfully performed multiple 24 hour experiment runs, though is currently in standby mode. A software update is being prepared to increase the duration of the experiments.
  • DOSTEL: The DOSimetric radiation TELescope is a small radiation telescope, and was continuing to gather scientific data on the radiation environment outside the ISS, until 1 September. It is now part of the EuTEF intermittent activation programme.
  • EuTEMP: This multi-input thermometer measured EuTEF temperatures during transfer to the outside of Columbus from the Shuttle cargo bay. It is currently inactive due to completion of the first part of its science objectives.
  • EVC: The Earth Viewing Camera is a fixed-pointed Earth-observation camera. It is currently switched off.
  • EXPOSE: This series of exobiology experiments was continuing without interruption to acquire scientific data up until 1 September when it was paused. It is now part of the EuTEF intermittent activation programme.
  • FIPEX: This sensor is helping to build up a picture of the atmospheric environment in low-Earth orbit by measuring atomic oxygen. Science acquisition was paused on 1 September.
  • MEDET: The Materials Exposure and Degradation ExperimenT (MEDET) was continuing to acquire scientific data until 1 September. Data from this experiment will help to evaluate the effects of open space on materials being considered for future use on spacecraft in low earth orbit. It is now part of the EuTEF intermittent activation programme.
  • PLEGPAY: The PLasma Electron Gun PAYload is the study of the interactions between spacecraft and the space environment in low earth orbit, with reference to electrostatic charging and discharging. It is currently shut down, awaiting the resolution of the safety issue by engineering experts via operational measures to eliminate the latest ISS safety concerns.
  • TRIBOLAB: This series of experiments covers research in tribology, i.e. the research of friction in mechanisms and lubrication thereof under long-term open space conditions. The Ball Bearing experiment number 4 was paused on 1 September.

The Solar facility and its individual instruments (SOVIM, SOLSPEC, SOLACES) are currently in idle mode with the next Sun observation period due to start on 26 September. The SOLAR payload facility studies the Sun with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range.

MISSE-6A and -6B
The US materials exposure experiment is receiving power from Columbus and the experiments are continuing as planned. The Materials on the ISS Experiment (MISSE) is a US multi-investigator experiment provided by NASA but located on the outside of the Columbus laboratory. The experiment will evaluate the effect of the space environment on a large variety of exposed materials.

European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory

The Analyzing Interferometer for Ambient Air (ANITA) is deactivated and already packed for return to earth on Shuttle flight ULF-2 in November 2008. This instrument monitors low levels of potential contaminants in the ISS cabin atmosphere with a capability of simultaneously monitoring 32 different trace gases. The experiment tests the accuracy and reliability of this technology as a trace-gas monitoring system for the ISS and future spacecraft. ANITA is a cooperative investigation with NASA and has continuously served as an ISS operational device after its initial science commissioning/test phase in autumn 2007.

Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2
On 25 September NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff set up the Pulmonary Function System for the Periodic Fitness Examination with Oxygen Uptake Measurement (PFE-OUM), part of crew health care procedures to measure an astronaut’s aerobic capacity during exercise. He carried out his second PFE-OUM session the following day using the Pulmonary Function System and the CEVIS cycle ergometer. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility number 2 in the US Destiny Laboratory on the ISS. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in the field of respiratory physiology instrumentation, which analyses exhaled gas from astronauts' lungs to provide near-instant data on the state of crew health. The two Human Research Facilities are scheduled to be relocated to the Columbus laboratory on 1 and 2 October.

European science inside the Russian ISS Segment

This long-term experiment is continuing to monitor radiation measurements in the Russian Zarya module.

No sessions of the Nitric Oxide Analyser (NOA) experiments were scheduled for this week. The next session of the NOA-1 experiment is planned for 30 September.

The NOA-1 experiment tests the levels of expired nitric oxide in ISS crew members. Increased levels of expired nitric oxide are an early and accurate sign of airway inflammation especially in asthma, but also in occupational dust inhalation. This is important in weightlessness since dust does not settle. NOA-2 is a similar experiment but the procedures are undertaken by astronauts pre- and post-EVA, where the levels of nitric oxide are used to determine the presence, or not, of symptoms of decompression sickness as seen, for example, in scuba divers, i.e. heightened nitric oxide levels.

The Matroshka facility is located in the Russian Pirs Docking Module. During the week Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko deactivated the AST Spectrometer and checked out the contents of its memory card on a laptop. The spectrometer was subsequently reactivated to continue acquiring data. The Matroshka experiments consist of a simulated human body (head and torso) called the Phantom equipped with several active and passive radiation dosimeters. Matroshka-2B continues to measure the radiation dose experienced by crew members inside the ISS at least until October.

GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service (GTS) is continuously on since early 2008 and will tentatively continue until spring 2009.

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; measurement of disturbing effects such as Doppler shifts, multi-path reflections, shadowing and elevation impacts.

European-developed NASA payloads in the Columbus Laboratory

Microgravity Science Glovebox
There were no activities carried out in the Microgravity Science Glovebox this week. This facility, developed by ESA within a barter agreement with NASA, 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.

European Modular Cultivation System
All activities for the Expedition 17 Crew related to the European Modular Cultivation System have now finished. The facility, which was flown to the ISS in July 2006, is dedicated to biological experiments such as the effects of gravity on plant cells, roots and physiology. It was developed by ESA and has been operated under a bilateral barter agreement with NASA. European Modular Cultivation System maintenance will be performed during Increment 18 in anticipation of the Genara experiment during Expedition 19/20. Genara is an ESA experiment that will study plant (Arabidopsis) growth activity at a molecular level in weightlessness. This will help to find plant systems that compensate for the negative impact on plant growth in space.

Columbus systems information

In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above the Columbus systems continue to work extremely well. Columbus returned to its usual operational configuration on orbit with the return of command/control function from the ISS Backup Control Centre at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to the NASA ISS Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas in the connection with Hurricane Ike. On 25 September Chamitoff unstowed five sets of Knee-Brace Assembly Replacement capture mechanisms, necessary for relocation of the Human Research Facility racks to Columbus from the US laboratory, which is currently scheduled for 1 and 2 October.

The only other minor systems issues for Columbus include the need to upload a new part for the intermodule ventilation system, which is foreseen to be uploaded to the ISS in November on Shuttle flight ULF-2, and the exchange of a Condensate Water Separator Assembly Desiccant Module, which needs to be manifested on one of the next flights.

ISS general system information

These are highlights of last weeks activities and do not include much detail of the standard maintenance activities that takes place on a regular basis to keep ISS systems and life support functioning normally.

ATV post-undocking
The ATV Control Centre in Toulouse continues to monitor ‘Jules Verne’, Europe’s first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) following its undocking from the ISS on 5 September. The ATV has almost finished its rephasing period, to bring the spacecraft into the correct position at the correct time for reentry to be viewed from the ISS and two specially-equipped observation planes in the South Pacific on 29 September.

Progress activities after docking
Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko and NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff spent several hours unloading, transferring and stowing important cargo from the Progress spacecraft during the week including food for the upcoming SOLO experiment (See European science inside the Columbus Laboratory). On 23 September, Kononenko set up hoses, adapters and an electric pump for transferring the drinking water supplies from the Progress water tanks into containers in the Zvezda Service Module.

Japanese Experiment Module activation activities
Chamitoff supported the Japanese Control Centre in Tsukuba, Japan with the check out of a microscope unit of the Clean Bench facility on 22 September and the rest of the facility on 26 September. The Clean Bench facility, which is located in the Japanese Kibo laboratory, is used for life science and biotechnological experiments. Chamitoff also supported the Japanese Control Centre with Image Processing Unit activation in the Japanese Experiment Module, by activating the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus and its laptop.

US Rack relocation
On 23 September the Chamitoff and Volkov relocated the Crew Health Care Systems (CheCS) rack in the Destiny laboratory, which included rerouting all relevant cables and connecting the different resource lines.

Software transition: US Orbital Segment
With the support of Greg Chamitoff, Mission Control Centre, Houston remotely upgraded software for several Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computers, used within vital functional areas such as ISS command and control and guidance, navigation and control. As part of these procedures Chamitoff installed some new 60Gb hard drives with new software into various Station computers including in the Columbus laboratory. In support of the upgrade to the guidance navigation and control software a brief firing of the Progress thrusters was initiated on 25 September.

US Laboratory Environmental Control and Life Support System
Chamitoff worked on completing the outfitting of the future Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) with Modification Kit 1 on 23 September, following relocation of the Crew Health Care Systems rack. The regenerative ECLSS is required when the ISS has a six-person crew as of next year.

On 26 September, Chamitoff set up and tested the power supply of a flowmeter needed for upcoming adjustment to four Manual Flow Control Valves. These need adjusting prior to installation of the ECLSS racks, which are scheduled to arrive on flight ULF-2 in November.

Resistive Exercise Device Maintenance
Chamitoff carried out maintenance on the Resistive Exercise Device workout machine in Node 1 on 24 September, which included adjusting pulleys to increase the load for the user.

Russian Telemetry Measurement System
Volkov carried out maintenance on the Russian BITS2-12 onboard telemetry measurement system on 24 September, removing its central processor subsystem and replacing it with a new unit delivered on Progress 30P. The Elektron oxygen generator was switched off during the activity and reactivated afterwards.

Russian communications systems
Volkov replaced a matching unit of the STTS onboard radio communications system with a new spare on 25 September in the Pirs Docking module. In connection with communications outfitting in Zvezda, Volkov connected cabling between two Power Switching Timers to the ASN Satellite Navigation System on 25 September.

Martin Zell
ESA Head of Research Operations Department

Markus Bauer
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer

Weekly reports compiled by Jon Weems, ESA Human Spaceflight Coordination Office.

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