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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

29 August 2008

This is the fourth status report from the European Space Agency outlining the European science activities that have taken place on the ISS in the past week for different European experiments and experiment facilities. In addition to from the European Space Agency outlining the European science activities that have taken place on the ISS in 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 is as follows:

European science inside the Columbus Laboratory

Biolab and WAICO experiment
A ground based bellow test for centrifuge A of Biolab took place on 22 August. The test was only partially successful for all six Reference Experiment Container positions. The outcome and impact of the test, and also for the pending centrifuge B test and WAICO 2 execution, is currently under investigation.

Once this situation is resolved Biolab can resume testing to confirm full functionality of the facility. Centrifuge B testing will proceed with the experiment containers currently still on the centrifuge, by ground commanding without crew involvement. Later on the Experiment Containers will be removed from centrifuge B and replaced by the empty WAICO-2 containers to perform representative functional testing of both the two centrifuges and the automatic chemical fixation system.

The second run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots experiment (WAICO) is scheduled to start in Biolab at the end of 2008.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
On 25 August, the hard drives of the Fluid Science Laboratory’s Video Management Unit were emptied of the data from the first two science runs of Geoflow. This data has already been downlinked and transferred to the Geoflow science team. 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.

The third run of Geoflow was also successfully completed and good quality experiment data was stored on the hard disk of the Video Management Unit. The following day a majority of the experiment data from the third science run (11 Gbytes) was downlinked to the Columbus Control Centre and transferred to MARS (Facility Responsible Centre for the Fluid Science Laboratory) in Naples. Transfer of data to E-USOC (Facility Support Centre) in Madrid and the Geoflow science team is ongoing.

On 27 August the fourth experiment run of Geoflow was stopped after 9 of 11 iterations, prior to normal completion, in order to lock the suspended Facility Core Element of the Fluid Science Laboratory in advance of an ISS debris avoidance manoeuvre performed by ATV thruster firings. Geoflow science operations are now currently on hold for the next 2 weeks due to upcoming ISS vehicle traffic and crew time resource restraints.

A large sequence of further runs of the Geoflow experiment will continue throughout Increment 18.

European Drawer Rack including the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility
Check out activities to make sure that the European Drawer Rack/Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility is functionally compatible with updated Columbus software was successfully completed on 28 August.

The European Drawer Rack houses the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility, which is a multi-user facility that will investigate problems of protein crystallisation in space. Its very sophisticated in-situ optical experiment diagnostics equipment will allow for precise monitoring of the protein crystals’ growth conditions.

The Processing Unit of the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility with various protein solutions will be flown in active mode (for continuous thermal conditioning of samples) to the ISS on Shuttle flight ULF-2, which is due for launch in November.

European Physiology Modules
Final calibration of the Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (MEEMM) will be scheduled towards the end of September. 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 carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects. Consumables for the experiment will be launched to the ISS on Progress flight 30P in September, with the experiment planned to be carried out at the end of Increment 17 by the NASA crew member and also use the European Physiology Modules Facility and Human Research Facility capabilities.

3D-Space experiment
NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff has already successfully performed 3 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 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. The experiment also uses the European Physiology Modules Facility laptop capabilities for data handling.

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 continues to operate well with a majority of the experiments actively collecting science and technology data and one experiment powered down having completed its science objectives. 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 continues to successfully perform multiple 24 hour experiment runs.
  • DOSTEL: The DOSimetric radiation TELescope is a small radiation telescope, which is continuing to gather scientific data on the radiation environment outside the ISS.
  • EuTEMP: This multi-input thermometer measured EuTEF temperatures during transfer to the outside of Columbus from the Shuttle Cargo Bay. It is currently inactive as planned.
  • EVC: The Earth Viewing Camera is a fixed-pointed Earth-observation camera. It is currently switched off awaiting a new data acquisition run.
  • EXPOSE: This series of exobiology experiments is continuing to acquire scientific data.
  • FIPEX: This sensor is helping to build up a picture of the atmospheric environment in low-Earth orbit by measuring atomic oxygen. Last science acquistion started on 27 August.
  • MEDET: The Materials Exposure and Degradation ExperimenT (MEDET) has been continuing to acquire scientific data all week. This data will help to evaluate the effects of open space on materials being considered for future use on spacecraft in low earth orbit.
  • 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 not acquiring scientific data but is in ready mode, awaiting additional experiment runs in September.
  • 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 running during the week and was paused on 27 August in connection with the ISS debris avoidance manoeuvre carried out by the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ISS general system information). It was restarted on 28 August.

The individual instruments (SOVIM, SOLSPEC, SOLACES) of SOLAR once again started a Sun observation period on 28 August now that the ISS is in a suitable orbital profile. 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
A session of the Periodic Fitness Evaluation with Oxygen Uptake Measurement, which is part of crew medical operations and utilises ESA’s Pulmonary Function System, was undertaken by NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff on 21 August. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in the field of respiratory physiology instrumentation. The Pulmonary Function System analyses exhaled gas from astronauts' lungs to provide near-instant data on the state of crew health.

The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility number 2 in the US Destiny Laboratory on the ISS. The two Human Research Facilities in Destiny have been rescheduled to be relocated to the Columbus laboratory in the week of 22-28 September.

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 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 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
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was activated on 23 August by NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff to carry out another session of the SHERE (Shear History Extensional Rheology Experiment). 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.

Columbus systems information

In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above the Columbus systems continue to work extremely well following the transition to updated Columbus software. The only minor issues include the need to upload a new part for the intermodule ventilation system, which is forseen 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 debris avoidance manoeuvre
The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), Europe’s ISS logistics spacecraft, was used to perform its first debris avoidance manoeuvre for the International Space Station on 27 August. To carry out the retrograde manoeuvre to slow the Station down, which in turn lowers its orbit, the ATV Control Centre first primed ATV, putting it in the correct configuration. ATV Control Centre then handed over to Mission Control Centre in Moscow who guided the Station through a 180 degrees turn, so that ATV's aft thrusters were at the front of the Station with respect to the Station’s flight profile.

Once turned, Jules Verne ATV rear thrusters were used for the allotted time of 5 mins 2 sec to produce a speed of 1 m/s to slow the Station down. Once complete the ISS was turned back to its original orbital attitude, and the ATV was handed back to the ATV Control Centre who returned Europe’s logistics craft back to its standard docked configuration. The space debris in question came from an old satellite. This is the first time since 2003 that a debris avoidance manoeuvre has been performed and the first time in eight years that such a retrograde manoeuvre has been performed for debris avoidance.

ATV preparations for undocking
The ISS crew have carried out ATV cargo transfers during the week, i.e., moving consumables to the ISS through Zvezda and loading excess and unwanted equipment in the ATV in preparation for ATV undocking on 5 September. When the ATV D1 rack was clear of cargo, Russian cosmonaut and ISS Commander Sergei Volkov carried out a condensation and temperature inspection of the hull on 25 August where some insulation material had come loose during launch. A Temporary Stowage Rack was installed in the D1 space and modified it to accept large trash items.

Japanese Experiment Module robotic arm
ISS Flight Engineer 2 Greg Chamitoff worked with ground team on 22 August to conduct check out Number 4 of JAXA’s Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System which included more manoeuvres of the 10 m long main arm. The additional 2m long fine arm will be delivered on a later mission.

Japanese Experiment Module rack facilities
EXPRESS Racks 4 and 5, which can support science payloads, were transferred from the US Destiny laboratory to the Japanese Kibo laboratory on 26 August. Chamitoff was assisted by Volkov in relocation and installation of the racks, which included connecting them to the relevant resource umbilicals in Kibo. A small leakage in the Thermal Control System quick disconnects of Express rack 5 is being looked into.

On 27 August Chamitoff supported Japanese Control Centre personnel with a check out of Clean Bench subrack facility

Progress M-64 undocking preparations
On 22 august, Russian ISS Commander Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko worked in the transfer tunnel of the Progress M-64 spacecraft to install the docking mechanism between the spacecraft and the Zarya module in preparation for its undocking on 1 September.

On 25 August Volkov and Kononenko worked with ground specialists to check out Teleoperator Control System receiver on Progress M-64. This system lets a crewmember in the Zvezda Service Module perform the approach and docking of automated Progress vehicles in case of failure of the automated KURS system.

US Laboratory avionics rack 1
Chamitoff replaced a malfunctioning Remote Power Control Module in Avionics rack 1 on 25 August

US Laboratory ECLSS
Greg Chamitoff carried out outfitting for the new Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System, which is required when the ISS has a six-person crew as of next year. This included working on its Water Recovery System by installing the oxygen (O2) port, venting the new CHeCS O2 supply hose to prevent contamination, then relocating the supply hose to the new port, and setting it up for an overnight leak check. The Water Recovery System will be used to recycle wastewater into drinking water.

Harmful impurities removal system
ISS Commander Sergey Volkov performed the periodic service of the active Russian Harmful Impurities Removal System. This is being performed four times more frequently than normal to remove any lingering Freon-218 from the cabin atmosphere.

The Elektron electrolysis machine for oxygen generation was reactivated with Commander Volkov monitoring the external temperature of its secondary purification unit for the first 10 minutes of operations to ensure that there was no overheating. In support the ground temporarily switched the ATV to autonomous power.

Tissue Equivalent Proportional counter
Flight Engineer 2 Greg Chamitoff relocated the Tissue Equivalent Proportional radiation measurement tool from the Russian Zvezda service Module to the Japanese Kibo Laboratory’s Pressurised Module on 24 August.

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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