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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

5 September 2008

This is the fifth 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, 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
The outcome and impact of the bellow test of centrifuge A on 22 August, for future testing and the execution of the WAICO experiment run #2, is still being scrutinised. The next step will be to carry out ground-controlled testing of centrifuge B using the experiment containers still on the centrifuge. This will be carried out by ground commanding from the Microgravity User Support Centre (Facility Responsible Centre for Biolab) in Cologne, through the Columbus Control Centre, without any crew involvement, on 5 September. This next step in Centrifuge B testing will consist of a centrifuge locking actuator test and a bellow test of the automatic fixation system as carried out on centrifuge A on 22 August.

After resolution of these functional issues Biolab can proceed with the next steps in testing to confirm full functionality of the facility. This will include the experiment containers, currently on centrifuge B, being removed and tentatively being replaced by the empty WAICO-2 containers to perform a representative functional testing of the two centrifuges and the automatic chemical fixation system prior to the execution of the scientific experiment.

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
Following the fourth experiment run of Geoflow being stopped after 9 of 11 parameter iterations on 27 August, prior to normal completion, it has been determined that the experiment can continue from iteration 9 on restart and not have to be completely repeated. The experiment run had been stopped in connection with an ISS debris avoidance manoeuvre carried out using the ATV thrusters. Prior to this happening the suspended Facility Core Element of the Fluid Science Laboratory had to be locked.

Transfer of experiment data to the science team for all previous runs of Geoflow is complete on 29 August. It was also confirmed that experiment data for the fourth run of Geoflow was successfully downlinked to MARS (Facility Responsible Centre for the Fluid Science Laboratory) in Naples and to E-USOC (Facility Support Centre) in Madrid.

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.

Geoflow was originally scheduled to be returned to earth on Space Shuttle flight ULF-2 in November. It is now planned to remain on the Station into Increment 18 in order to continue additional runs of the experiment, and returning in 2009.

A large sequence of further runs of the Geoflow experiment will continue throughout Increment 18. Geoflow science operations are currently on hold in conjunction with the temporary operational constraints of ATV undocking and Progress docking.

European Drawer Rack including the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility
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 15A, which is due for launch in February 2009.

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, which is scheduled to dock with the ISS on 12 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 (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 and a majority of the experiments have actively collected science and technology data this week with one experiment powered down having completed 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 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 standy mode in connection with PLEGPAY.
  • 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. Set to continue on resolution of PLEGPAY issue.
  • 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 science objectives.
  • EVC: The Earth Viewing Camera is a fixed-pointed Earth-observation camera. It is currently switched off in connection with PLEGPAY.
  • EXPOSE: This series of exobiology experiments was continuing to acquire scientific data up until 1 September when it was paused in connection with PLEGPAY.
  • FIPEX: This sensor is helping to build up a picture of the atmospheric environment in low-Earth orbit by measuring atomic oxygen. Science acquisition paused on 1 September in connection with PLEGPAY.
  • MEDET: The Materials Exposure and Degradation ExperimenT (MEDET) was continuing to acquire scientific data until 1 September. Set to continue on resolution of PLEGPAY issue. 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.
  • 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 the engineering experts via operational measures.
  • 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 has been running during the week and was paused on 1 September in connection with PLEGPAY.

The individual instruments (SOVIM, SOLSPEC, SOLACES) of SOLAR continue science acquisition after starting a Sun observation period on 28 August, once the ISS was 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
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 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 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.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko completed another radiation data checkup for Matroshka for accumulated flux and dose rate data on 29 August. On 2 September Kononenko deactivated the AST Spectrometer, removed a Memory Card and checked out the contents on a Russian laptop. The next day he reactivated the spectrometer. The facility is located in the Russian DC1 Docking Compartment. 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. 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. The only minor issues 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 preparations for undocking
The ISS crew 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. The ATV stowage arrangement was examined on ground to ensure stable manoeuvring after undocking, i.e. all items were secure and a good centre of gravity.

ATV Control equipment was retrieved from Zarya by Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko. ISS Commander Sergei Volkov completed installation of the equipment in Zvezda on 2 September. This included an ATV Control Panel, an antenna switch box with cabling and the Proximity Communications Equipment, which is necessary for communications between the ISS and the ATV after undocking. Kononenko carried out tests on the Proximity Communications Equipment, the Control Panel and the antenna switch box the following day.

On 4 September, in preparation for ATV undocking Volkov set up the Internal Wireless Instrumentation System (IWIS) Remote Sensor Units in Zvezda, Zarya, Destiny, Node 1 and Node-2. IWIS was used to monitor any vibrations in the ISS structure during the undocking. After removal of ATV fittings and equipment for reuse quick-release clamps were removed from the area between the ATV and Zvezda hatches, and the hatches were closed at 18:30 CEST. This was followed by the inter-hatch depressurisation and leak check.

ATV undocking
Jules Verne, Europe’s first Automated Transfer Vehicle, undocked from the International Space Station on 5 September at 23:29 CEST. A spring mechanism located on the Zvezda docking port, slowly pushed the ATV away from the Station. After drifting unpowered for one minute to a distance of three metres away from the Station, the ATV deployed its smaller attitude control thrusters to start its departure boost and distance itself further. Within 22 minutes of undocking, the ATV was right below the ISS at a distance of about 5 km, at which point its automatic emergency systems (which can initiate a Station collision avoidance manoeuvre in the unlikely event of this being necessary) were disabled.

The undocking was monitored from the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, Mission Control Centres in Moscow and Houston. The ISS crew also monitored the undocking. A Nikon D2X camera was used to take photographs of the ATV front cone from the Zvezda Service Module window especially of the telegoniometer and videometer sensor boxes. The ISS crew also monitored the undocking from a video monitor in Zvezda.

The ATV is now in its rephasing period, which will last just over 23 days and will bring the ATV 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 M-64 undocking
On 29 August the unmanned Progress M-64 supply spacecraft was readied for its departure by Russian ISS Commander Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko. This included final packing and securing trash and excess cargo. The ventilation duct between the Progress spacecraft and the Zarya Service module was removed, and the hatches between Progress and the Zarya ISS module were closed at around 20:00 CEST. Hereafter, the interhatch area was depressurised and a leak check performed.

On 1 September at 21:49 CEST Progress M-64 undocked from the ISS. The first separation burn took place soon after with a second separation burn at 21:55 CEST. Progress M-64, on ISS logistics flight 29P is scheduled to deorbit on 9 September. Volkov used a Nikon D2X camera to take photographs of the Progress docking system from the Zvezda Service Module window to assess the integrity of the docking interface. Kononenko monitored the undocking from a video monitor in Zvezda. In preparation for Progress undocking Volkov set up the Internal Wireless Instrumentation System (IWIS) Remote Sensor Units in Zvezda, Zarya, Destiny, Node 1 and Node-2. IWIS was used to monitor any vibrations in the ISS structure during the undocking.

US Laboratory ECLSS
Greg Chamitoff continued 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 installation of the Oxygen Generator System secondary power jumper and connecting data cabling for the Water Recovery System on 28 August; and installing Crew Health Care Systems (CHeCS), and Water Recovery Systems 1 and 2 fluid lines to fill them with Internal Thermal Control System coolant at two laboratory positions the following day. The fluid lines were then removed. On 3 September work continued on Water Recovery System by installing an 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 waste water into drinking water.

Solar array efficiency test
On 1 September early morning during crew sleep the Mission Control Centre, Moscow performed an efficiency test on the Zvezda Service Module’s solar arrays. Attitude control was handed over from the US Control Moment Gyroscopes to Russian thrusters 10 minutes prior to the test starting and handed back on test conclusion. The test measures the total current being produced by the arrays. It is compared with earlier test results carried out at the same Sun aspect angle and solar array positions.

S1 radiator cover sheet
A face sheet on one panel of an S1 radiator has peeled back for, as yet, unknown reasons, though this has not had a noticeable impact on the radiators heat rejection capabilities. The sheets, which are epoxy-glued to the radiator, have a thermal coating, which maximise the radiators heat rejection properties.

Internal thermal control system
Chamitoff spent spent several hours collecting Internal Thermal Control System fluid samples in Columbus, The Japanese Kibo Laboratory, the US Destiny Laboratory and Node 2. Some sample analysis will happen on orbit. Some samples will be returned to ground for analysis.

Russian thermal control system
On 4 September ISS Commander Sergei Volkov carried out a repeat attempt (See ISS staus report #3) to drain coolant from loop 1 of the Russian Thermal Control System in the Zvezda Service Module. This was in order to conduct pressure readings at various valve settings and improve hardware function by repositioning the membrane separating gas and liquids in the loop. The loop was to be restored to its initial configuration following the tests, which included an air flow and leak test.

The following day Volkov installed the first set of replacement condensate removal lines for the Russian Thermal Control System between a heat-exchanger evaporator of the SKV-1 air conditioner and a condensate pump.

ISS wireless network
On 2 September wireless functionality using a Space Station laptop was checked in the Japanese Kibo Laboratory and Columbus, and ISS Joint Station LAN was transitioned to new wireless access points in Nodes 1 and 2. Wireless LAN survey also included carrying out a wireless functionality check using PDAs in Kibo and US Laboratory. The PDAs have been loaded with new software for wireless communications.

Chamitoff continued work on 5 September inserting a new wireless card in a Station Support Computer (SSC-11) in support of a remote wireless checkout by the ground

Japanese Experiment Module rack facilities
Chamitoff installed special acoustic insulation/dampening material on the Cell Biology Experiment Facility Incubator doors on 2 September. On 5 September he was troubleshooting a malfunctioning door lock of the facility’s incubator.

Japanese Experiment Module common gas supply equipment
On 3 September, Chamitoff spent time troubleshooting the Common Gas Supply Equipment in the Japanese Kibo laboratory to discover if the source of a CO2 leak is the SAIBO rack or the Gas Supply System. He had to restore functionality to a Self-Shutoff Valve, isolate the SAIBO rack from the system CO2 line and repressurise the CO2 line. JAXA’s Space Station Integration and Promotion Center located at the Tsukuba Space Center in Japan will monitor the situation for two days to determine the leak source. The problem was discovered when the Cell Biology Experiment Facility in the SAIBO rack experience an unexpected pressure drop on 8 August.

ISS Mission Control Center – Houston: Hurricane Gustav
The Johnson Space Center in Houston, location of NASA’s ISS Mission Control Center was on a Level 4 status during Tropical Storm/Hurricane Gustav between 29 August and 2 September, though did not need to proceed to a more advanced state of alert involving with relocation of the control centre and facility closure.

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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