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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

10 October 2008

This is the 10th ISS status report from the European Space Agency outlining ESA’s 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 and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Biolab and WAICO experiment
Following the successful testing of Biolab’s centrifuge B on 5 September, ground crews are still also assessing in detail 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 science run of the experiment WAICO is scheduled to start in Biolab during Increment 19. The Experiment Containers will be launched on Progress flight 31P in November 2008 and the seeds in conditioned state tentatively on Shuttle flight 2J/A in spring 2009.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
After four successful science runs in Fluid Science Laboratory 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). After detailed engineering analysis the removal of the Geoflow Experiment Container can be avoided in future and the experiment runs can proceed further without constraints. The large Geoflow science programme of more than 100 runs of the Geoflow experiment will continue throughout Increments 18, 19 into Increment 20, up to the tentative return of the experiment unit on the Shuttle flight 17A 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) is scheduled 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 first session of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment, which was started on 3 October by NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff, finished on 8 October. This session included Chamitoff undertaking a normal sodium diet. As part of the experiment he performed two body mass measurements on 6 and 8 October, collected urine samples from 7-8 October and blood samples on 7 October, which were processed in the Human Research Facility 2 centrifuge in Columbus. All samples were placed in the European-developed MELFI freezer. For the second session of the SOLO experiment, which started on 9 October, Chamitoff will perform the same procedures but in this session he is undertaking a low-sodium diet for five days. The SOLO experiment also uses capabilities of the European Physiology Modules Facility.

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 human 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 in the area of countermeasures.

Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2
The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility number 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory on 1 October. 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.

European Modular Cultivation System
All activities for the Expedition 17 Crew related to the European Modular Cultivation System have now finished. The space biology 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 for two years under a bilateral barter agreement with NASA. The on-orbit maintenance of the European Modular Cultivation System will be performed during Increment 18 in anticipation of the Genara experiment during Expedition 19/20. Genara is the next 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.

European science and research facilities 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 safety constraints for the ISS, visiting transportation vehicles and EVA activities. So far there are no ISS, Shuttle and ATV related hazards.

EuTEF is currently cleared to be reactivated for 8-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 tentatively in the near-term.

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 due to the latest Sun observation window closing on 4 October.

The SOLAR payload facility studies the Sun with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range during a 2-year timeframe on-orbit.

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.

European science inside the Russian ISS Segment

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

The Nitric Oxide Analyser (NOA) experiments have been completed for Expedition 17. Items which will be returned to earth with the Expedition 17 crew on Soyuz flight 16S in October have already been packed away. 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. 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 until October with a subsequent return of the passive dosimeters on Shuttle flight STS-126 (ULF-2) for detailed evaluation on Earth. On 9 October ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko carried out procedures for downlinking data.

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 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.

Columbus systems information

In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above the Columbus systems continue to work extremely well, though Columbus Control Centre teams payload experts are still looking into the situation of lower than expected water flow through Human Research Facility 2. 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

ISS reboost
The delayed reboost of the ISS took place on 4 October at 12:06 CEST. The purpose of the reboost was to set up orbital phasing for the launch of Soyuz 17S and the landing of Soyuz 16S. ISS attitude control was handed over to Russian thruster control prior to the reboost and handed back to the US Control Moment gyroscopes thereafter. Structural dynamics readings from remote sensor units around the Station were downloaded by ISS Commander Sergei Volkov on 6 October. The reboost raised the altitude of the Station by around 1.3 km. The reboost was originally planned for 2 October but was rescheduled due to space debris from the Kosmos-2421 satellite.

Soyuz TMA-13 launch preparations
The Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft, which will bring the Expedition 18 Crew and spaceflight participant Richard Garriott to the ISS was rolled out and erected on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 10 October. The Soyuz TMA-13 is scheduled to be launched on ISS flight 17S on 12 October by a Soyuz FG launch vehicle.

Expedition 17 preparations for return to earth
Volkov and Kononenko had about an hour each per day from 6 to 10 October for crew departure preparations, finalising their Expedition work prior to their return to Earth later this month. Additional preparations they carried out included:

  • Soyuz TMA-12 cargo packing preparations
    Volkov and Kononenko had several hours set aside on 6, 7 and 8 October for pre-packing return cargo and items for disposal to be loaded in Soyuz TMA-12/16S according to detailed loading guides. Return items are loaded into the descent module with the astronauts. Items for disposal are loaded into the Soyuz orbital module that separates from the descent module prior to re-entry and burns up in the atmosphere.


  • Soyuz TMA-12 motion control system test
    On 10 October Volkov and Kononenko spent an hour in the Soyuz TMA-12/16S Descent Module supporting a ground-commanded checkout of the Soyuz motion control system which included tests of the pilot’s hand controller, the DPO braking thrusters, and propulsion system tank pressurisation. Attitude control was handed over to Russian thruster control during the tests.


  • Soyuz descent training
    Volkov and Kononenko carried out a standard Soyuz descent training exercise on 10 October, which uses a computer simulation on a Russian laptop with a descent hand. The exercise was supported by Mission Control Centre Moscow.


  • Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
    Volkov and Kononenko had their first preliminary training session with the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suits on 5 October, assisting each other and supported by ground specialist in their two one-hour sessions. The suits, which provide stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, help to evaluate how the Russian crewmembers would cope with exposure to gravity on return to earth towards the end of October. They carried out a second training session the following day.


  • Anti-g suit fit check
    Volkov and Kononenko carried out a fit check of their protective Kentavr anti-g suits on 6 October. These suits help long-duration crewmember with the return into Earth’s gravity.

US rack relocation
Chamitoff was assisted by Volkov in relocating three racks on 10 October. One Zero-G Stowage Rack was moved from the US Destiny Laboratory to the Japanese Kibo Laboratory (position F6); one Zero-G Stowage Rack was moved from Node 2 to Kibo’s Pressurised Logistics Segment (position A2); and one Resupply Stowage Rack was moved from Node 2 to the Destiny laboratory (position O5).

US Laboratory Environmental Control and Life Support System
On 8 October Chamitoff successfully performed a test on a power unit to determine if it could be used in connection with a control valve adjustment of the Internal Thermal Control System. Thereafter the relevant flow meter was also checked out. Two days later Chamitoff used this flow meter and carried out flow rate adjustment for the Manual Flow Control Valve in the endcone of the Destiny laboratory. He also carried out a flow rate test in Node 1. These valve adjustments are needed in advance of installation of the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System arriving on flight ULF-2 in November, which is itself needed in advance of a six-person crew as of next year.

Software transition: US Orbital Segment
The two US Guidance, Navigation & Control Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computers appear stable with no failures in 13 days following a software upgrade. Additional steps and testing is to be performed

Rate Gyroscope Assemblies
A problem with a software file of the Fault Detection, Isolation & Recovery system caused failure of two US Rate Gyroscope Assemblies on 9 October but these were successfully recovered.

Space Acceleration Measurement System
Chamitoff checked out the Interface Control Unit of the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS), its memory card and associated cable on 4 October, to determine if the memory card is loose or faulty. This is due to an inability of the SAMS laptop to communicate via FTP with the EXPRESS Rack 4 Laptop.

Analogue to digital video test
On 10 October Chamitoff configured a laptop in Zarya for converting video from analogue to digital and set up the system with Volkov for a test transmission over an MPEG-2 encoder to downlink in streaming video packets. The digital video transmission was downlinked to MCC-Houston and from there via the ESA Columbus Control Centre Gateway to the Mission Control Centre in Moscow.

Russian CO2 removal system
The Russian Vozdukh CO2 removal system has been experiencing problems thought to be due to microswitches and a troubleshooting plan is in place. The system is currently being restarted after each problem occurs.

Russian condensate water processor
Volkov worked on the air/liquid separator of the Russian condensate water processor on 9 October, replacing two hoses and using water and a pump to test the impact of a possibly clogged hydro-connector on the separator’s service life.

S1 Truss radiator damage
On 10 October Volkov photographed the damaged radiator on the S1 truss, in order to evaluate the ability to stage future photography with rotation of the Thermal Radiator Rotary Joint and Russian solar array re-positioning.

Orbital debris
Orbital debris from the Kosmos-2421 satellite was closely monitored during the week but this posed no threat to the Station.

Martin Zell
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department

Markus Bauer
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer

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

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