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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

12 September 2008

This is the 6th 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 on the ISS is as follows:

European science inside the Columbus Laboratory

Biolab and WAICO experiment
The testing of Biolab’s centrifuge B using the WAICO-1 experiment containers still on the rotor was successfully carried out on 5 September. This consisted of testing the centrifuge’s new locking actuator and a bellow test of the automatic chemical fixation system. The testing was carried out without any crew involvement, by ground commanding from the Microgravity User Support Centre (Facility Responsible Centre for Biolab) in Cologne, via the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

Further testing of Biolab’s two centrifuges and the automatic chemical fixation system will be carried out prior to the execution of the second run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment. These tests will be carried out using the empty WAICO-2 experiment containers, which will replace the experiment containers currently on centrifuge B.

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

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
On 9 September the Geoflow Experiment Container was additionally fixed to the lower section of the Central Experiment Module of the Fluid Science Laboratory in light of ISS vehicle traffic by the arrival of Progress 30P this week. This will allow the Experiment Container to securely withstand the loads associated with spacecraft dockings to ISS.

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 will remain on the Station, returning in 2009. A large sequence of additional runs of the Geoflow experiment will continue throughout Increment 18.

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 various 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.

European Physiology Modules
Final calibration of the Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (MEEMM) is scheduled towards the end of the ongoing mission increment. 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
Consumables for the experiment were launched to the ISS from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 10 September on Progress flight 30P. The Progress logistics vehicle is currently waiting to dock to the ISS (see ISS General System Information). The SOLO experiment is scheduled 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. 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 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 on orbit 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. Science acquisition for all EuTEF experiments and instruments will continue on resolution of this issue. Meanwhile the Expose payload with 5 long-term exobiology experiments will proceed continuously. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • EXPOSE: This series of exobiology experiments was continuing to acquire scientific data up until 1 September when it was paused.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 fulfil the latest safety requirements.
  • 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.

The individual instruments (SOVIM, SOLSPEC, SOLACES) of SOLAR continued science acquisition after starting a Sun observation period on 28 August. On 7 September the facility was placed in idle mode at the end of the current Sun visibility window. 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 accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility number 2 in the US Destiny Laboratory on the ISS. A session of the Periodic Fitness Evaluation with Oxygen Uptake Measurement, which is part of crew medical operations and utilises the Pulmonary Function System, is scheduled to be carried out prior to this relocation on 17 September. 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 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 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 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 was placed into an operational configuration that is compatible with its command/control via the ISS Backup Control Centre on 12 September due to Hurricane Ike causing the temporary closure of the ISS Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas (See ISS General System Information). 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 is now in its re-phasing period, which will last just over 23 days and will bring the ATV into the correct position at the correct time for re-entry to be viewed from the ISS and two specially-equipped observation planes in the South Pacific on 29 September.

On 8 September, the Russian crew members removed the ATV Proximity Communications Equipment (used for close proximity communications between the ISS and the ATV) from the Zvezda Service Module and stowed it.

Progress M-64/29P post-undocking
Following undocking from the ISS on 1 September, the Progress M-64 spacecraft, which had been on ISS logistics flight 29P, carried out its deorbit and destructive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere above an uninhabited area of the Pacific Ocean on 8 September.

Progress M-65/30P docking
The Progress M-65 spacecraft on ISS logistics flight 30P to the ISS was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on 10 September at 21:50 CEST. The docking, which was originally planned for 12 September has been deferred until at least 17 September, due to a possible lack of support from the Johnson Space Center in Houston in connection with Hurricane Ike. The spacecraft will remain in a safe orbit until docking can proceed.

Robotic activities
On 8 September, ISS Commander Sergei Volkov and NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff operated the Canadian robotic arm ‘Canadarm 2’ by manoeuvring it to and grappling External Stowage Platform 3 on the P3 truss. This was for a ground-controlled checkout of the External Berthing Camera System. On completion of this task the crew manoeuvred the arm to a parked position.

US Laboratory ECLSS/Internal Thermal Control System
Greg Chamitoff continued with preparations for installing Water Recovery System 1 of the new Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System, which is required when the ISS has a six-person crew as of next year. The Water Recovery System will be used to recycle waste water into drinking water. On 9 September he filled a coolant line of the Internal Thermal Control System’s Moderate Temperature Loop. This is necessary prior to connecting the coolant lines to any racks.

US Laboratory rack relocations
Chamitoff carried out functional tests on fluid line quick disconnects in the US Destiny laboratory in preparation of rack relocations. The following day he was assisted by Kononenko in relocating the Crew Health Care Systems rack within the laboratory and connecting all the necessary resource lines to the rack.

Russian Thermal Control System
During the week Volkov carried out various work in connection with removal and replacement of condensate removal lines for the Russian Thermal Control System in the Zvezda Service Module. This included installing a second set of replacement condensate removal lines between an air conditioner’s heat-exchanger evaporator and a condensate pump and replacing fluid lines between two condensate pumps.

ISS wireless network
On 6 September, NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff repeated functionality tests of the new ISS wireless network in the Columbus laboratory and the Japanese Kibo laboratory using a Station laptop. These tests proved successful.

Japanese Experiment Module Common Gas Supply Equipment
On 8 September, Chamitoff again 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. 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 Ike
The Johnson Space Center in Houston, location of NASA’s ISS Mission Control Center was closed on 11 September in connection with Hurricane Ike with a minimum team keeping the ISS Mission Control Center powered. The following day the Mission Control Center was powered down and the Backup Control Center at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama assumed control. Due to command/telemetry capabilities in this situation, certain reconfiguration of ISS systems took place including the Columbus laboratory being temporarily placed into an appropriate configuration and Japanese Kibo modules being powered down.

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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