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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report
Increment 18

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

28 November 2008

This is ISS status report No. 17 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
The Experiment Containers for the next run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment, which will take place in the Biolab Facility, were launched to the ISS on Progress flight 31P on 26 November 2008 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The science part with plant seeds will follow in conditioned state tentatively on Shuttle flight 2J/A in spring 2009. The four remaining Experiment Containers for the first run of WAICO are being returned on Shuttle STS-126/ULF-2, which undocked on 28 November

Further testing of Biolab’s two centrifuges, the automatic chemical fixation system and the atmosphere control system will be carried out during Increment 18 well before the actual execution of the second run of the WAICO experiment. These final end-to-end performance verification tests will be carried out using the still empty WAICO-2 experiment containers 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 in spring 2009.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
The Fluid Science Laboratory’s internal accelerometers are scheduled to take measurements of the microgravity levels in the facility during the Progress 31P docking on 30 November. This will assist in optimizing the future operational scenario for the Fluid Science Laboratory with integrated Experiment Containers. The Fluid Science Laboratory is ready to resume the Geoflow science runs in December after Progress 31P docks.

The exhaustive Geoflow science programme of more than 100 runs of the 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 ground infrastructure at the MARS User Support and Operations Centre will also be upgraded to support future science acquisition of the Geoflow experiment.

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. A software upgrade is scheduled to take place on 3 December supported by the Expedition 18 Crew. This upgrade is necessary in preparation for the first set of experiments in the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility next year.

After successful 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 comprising 3 crystallisation cycles. The final set of protein molecules will return to Earth for detailed lab analysis.

European Physiology Modules and NeuroSpat experiment
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. De Winne will be a subject in the NeuroSpat experiment as will Canadian Space Agency astronaut and fellow Expedition crew member Bob Thirsk. The two astronauts will assist each other with experiment procedures. NeuroSpat will investigate the ways in which crew members’ three-dimensional perception is affected by long-duration stays in weightlessness.

SOLO experiment
The Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment has already been completed for Greg Chamitoff as the first test subject for this experiment with two scientific parts. All blood and urine samples for the experiment were transferred to Shuttle Endeavour from the European-developed MELFI freezer and are now in the process of being downloaded to Earth following Shuttle undocking. The SOLO experiment is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects. The experiment also used capabilities of the European Physiology Modules Facility. The next experiment run is planned during the ongoing Increment 18.

3D-Space experiment
NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff completed the fourth and final session of the of 3D-Space experiment on 23 November prior to his return on Shuttle flight STS-126 (ULF-2). The memory card containing experiment data has been returned on the same flight.

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. The next experiment run is planned during the ongoing Increment 18.

Flywheel Exercise Device
The Flywheel Exercise Device will be removed from its on-orbit storage location in the European Transport Carrier of the Columbus Laboratory for deployment and first functional checkout during the ongoing Increment 18 after Shuttle flight 15A in February 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 advanced crew 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
This 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 better understand gravitropism and to find plant systems that compensate for the negative impact on plant growth in space.

Microgravity Science Glovebox
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within a barter agreement with NASA. The facility 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. The Microgravity Science Glovebox has been continuously used for NASA experiments and will also play again an important role for ESA science during 2009 for the execution of the triple SODI experiment series.

European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space

European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF)
The EuTEF platform has been operated continuously with one experiment powered down having completed the first part of its science objectives. The facility has been permanently activated since 5 November and resumed full science operations following the safety-imposed disabling of PLEGPAY experiment 1 on 30 October.

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 24-hour experiment runs during the week. This included experiment runs to record any debris impact that may have taken place related to clean-up activities of the starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint on ULF-2 spacewalks 3 and 4. A software update is being prepared to increase the duration of the experiments.
  • DOSTEL: The DOSimetric radiation TELescope is a small radiation telescope. After reactivation on 5 November it has been continuously gathering 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 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 as no High Resolution Data could be received on ground from the instrument during this week.
  • EXPOSE: This series of exobiology experiments is again continuing without interruption to acquire scientific data following reactivation on 5 November.
  • FIPEX: This sensor is helping to build up a picture of the atmospheric environment in low-Earth orbit by measuring atomic oxygen. On 25 November a test of its atomic oxygen sensors was performed. Science acquisition was on hold awaiting completion of the STS-126/ULF-2 spacewalks, though has now resumed.
  • MEDET: The Materials Exposure and Degradation ExperimenT (MEDET) is continuing to acquire continuous scientific data following reactivation on 5 November. 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. PLEGPAY was activated and Experiment 1 was deleted on 30 October in resolution of the latest ISS safety concerns. Ground teams are now analysing the outcome of the full memory dump of the PLEGPAY instrument that was performed. PLEGPAY is currently shut down.
  • 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 had been ongoing following reactivation on 6 November, though it is currently in standby mode to resolve a current issue.

A software enhancement which was successfully uploaded to the RAM memory will be transferred to the SOLAR Flash Disk on 4 December. This will allow for the acquisition of science data during shorter sun visibility cycles. The latest Sun observation window opened on 21 November and the facility is in Sun pointing mode. The window is due to close on 2 December. A number of observation orbits were missed due to EVA clean up activities at the starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint and due to Shuttle waste water dumps. Of its individual instruments SOLSPEC and SOLACES are continuing to acquire data, and the SOVIM instrument is awaiting resolution a power/telemetry issue. The SOLAR payload facility studies the Sun’s irradiation 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 two large MISSE-6 trays will be returned to Earth in the frame of the 17A Shuttle flight in August 2009. 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 being returned to Earth on Shuttle flight ULF-2, which undocked from the ISS on 28 November. Back on Earth ANITA will undergo a thorough inspection and post-flight calibration. This instrument has monitored 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.

Three NASA astronauts of the STS-126 crew have been taking part in the Motion Perception (MOP) experiment, filling out daily questionnaires. The execution of this experiment by different human test subjects enhances the statistics of the ongoing series. After the flight, a reference test in a centrifuge will be performed at a later stage on ground. The objective of this experiment is to obtain an insight into this process and could help in developing countermeasures to space motion sickness.

Daily Muscle questionnaires have been filled in by six astronauts of the STS-126 Crew for the Muscle experiment. The execution of this experiment by different human test subjects enhances the statistics of the ongoing series. The objective of this experiment is to assess the occurrence and characteristics of back pain in weightlessness. The results will be correlated to data related to back pain and atrophy obtained in ground-based studies. It is thought that the deep muscle corset atrophies during spaceflight leading to strain and hence pain in certain ligaments, in particular in the iliolumbar region in the back. The deep muscle corset plays an important role in posture when in the upright position.

European science inside the Russian ISS Segment

This long-term experiment is continuing to monitor radiation measurements in different locations on the ISS.

On 25 November Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov dismantled the Matroshka Phantom and removed its PILLE radiation detectors, 5 Nuclear Track Detector Packages and 356 Thermoluminescent Detectors. The detectors are being transported by the STS-126/ULF-2 Shuttle crew for detailed evaluation back on earth. The Matroshka hardware has been temporarily stowed in the Russian Zarya Module.

The Matroshka experiments consist of a simulated human body (head and torso) called the Phantom equipped with several active and passive radiation dosimeters. The Matroshka-2B experiment had been measuring for about one year the cumulative radiation dose experienced by crew members inside the ISS. The phantom will be tentatively relocated during Increment 18 to the Japanese Kibo laboratory (pending some technical feasibility assessments conclusion and agreements with JAXA) and equipped with a set of new passive dosimeters. In the long-term Matroshka may be accommodated again on an external ISS platform to measure cosmic radiation levels which are of relevance for EVA activities.

GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service (GTS) is continuously on since early 2008 and will tentatively continue until spring 2009. It was deactivated during the STS-126/ULF-2 spacewalks and Shuttle undocking.

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.

BIO-4 Experiment Package
This was the fourth in a series of small short-duration space biology experiments that started in 2005. Four new biology experiments were launched on Soyuz 17S from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on 12 October took place in three KUBIK incubators from ESA in the Russian Segment of the ISS. The experiments were processed between 3 and 8 days in space. Telemetry data from KUBIK Flight Models 1 and 3, which was received on ground on 29 October and is now under analysis from the payload development team.

The progress of each individual experiment was as follows:

  • BASE B and C
    The in-orbit activities for the Bacteria Adaptation to Space Environment (BASE) experiments are now complete. These experiments determine how several different bacterial species adapt to spaceflight conditions: weightlessness, cosmic radiation, electromagnetism etc., building on research from previous spaceflight experiments. Data from this study will be useful to determine if adaptation to spaceflight conditions may modify the ability of bacteria to deteriorate the spacecraft environment, act as pathogens or function in recycling systems.


    Before Shuttle undocking on 28 November, chemically fixed samples for the ROALD experiment were transferred from the MELFI freezer to the Shuttle Middeck in Double Cold Bags for return to earth. ROALD stands for the ROle of Apoptosis in Lymphocyte Depression and aims to determine the roll that programmed cell death (apoptosis) plays in reduced immune response in weightlessness. Apoptosis is a normal function in human and animal cells and T-lymphocytes are a class of white blood cell important in immune response. Various aspects of the apoptotic process will be assessed using human T-lymphocytes.


    The in-orbit activities for the XENOPUS experiments are now complete. This experiment studies cellular modifications within the vestibulo-ocular system of a developing amphibian (Xenopus laevis) during adaptation to weightlessness. The vestibulo-ocular system is the system of the body responsible for maintaining balance. The main purpose of this project is to characterise the effect of weightlessness on development of this system in Xenopus laevis tadpoles at early and late development stages.

The processed samples for Xenopus and the BASE experiments were returned to Earth on flight 16S with the Expedition 17 Crew on 24 October and immediately transported back to the scientists. The ROALD samples are due to land with Shuttle flight STS-126 on 30 November. The BIO missions on Soyuz sortie flights provide special short-duration mission opportunities in addition to the utilisation of ESA’s large biology facilities Biolab and the European Modular Cultivation System in Columbus namely for complex long-duration biology experiments.

Columbus systems information

In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above the Columbus systems have worked extremely well. On 23 November NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff installed the Internal Thermal Control System Sampling Adapter in Columbus to retrieve a sample of its coolant for return to the ground in the Shuttle middeck. On 26 November he also relocated the Video Camera Assembly 1 to Columbus’ Port Endcone. This had been moved to Node 2 to monitor transfer activities in the Node 2/MPLM area. Regular maintenance activities are planned for the so called Stage ULF2, which is the time period after the undocking of ULF2 until the next Shuttle flight.

ISS general system information and activities *

STS-126 mission spacewalks

  • Spacewalk 3
    The two NASA EVA astronauts Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen spent the night prior to EVA 3 camped out in the US Airlock to help remove nitrogen from the astronauts’ blood streams. The pressure is lowered in the airlock down to 10.2 psi during this time and the astronauts pre-breathe pure oxygen through masks. Following a hygiene break (in masks) the following morning the astronauts returned and were again sealed into the airlock and pre-breathed pure oxygen inside their EVA suits. Stefanyshyn-Piper and Bowen were then sealed into the Crew Lock section of the airlock. After depressurisation of the Crew Lock the external hatch was opened and the third STS-126 spacewalk started. Official start time of the spacewalk was 19:01 (CEST) 22 November. The spacewalking activities took place principally at the starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint. Tasks included cleaning and lubricating bearing surfaces and replacing Trundle Bearing Assemblies. The spacewalk lasted 6h 57 min. The EVA astronauts were assisted with post-EVA activities in the airlock by ISS Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff and Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson.


  • Spacewalk 4
    The spacewalking NASA astronauts (Steve Bowen and Robert Kimbrough) followed similar overnight campout procedures as in spacewalk 3 prior to starting spacewalk 4 on 24 November. During the spacewalk the astronauts cleaned, lubricated and installed the final Trundle Bearing Assembly at the starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, and lubricated the port Solar Alpha Rotary Joint; installed Multi-Layer Insulation Covers on the P3 truss; installed an external TV camera on the interface between the S0 and P1 truss sections for viewing the docking of the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle in September 2009; and manually retracted a structural latch and re-installed a centre cover on the External Facility Berthing Mechanism of the Japanese Kibo Laboratory. Installation of a GPS antenna on the Kibo laboratory and taking infrared imagery of the S1 and P1 radiators was deferred as the EVA was curtailed by 23 minutes due to elevated CO2 levels in Kimbrough’s EVA suit. The 6h 7min spacewalk started at 19:24 (CEST) and finished early the following morning. After airlock re-pressurisation Bowen and Kimbrough were assisted by Chamitoff, Fincke and Ferguson in post-EVA procedures.


Regenerable Environment Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS)
During the week NASA astronauts Mike Fincke (ISS Commander), Sandra Magnus (ISS Flight Engineer) and Greg Chamitoff (ISS Flight Engineer) continued with activities related to activation of the new Water Recovery System and the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer on the front side of the Oxygen Generation System. Each systems forms part of the Regenerable ECLSS, which is needed in advance of an increase to a six-person ISS Crew in 2009. The status of major new elements is as follows:

  • Urine Processor Assembly
    Following shutdowns of the Urine Processor Assembly, due to a low centrifuge speed, vibration isolators were removed and activities to fix hardware to the rack were carried out. The Urine Processor Assembly has now performed its first successful processing runs.


  • Water Processing Assembly
    The Water Processing Assembly has continued to collect condensate water, with the first waste water processing, using mainly condensate water, being carried out on 23 November. Following additional processing runs the processed water has been stored in Contingency Water Containers. Processed samples were collected for in-flight analysis using the Water Microbiology Kit and the Total Organic Carbon Assembly.


  • Total Organic Carbon Assembly
    The Total Organic Carbon Assembly is now performing normally after experiencing an initial problem during an analysis cycle of samples from the Water Processing Assembly. This was determined to be most likely due to gas bubbles in the liquid loop and a software update was uplinked to increase the loop’s pump speed in addition to flushing trapped air bubbles out of the system. A Gas/Liquid Separator was also replaced when a small leak was found.


  • Potable Water Dispenser
    A standoff hose was installed for the Potable Water Dispenser during the week. This was flushed first with iodine-treated potable water, and then with ambient water. Samples from the Potable Water Dispenser have been collected for in-flight analysis using the Water Microbiology Kit and the Total Organic Carbon Assembly.

Water Recovery System water samples have been collected and stowed aboard Shuttle Endeavour for return to earth and ground analysis.

Kurs Automated Rendezvous and Docking System
Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Yuri Lonchakov replaced a failed block of the KURS automated rendezvous and docking system in the Zvezda Service Module on 22 November. This was successfully tested the following day by the Mission Control Centre in Moscow. The replacement block had been removed from the Zarya module. The Kurs system is required for the Progress 31P docking on 30 November.

Japanese Kibo laboratory - Internal Thermal Control System
Greg Chamitoff hooked up the Antimicrobial Applicator to the Moderate Temperature Loop of Kibo’s Internal Thermal Control System on 23 November. This introduces an antimicrobial agent into the Thermal Control System coolant. Chamitoff removed the Antimicrobial Applicator the following day and collected a coolant sample for analysis on the ground.

Shuttle STS-126/ULF-2 mission extension
On 24 November the ISS Mission Management Team and the Shuttle Program approved an extension of the ULF-2 flight by one day in connection with Water Recovery System and Total Organic Carbon Analyzer activation activities.

Shuttle waste water dump
Shuttle waste water dumping was conducted during the week. Ferguson manoeuvred the ISS/Shuttle into a different attitude using Shuttle thrusters. Following the waste water venting Ferguson manoeuvred the ISS/Shuttle back to its normal flight profile.

Progress M-01M/31P launch
Progress M-01M on ISS logistics flight 31P was successfully launched into orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 13:38 (CET) on 26 November. The ISS logistics spacecraft is delivering 2676 kg of cargo to the ISS including 28 kg oxygen, 21 kg air, 185 kg water, 296 kg food, 1120 kg ISS propellant, 171 kg sanitary and hygienic items, 19 kg fire-protection items, 133 kg medical items, 103 kg research payloads, and additional equipment. This is the first flight of an upgraded Progress spacecraft, equipped with a new digital computer system and more compact radio telemetry avionics.

Progress M-01M/31P docking preparations
On 26 November Fincke and Lonchakov carried out a three-hour training session on the Russian TORU system in preparation for Progress M-01M/31P docking on 30 November. The TORU system acts as a manual backup to the Kurs automated rendezvous and docking system. The session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss.

Starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint
On 26 November, the starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint was rotated through 720 deg in Autotrack mode for the first time in over a year to measure mechanical resistance in the motor current. This followed extensive cleaning and lubrication work during the ULF-2 spacewalks. The joint rotation required significantly less energy than before and it was returned to Directed Position later in the day.

Russian condensate water processor
Lonchakov performed in-flight maintenance on the Russian condensate water processor in the Zvezda Service Module replacing its water-conditioning unit purification columns with a new spare on 27 November.

ISS Flight Engineer 2 handover activities
Greg Chamitoff and Sandra Magnus undertook handover activities during the week in connection with Magnus replacing Chamitoff as ISS Flight Engineer 2.

Cargo transfers MPLM and Shuttle
During the week the ISS and Shuttle crews continued with cargo transfers between the ISS and the MPLM and Shuttle, including oxygen from the Shuttle to the ISS and EVA suits and equipment to the MPLM and Shuttle.

Multi-purpose Logistics Module close out and transfer to Shuttle
NASA astronauts Chris Ferguson and Donald Pettit started close out procedures on the European-built Multi-purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) on 26 November. They removed a fire extinguisher, breathing apparatus, electric lines and ducting, installed thermal covers and installed a cover on the Common Berthing Mechanism to provide debris protection to the Node 2 nadir port. They closed the MPLM and Node 2 hatches and Chamitoff depressurized the area between the hatches before a leak check was carried out. Pettit and Kimbrough used the Station’s robotic arm to grapple the MPLM. Once the MPLM was demated from Node 2 it was moved by robotic arm back to the Shuttle’s cargo bay.

STS-126 undocking
Following usual pre-undocking activities (removing Shuttle to ISS oxygen transfer system, Moving Shuttle robotic arm to undock position etc), the crews took part in the traditional farewell. The Shuttle crew entered the Shuttle and the hatches were closed. Stefanyshyn-Piper and Kimbrough started a one-hour leak check on the Orbiter Docking System.

With all preparations complete the Shuttle undocked at 15:47 (CET) on 28 November from Pressurised Mating Adapter 2. After separation, Endeavour completed the 360-deg station fly around and obtained photo and video imagery of the ISS. The first two separation burns were completed by 17:15 (CET). After the undocking, Fincke depressurized the PMA-2 to prevent humidity condensation and pressure fluctuations. Leak checking followed for the standard one hour.

Russian telephone/telegraph subsystem
Lonchakov completed the reconfiguration of the Russian telephone/telegraph subsystem to its post-Shuttle undocking settings on 28 November.

(*)These activities are highlights of the past week and do not include the standard periodic operational/maintenance activities on the ISS or additional research activities not mentioned previously. Information compiled with the assistance of NASA sources.

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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