11 September 2009
This is ISS status report No. 50 from the European Space Agency outlining ESA’s science related activities that have taken place on the ISS during the past two weeks for different European experiments and experiment facilities. 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 inside and outside the Russian Segment of the ISS and in the US Destiny laboratory. 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 near-term experiments
On 10 September ISS Flight Engineer Frank De Winne changed the BIOS settings and MS Windows screen resolution on the Biolab laptop and successfully performed the functional test. Two experiments will be performed in Biolab prior to the WAICO-2 experiment due to more favourable mission logistics. The Yeast experiment will now be launched on Soyuz 20S by end September and returned with 18S a couple of days later after some days of processing in Biolab. This experiment will study the influence of weightlessness on so-called Flo proteins which regulate flocculation (clumping together) and adhesion of cells. The overall goal is to obtain a detailed insight into the importance of weightlessness on the formation of organised cell structures, and on flo processes, which are of considerable interest for fundamental science, industry and the medical field.
The following ArtEMISS-A experiment will be brought to the ISS on a similar ISS sortie flight scenario, which is envisaged in early 2010. The purpose of this experiment is to determine the effect of spaceflight conditions, including weightlessness and radiation on the algae Arthrospira sp. The form, structure and physiology of the algae will be examined along with a genetic study of the organism. This data is important for determining the reliability of using Arthrospira sp. in spacecraft biological life support systems in such projects as MELISSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative).
The next run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment in Biolab had to be deferred to a later stage when the science samples of the experiment can be launched in conditioned state on Shuttle flight 19A in spring 2010. The necessary Experiment Containers for WAICO are already stowed on-orbit since November 2008.
European Drawer Rack
No activities were carried out with the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks up until 11 September. The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which had been continuously active and providing power, data and temperature control to the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility before its return to Earth on STS-128 in July after the conclusion of 3 ½ months of successful experiment runs.
European Physiology Modules
The European Physiology Modules has been in use in the two weeks up to 11 \September in connection with experiment procedures. The following experiments have recently used functions of the European Physiology Modules rack in the Columbus laboratory:
ISS Flight Engineer Tim Kopra successfully performed his final session of the 3D Space experiment on 2 September. The session was performed with the new Digital Tablet pen which was uploaded with Shuttle Flight STS-128 17A. Kopra configured both digital pens to prepare them for future sessions.
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 Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment is progressing nominally. The European Physiology Modules was activated on 31 August and for data downlink from the experiment. This was performed successfully. The DOSIS experiment will determine the nature and distribution of the radiation field inside European Columbus laboratory using different active and passive detectors. DOSIS will continue to record the radiation environment in the Columbus laboratory for at least one year.
ESA astronaut Frank De Winne placed Portable Clinical Blood Analyzer measurement pouches in the European-built MELFI freezer on 3 September. These were from Mike Barratt’s sessions of ESA’s Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment, which is carrying out research into salt retention in space.
Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
Vibrations measurements were performed on 9 September in order to calibrate vibration sensors in the Fluid Science Laboratory. The Geoflow experiment has produced a significant amount of excellent scientific data for ongoing detailed analysis by the science team and is therefore concluded. Currently discussions about the new scope and implementation of the GeoFlow-2 experiment are in progress. A detailed technical inspection and checkout of the Geoflow flight unit on ground has been concluded.
Flywheel Exercise Device
The Flywheel Exercise Device will be removed within the next few weeks from its on-orbit storage location in the European Transport Carrier rack of the Columbus Laboratory for deployment and first functional checkout now tentatively early in Increment 21 (October), after the STS-128, HTV-1 and Soyuz flights, by Frank De Winne. The Flywheel Exercise Device was launched to the ISS with Columbus 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
No activities were carried out with the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks up until 11 September. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory on 1 October 2008. 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
No experiment activities were carried out in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) in the two weeks up until 11 September. 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 cells, roots and physiology of plants and simple animals. It was developed by ESA and has been operated for two years under a bilateral barter agreement with NASA which is expected to be continued. Currently an option is under detailed elaboration to perform a full functional on-orbit EMCS re-verification using the remaining Experiment Containers from JAXA’s Cell Wall / Resist Wall experiment. This approach would simultaneously serve as a comprehensive checkout of European Modular Cultivation System functionality for the following experiments. Genara is tentatively the next ESA experiment to take place in the European Modular Cultivation System and will study plant (Arabidopsis) growth at 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. Tentatively still prior to Genara, the execution of the next NASA experiment TROPI-2 is planned with ESA’s Gravi-2 experiment following after the first part of Genara.
Microgravity Science Glovebox
No experiment activities were carried out with the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the two weeks up until 11 September. The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within a barter agreement with NASA. The Glovebox 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 again play an important role for future ESA science for the execution of the triple SODI (IVIDIL, DSC, Colloid) experiment series for advanced research in vibration effects on diffusion in liquids, diffusion measurements in petroleum reservoirs and the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions, respectively. The SODI-IVIDIL experiment is being uploaded on the STS-128 / 17A Shuttle flight and the DSC / Colloid experiments will follow during subsequent Shuttle flights in the time frame until spring 2010.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF)
EuTEF is a fully automated, multi-user external payload facility, which has been 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 EuTEF platform has been operated continuously since its installation and activation.
EuTEF was switched off on 1 September after more than 1.5 years of continuous operations only a couple of hours before de-installation. Having reached the end of its mission, the platform together with its instruments was retrieved from the Columbus External Payload Facility during the first STS-128 mission spacewalk on 1 September and successfully transferred to the Shuttle cargo bay. EuTEF has now been returned to Earth for detailed analysis and evaluation of the space samples.
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 continued to successfully perform data acquisition until EuTEF was powered down for return.
- DOSTEL: The DOSimetric radiation TELescope is a small radiation telescope. It continued to gather scientific data on the radiation environment outside the ISS until EuTEF was powered down for return.
- EuTEMP: This multi-input thermometer measured EuTEF temperatures during transfer to the outside of Columbus from the Shuttle cargo bay, It was then deactivated due to completion of the first part of its science objectives. The instrument was activated again on 1 September for temperature recording during transfer from the outside of Columbus to the Shuttle, running on battery power until heaters were connected in the Shuttle cargo bay.
- EVC: The Earth Viewing Camera is a fixed-pointed Earth-observation camera. The last attempt for image acquisition was performed on 31 August, however no images could be received before EuTEF transfer. The instrument was activated on 1 September before EuTEF removal, in order to keep the camera warm enough for transfer to the Shuttle.
- EXPOSE-E: This series of exobiology experiments continued to acquire scientific data until EuTEF was powered down for return.
- 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 terminated on 26 August in preparation for ammonia venting and subsequently for the return of EuTEF to Earth.
- MEDET: The Materials Exposure and Degradation ExperimenT (MEDET) continued to acquire scientific data until EuTEF was powered down for return. 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. Langmuir Probe measurements were performed on 31 August before Shuttle STS-128 17A docking and on 1 September after docking. The instrument was switched off prior to EuTEF’s removal for return to Earth.
- 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. Tribolab did not acquire scientific data during this reporting period due to a shaft drive motor problem. It was deactivated prior to EuTEF’s removal on STS-128 spacewalk 1.
The platform is currently in survival mode, out of Sun visibility window, after the last window ended on 25 August. On 31 August SOLAR was put into safe configuration during Shuttle STS-128 17A docking. The platform was switched off during the EVA on 1 September and reactivated on 2 September after EuTEF and MISSE 6 removal. It was then put into safe configuration on 8 September during Shuttle STS-128 17A undocking. The next Sun observation window is predicted to start on 15 September.
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. A detailed feasibility study for on-orbit lifetime extension is ongoing on request of the science team to gather further science data in a period of higher solar activity. The SOLAR facility has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles.
MISSE-6A and -6B
The Materials on the ISS Experiment (MISSE) is a US multi-investigator experiment provided by NASA. The latest MISSE experiments (6A and 6B) had been located on the outside of the Columbus laboratory. The two large MISSE-6 trays were successfully retrieved from the Columbus External Payload Facility during the first spacewalk of the STS-128 17A mission on 1 September, and they were transferred to the Shuttle Cargo Bay for return to Earth. The experiment evaluates the effect of the space environment on a large variety of exposed materials.
European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory
Material Science Laboratory
ESA’s Materials Science Laboratory is the principal payload in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1 (MSRR-1). The MSRR containing the Materials Science Laboratory was launched together with six cartridges for NASA and for ESA’s MICAST and CETSOL projects on STS-128/17A under a cooperation agreement with NASA. On 2 September it was installed by ESA astronauts Frank De Winne and Christer Fuglesang in the US Laboratory on the ISS. After on-orbit commissioning the first experiment runs are planned, with the return of the first two sample cartridges scheduled on the next Shuttle flight in November for detailed scientific analysis on ground.
CETSOL and MICAST are two complementary projects, which will carry out research into the formation of microstructures during the solidification of metallic alloys. The goal of MICAST is to study the formation of microstructures during casting of technical alloys. In space, buoyancy convection is eliminated and the dendritic solidification of the alloys can be quantitatively studied under purely diffusive conditions. The objective of CETSOL is then to study the transition from columnar growth to equiaxed growth that occurs when crystals start to nucleate in the melt and grow independently. Results of these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
EXPRESS Rack 3
EXPRESS Rack 3, (which contains the European Modular Cultivation System) was activated on 30 August to take vibration measurements for Shuttle STS-128 17A docking, and again on 7 September to take measurements for unberthing of the European-built Multipurpose Logistics Module “Leonardo”. This used EXPRESS Rack 3’s Space Acceleration Measurement System.
Human Research Facility 1
Human Research Facility 1 was activated on 29 August in support of Flight Engineer Tim Kopra’s session of NASA’s Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Control on Return from the ISS activity, and again on 10 September in support of Flight Engineer Nicole Stott’s first echo session of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment. Frank De Winne assisted Stott as Crew Medical Officer for the activity.
Human Research Facility 2
The facility was activated on 2 September in support of the US Nutrition experiment. Samples were centrifuged in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 and stowed in the MELFI Freezer.
Additional European science outside the ISS in open space
The Expose-R facility, which was installed outside the Zvezda Service Module during the Russian-based spacewalk on 10 March 2009, is functioning well. Expose-R is a suite of nine new astrobiology experiments (eight from ESA, one from IBMP, Moscow), some of which could help understand how life originated on Earth. This suite of experiments was transported to the International Space Station on Progress flight 31P, which docked with the ISS on 30 November 2008. The experiments are accommodated in three special sample trays, which are loaded with a variety of biological samples including plant seeds and spores of bacteria, fungi and ferns, which are exposed to the harsh space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum), for about one and a half years.
The individual Expose-R experiments are as follows:
- AMINO: Photochemical processing of amino acids and other organic compounds in Earth orbit
- ENDO: Response of endolithic organisms to space conditions
- OSMO: Exposure of osmophilic microbes to the space environment
- SPORES: Spores in artificial meteorites
- PHOTO: Measurements of vacuum and solar radiation-induced DNA damages within spores
- SUBTIL: Mutational spectra of Bacillus subtilis spores and plasmid DNA exposed to high vacuum and solar UV radiation in the space environment.
- PUR: Responses of Phage T7, Phage DNA and polycrystalline uracil to the space environment.
- ORGANIC: Evolution of organic matter in space.
- IMBP: Exposure of resting stages of terrestrial organisms to space conditions.
Expose-R complements the exobiology science package that is performed in Expose-E, a twin facility which has been in operation on EuTEF outside of Columbus since February 2008. Expose-E (and EuTEF) will be returned to Earth for detailed analysis of alterations to samples on Shuttle flight 17A, due for launch on 25 August 2009.
ISS general system information and activities *
In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above, the Columbus systems have been working well. Some regular maintenance activities have been executed by the crew and the Flight Control Team. Main points of interest are as follows:
Thermal Control System sampling
On 29 August ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Frank De Winne collected water samples from the Internal Thermal Control System in the Columbus Laboratory for return to earth.
A Columbus video camera was relocated to Node 2 from Columbus on 31 August to monitor cargo transfer operations form the MPLM, which was transported to the ISS as part of the STS-128 mission.
On 1 September Tim Kopra turned off all power and data connections to EuTEF prior to it’s removal from the External Payload Facility of Columbus as part of EVA-1 activities.
On 6 September Canadian Space Agency astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk and Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko deployed Bubble Detectors near the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter in the Columbus for measuring neutron flux. The detectors are part of the Russian Matroshka-R payload. (Not to be confused with ESA’s Matroshka payload)
Activities of ESA astronaut Frank De Winne
The following activities are in addition to the those undertaken by ESA astronaut Frank De Winne mentioned in later sections of the report.
Health status activities
The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks up until 28 August De Winne has filled in the weekly Food Frequency Questionnaires to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health. He also undertook a Russian medical operations blood draw to measure red blood cell count and a session of the WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows) experiment, which is used for testing cognitive abilities.
In connection with health status De Winne (and the rest of the crew) also undertake regular Private Medical Conferences with the ground, and daily exercise routines on the ISS. De Winne was involved in the last two weeks with downloading exercise data for the crew for downlinking to the ground.
During the last two weeks Frank De Winne collected and stowed items from the Japanese laboratory for return to Earth on STS-128 Shuttle Discovery. This included water samples from the Water Recovery and Management system and Internal Thermal Control System, surface samples using Microbial Detection Sheets and 12 radiation dosimeters. De Winne also took air samples in the Service Module. On 11 September De Winne carried out a Japanese robotic arm simulation in the Kibo laboratory and also carried out a standard 3-hr emergency descent drill in the Soyuz 19S spacecraft with Bob Thirsk and Roman Romanenko, using computer simulation.
STS-128 Shuttle Discovery launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center at 23:59 local time on 28 August (05:59 CEST on 29 August) on ISS assembly mission 17A. Discovery has a seven person crew, which includes ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang on his second mission to the ISS following the European Celsius mission in December 2006. The other Shuttle crew members, all representing NASA, are Shuttle Commander Fredrick Sturckow, Pilot Kevin Ford, and Mission Specialists Patrick Forrester, Jose Hernandez, John Olivas, and Nicole Stott who replaces Timothy Kopra as an ISS Flight Engineer. Discovery’s principal payload is a European-built Multipurpose Logistics Module.
Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre
During the Shuttle’s R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre prior to docking ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Mike Barratt took high resolution digital photos with 400mm and 800mm lenses. During the manoeuvre at a distance of about 180 m from the station, the photographers had around 90 seconds to take images of all thermal protection tile areas and door seals on Shuttle Discovery, which were downlinked for launch debris assessment.
Space Shuttle Discovery docked to Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 at the forward docking port of the European-built Node 2 on 31 August at 02:54 (CEST). Following relevant leak checks of the docking vestibule, and additional general post-docking procedures, hatches were opened and the traditional crew welcome ceremony took place. The failure of a vernier thruster on Shuttle Discovery some time after launch, led to over 231kg of extra propellant being used during Shuttle docking. The unavailability of the Vernier Reaction Control System throughout the mission meant that certain plans were revised accordingly including the cancellation of a water dump from the Shuttle on Flight Day 6 (as ~60kg of propellant would have been required).
After docking Gennady Padalka and Nicole Stott transferred Stott’s Soyuz seat liner to the Soyuz TMA-14 and Tim Kopra’s was removed and stowed in Shuttle Discovery. Stott is now officially an ISS crew member and Kopra is now officially a Shuttle crew member. Stott’s Russian Sokol spacesuit (for use in Soyuz) was also leak checked.
MPLM relocation to Node 2 and ingress
On 31 August the European-built Multipurpose Logistics Module (MPLM) was manoeuvred by robotic arm from the Shuttle’s cargo bay to the Earth-facing port of the European-built Node 2. Kevin Ford was the primary operator of the Space Station’s robotic arm assisted by Mike Barratt. When the MPLM was close enough to the docking port ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra completed the docking sequence from inside Node 2. ESA astronauts Christer Fuglesang and Frank De Winne hereafter carried out activities for opening and entering the MPLM. The area between the Node 2 and MPLM hatches was pressurised, a leak check was carried out and the Node 2 hatch was opened. Electricity and data cables were connected along with additional manual and computer configuration prior to entering the MPLM.
MPLM bolt issue
Whilst docking the MPLM to the ISS one of the 16 docking bolts exhibited excessive torque though remained within allowed limits. Following ground testing of the suspect bolt after a control panel installation by Bob Thirsk, the bolt was commanded to retract for the remainder of the mission but reached its torque threshold limit, which stopped it turning. This would not allow for eventual MPLM unberthing. On 5 September Mike Barratt and Bob Thirsk replaced a powered bolt to allow the future unberting to take place.
Spacewalk 1 (Olivas, Stott)
All the spacewalks were preceded by standard procedures including the overnight camp out of the EVA astronauts in the Airlock at a reduced pressure and pre-breathing pure oxygen to remove nitrogen from their bodies. Spacewalk 1 was carried out by NASA astronauts John Olivas and Nicole Stott. Attired in their Extravehicular Mobility Suits (EMUs) the astronauts started the EVA from the airlock just before midnight (CEST) on 1 September. The first task was to remove an old Ammonia Tank Assembly from the P1 truss and stow it on the Stations robotic arm until Spacewalk 2. After this had been completed the astronauts headed to the upper section of the External Payload Facility of the Columbus Laboratory and deinstalled the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF). This ESA facility has been undertaking a suite of experiments (See EuTEF above) for the past 1 ½ years. Once this was stowed in the Shuttle’s cargo bay the astronauts returned to the lower section of the External Payload Facility of Columbus and removed NASA’s MISSE 6 materials experiments (See MISSE 6A and 6B above). These containers were similarly stowed in the Shuttle’s cargo bay for return to Earth. The 6 hr 35 min spacewalk concluded at 06:24 on 2 September. Robotic arm procedures supporting the spacewalk were carried out by Kevin Ford and Bob Thirsk.
Spacewalk 2 (Olivas, Fuglesang)
Spacewalk 2 was carried out by ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang and NASA astronaut John Olivas. Attired in their Extravehicular Mobility Suits (EMUs) the astronauts started the EVA from the airlock just after midnight (CEST) on 4 September. The first task was to remove a new Ammonia Tank Assembly from the Shuttle Payload Bay and install it on the P1 truss section. The old Ammonia Tank Assembly, which was still attached to the Station’s robotic arm from the previous EVA was removed and attached in the Shuttle’s Payload Bay for return to Earth. Fuglesang was attached to the Shuttle’s robotic arm during the task. During the EVA a grapple bar was also installed on the S1 truss Ammonia Tank Assembly as well as a number of smaller get ahead tasks. The planned task of routing and connecting a heater cable for Pressurized Mating Adapter 3 could not take place as the cable and its routing path were discovered not to be in the correct configuration for the current orientation of the mating adaptor. The EVA was concluded after 6h 39min. After subsequently looking into an alternative routing path for the heater cable, no action is currently planned, which may lead to some condensation within the mating adaptor.
Spacewalk 3 (Olivas, Fuglesang)
Spacewalk 3 was carried out by ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang and NASA astronaut John Olivas. Attired in their Extravehicular Mobility Suits (EMUs) the astronauts started the EVA from the airlock at 22:39 (CEST) on 5 September. During the EVA Fuglesang and Olivas deployed a Payload Attach System on the S3 truss; replaced a Rate Gyro assembly used in ISS orientation on the S0 truss; and installed 2 GPS antennas; laid cabling across Node 1 in preparation for the arrival of the European-built Node 3; and removed a damaged slide wire. There was a problem with connecting one channel of the avionics cables for Node 3 and this is being looked into. The EVA was concluded at 05:40 (CEST) on 6 September.
MPLM/Shuttle cargo transfers including ESA’s Materials Science Laboratory and MELFI freezer
Many important pieces of equipment and supplies were brought up on Shuttle Discovery and transferred to the ISS in the past two weeks. The cargo transfers were orchestrated by ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang. Major items include a MELFI freezer unit supplied to JAXA, ESA’s Materials Science Laboratory which is housed in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack, and NASA’s Fluids Integrated Rack. ESA astronauts Christer Fuglesang and Frank De Winne transferred and installed these 3 racks on 2 September, MELFI to the Kibo Laboratory and the other two racks to the Destiny Laboratory. Other major items that were transferred include the “COLBERT” treadmill exercise device, a new crew quarters (in Kibo) and the Atmosphere Revitalization System, which will eventually be installed in the European-built Node 3 module, which arrives at the ISS in February. The crew quarters was outfitted and readied for use by Mike Barratt.
MPLM return preparations
On 7 September ESA astronauts Frank De Winne and Christer Fuglesang prepared the MPLM for unberthing following completion of cargo transfers. After removing emergency fire fighting equipment and lighting units the astronauts exited the MPLM and the module was deactivated. Cabling was removed, hatches were closed and the interhatch area was depressurized and leak checked. After Christer Fuglesang and Nicole Stott carried out pre-unberthing procedures, Kevin Ford and Jose Hernandez grappled the MPLM with the Station’s robotic arm, unberthed the MPLM and manoeuvred it into the Shuttle’s cargo bay.
Shuttle undocking and landing
On 8 September following the traditional crew farewell ceremony, air ducting into the Shuttle was removed and the ISS/Shuttle hatches were closed. After the usual leak check was performed the Shuttle undocked at 21:26 (CEST). Tim Kopra replaced Nicole Stott on Discovery’s return journey. Landing was delayed due to adverse weather conditions and the landing site was eventually shifted from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Edwards Air Force Base, in California. Landing took place at 17:53 local time on 11 September (02:53 CEST on 12 September).
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched the first H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) towards the ISS on 10 September from the Tanegashima launch site in Japan. This new ISS logistics spacecraft was put into orbit by a Japanese H-IIB launch vehicle, also on its first flight. The spacecraft was successfully activated after being put into orbit and it is now on its journey to catch up with the ISS carrying about 3.5 tonnes of supplies and equipment. The HTV is scheduled to be berthed to the ISS on 17 September. This will not be automatic, ESA astronaut Frank De Winne will be one of the astronauts responsible for capturing the HTV by robotic arm and berthing it to the European-built Node 2 module of the ISS.
From 2 September Frank De Winne and Nicole Stott went through simulations of tracking and robotic arm capture and procedures for the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), which launched on 10 September. They used the ROBoT onboard trainer, which includes graphics software, laptops and hand controllers and carried out a session including team training and individual training. On 3 September Frank successfully completed the check out the Command Panel of the HTV for proximity operations, using an HTV ground simulator at the Tanegashima Space Center Ground Station in Japan.
Air Quality Monitor
Frank De Winne, Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott undertook sampling sessions with the new Air Quality Monitor on in the past two weeks. This device is being used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere. This new technology is being evaluated over the next few months.
During the two week period until 11 September Frank De Winne, Bob Thirsk, Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott serviced the Water Processor Assembly of the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), offloading water and then flushing the system. De Winne also carried out Water Processor Assembly sample analysis on 30 August using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer. Troubleshooting of the previously failed Oxygen Generator Assembly also continued during this two-week period. On 4 September Tim Kopra supported the calibration of a pressure sensor. The following day Frank De Winne and Mike Barratt replaced an inlet screen of the Water Orbital Replacement Unit.
Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
ESA astronaut Frank De Winne placed Portable Clinical Blood Analyzer measurement pouches in the European-built MELFI freezer on 3 September. These were from Mike Barratt’s sessions of ESA’s SOLO experiment. Two days later De Winne took documentary photographs of surface samples, which he took in the Japanese laboratory and stowed them in MELFI. In the past two weeks blood, urine and saliva samples from NASA’s Nutrition and Integrated immune experiments were stored in the European-built MELFI freezer along with fixation tubes from JAXA’s Space Seed experiment. Nicole Stott also transferred biomedical and microbial samples to the Shuttle-based GLACIER freezer for return to Earth.
Progress 34P water transfer
The remaining water from The Progress 34P spacecraft water tanks was transferred to the ISS from 1 – 2 September. The process was initiated by Gennady Padalka and finalised by Roman Romanenko.
Amateur Radio on the ISS
Frank De Winne conducted a live link with students at the Vrije Basisschool, in De Haan, Belgium on 2 September, using the amateur radio equipment in the Service Module of the ISS.
Orbital debris from was monitored during this two-week reporting period though eventually no avoidance manoeuvres were necessary. The first debris monitored from 2 September was from an Ariane 5 launcher, the other debris monitored from 7 September was from a Chinese Fengyun 1C satellite.
(*)These activities are highlights of the past week and do not include the majority of standard periodic operational/maintenance activities on the ISS or additional research activities not mentioned previously. Information compiled with the assistance of NASA sources.
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
Weekly reports compiled by ESA's Human Spaceflight Coordination Office.
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