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ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report
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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

28 August 2009

This is ISS status report No. 49 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
No activities were carried out with the Biolab in the two weeks up until 28 August.

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 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 ArtEMISS-A experiment will be brought to the ISS on a similar 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.

The next run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment in Biolab will need to be deferred to a later stage when the science samples of the experiment can be launched in conditioned state on a future Shuttle flight (potentially 19A in spring 2010). The Experiment Containers are already stowed on-orbit since November 2008.

European Drawer Rack including the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility
No activities were carried out with the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks up until 28 August. The Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility is an advanced ISS research payload for the investigation of problems of protein crystallisation in space. The facility concluded the overall Protein experiment series on 11 July after a successful 3 ½ months period of science acquisition. It was hosted in the European Drawer Rack, which is a multi-user experiment facility that had been continuously active and providing power, data and temperature control to the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility during the experiment runs.

European Physiology Modules

On 24 August ISS Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk re-arranged the European Physiology Modules items and consolidated the storage configuration for the European Physiology Modules and for the European Transport Carrier stowage locations. On 26 August ESA astronaut Frank De Winne replaced a Hard Disk Drive from the Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module of the European Physiology Module facility with another from the NeuroSpat kit. The old hard disk was prepacked for return on Shuttle flight 17A. The Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module is a subsection of the European Physiology Modules facility, to be used for different types of non-invasive brain function investigations. The following experiments have recently used functions of the European Physiology Modules rack in the Columbus laboratory:

  • 3D Space
    ISS Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk carried out another science session of the 3D Space experiment on 19 August. This involved using paper instead of an electronic pen tablet, which cannot currently be located. ESA astronaut Frank De Winne assisted during the writing part of the experiment procedures. The following day ISS Flight Engineer Mike Barratt also undertook another session of the 3D Space experiment, this time being assisted by Bob Thirsk with the writing part of the exercise. The astronauts perform this experiment in a free-floating state.

    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 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.


  • Neurospat
    No further experiment procedures were carried out for Neurospat in the last two weeks. NeuroSpat investigates the ways in which crew members’ three-dimensional perception is affected by long-duration stays in weightlessness. NeuroSpat also serves as an experiment from the European Commission within the SURE project.


  • SOLO
    Between 15 and 19 August Mike Barratt successfully completed his second six-day session of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment. This second session is based on a low-salt diet. The first six-day session was based on a normal ISS salt level diet. The session entailed logging dietary intake, body mass measurements and taking blood and urine samplings in two blocks. Body Mass Measurements were taken on 17 and 19 August with the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in Human Research Facility 1. Blood samples were taken on 18 August and 24 hour urine collection was performed from 18 to 19 August. Samples were stowed in the European-built MELFI freezer and are planned to be returned on Earth on Shuttle Flight ULF3 STS-129. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
No activities were carried out with the Fluid science Laboratory in the two weeks up until 28 August. Geoflow scientific activities have already produced a significant amount of excellent scientific data for ongoing detailed analysis by the science team. 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 already started.

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
On 19 August ISS Flight Engineer Mike Barratt located a missing cable for an upcoming activity involving connecting the Pulmonary Function System to the CEVIS exercise cycle for performing oxygen uptake measurements. The cable was returned to its designated location.

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 28 August. 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
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was activated on 19 August and another run of the InSPACE-2 experiment was performed by Frank De Winne. On 20 August, Mike Barratt completed the stow activity powering off the Microgravity Science Glovebox video system and removing and stowing all experiment hardware plus the Microgravity Science Glovebox video equipment, including remaining video tapes. The purpose of the InSPACE-2 experiment is to obtain a better understanding of the interplay of magnetic, surface and repulsion forces between structures in fluids that change properties in response to magnetic fields.

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 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 EuTEF platform has been operated continuously with one experiment powered down having completed the first part of its science objectives. EuTEF will be retrieved from the external Columbus platform via an EVA during the STS-128 / 17A mission with ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang (scheduled for launch on 29 August) and 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 continues to successfully perform data acquisition. The instrument is being power cycled when required in order to avoid the occurrence of empty science packets after a certain amount of time.
  • DOSTEL: The DOSimetric radiation TELescope is a small radiation telescope. It continues to gather 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. Images could be acquired on 20 August, though the instrument was switched off to cool down by ESA’s Erasmus User Support and Operations Centre in the Netherlands after a few hours. Though over-currents occurred on 22 and 23 August, images could be received at the Columbus Control Centre. Images were successfully transferred to Erasmus on 23 August. The instrument is currently switched off.
  • EXPOSE-E: This series of exobiology experiments is continuing to acquire scientific data. On 20 August valves and lids of the instrument were closed, in preparation for return on Shuttle Flight STS-128 17A.
  • FIPEX: This sensor is helping to build up a picture of the atmospheric environment in low-Earth orbit by measuring atomic oxygen. Following an unexpected interruption of the science scrip on 14 August, which was due to a link error between EuTEF and FIPEX, a new script was started on 19 August and science acquisition could be resumed. Sensors were switched off on 23 August. Commanding was stopped on 26 August due to wrong reference parameters. Science acquisition is currently not ongoing, in preparation for ammonia venting.
  • MEDET: The Materials Exposure and Degradation ExperimenT (MEDET) is continuing to acquire scientific data. Parameters were updated on 17 August to change the acquisition frequency for spectrometer measurements from every 12 hours to every 2 hours and to change the accumulation time of the spectrometer measurements. The instrument was power cycled and rebooted on 19 August to recover from an issue with the spectrometer measurements. On 25 August parameter commanding was performed to reset the spectrometer values as were set before the EuTEF data error. 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. Long Duration Tests was performed from 11 to 16 and from 16 to 19 August. A new Long Duration Test started on 19 August and it was interrupted on 23 August in preparation of Shuttle STS-128 17A docking. The instrument is currently switched off.
  • 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 is currently not acquiring scientific data due to a shaft drive motor problem. An unsuccessful attempt to carry out the Ball Bearing experiment took place on 6 August. Tribolab is currently in stand-by mode.

The platform is currently in survival mode, after the last Sun observation window ended on 25 August: science data acquisition has been successfully performed with specifics scripts run daily until the end of the visibility window. SOLAR was put into safe configuration on 18 August for thrusters test and again on 19 August for solar array testing, and was brought back into operational mode on 20 August. Measurements and calibration for the SOLSPEC instrument were performed on 19 and 20 August.

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 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 due for launch on 29 August 2009. 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 will be 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. After on-orbit commissioning the first experiment runs are planned with the return of the first two sample cartridges 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.

European science inside the Russian ISS Segment

In its experimental set up the Matroshka experiments consist of a simulated human body (head and torso) called the Phantom equipped with several active and passive radiation dosimeters. In October 2009 the Phantom will be relocated to the Japanese Kibo laboratory and equipped with a set of new passive dosimeters. JAXA have already confirmed the technical accommodation feasibility assessments conclusion and now concrete implementation steps and bi-/trilateral agreements with JAXA and Russia can be envisaged for another experiment run until mid 2010. Roscosmos concurs to the proposed trilateral agreement and also JAXA’s concurrence has been received. Matroshka will be transferred in the September timeframe from the Russian ISS Segment to Kibo. After that in the long-term Matroshka may be accommodated again on an external ISS platform to measure cosmic radiation levels in Low Earth Orbit which are of relevance for EVA activities.

GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
On 21 August ISS Commander Gennady Padalka performed a functional check and high-frequency calibration of a spectrum analyzer, which is part of the Global Transmission Service set of equipment. The spectrum analyser was used on 12 August in the Service Module to check for damage to feeder circuits of a Kurs antenna. The Global Transmission Service was temporarily deactivated on 31 May though negotiations with Russian representatives are ongoing for reactivation of the instrument and continuation of the so-called test mode. GTS will be tentatively a cooperative European-Russian experiment on ISS. 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.

Kubik Incubator
On 21 August, Mike Barratt, assisted by Gennady Padalka, transferred the European Kubik incubator from the Service Module to the Columbus laboratory for reconfiguration prior to its return to earth on flight STS-128 in September. Reconfiguration included removal of a Kubik Interface Plate insert and electronic box.

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.

Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus laboratory

Human Research Facility 1
Human Research Facility 1 was activated on 17 and 19 August for body mass measurements with the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in support of the SOLO experiment. On 21 August the facility was activated again for checkout following the replacement of Command and Monitoring Unit 1 of the Data Management System, which was accessible by tilting down the Human Research Facility 1 rack. Frank De Winne worked with Columbus Control Centre on this activity. The rack was tilted back to its normal position after good data was received on the ground.

Human Research Facility 2
The facility was activated on 18 August in support of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment. Blood samples from ISS Flight Engineer Mike Barratt were centrifuged in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 and stowed in the MELFI Freezer.

ISS general system information and activities *

Columbus laboratory
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:

  • Data Management System
    On 21 August ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Frank De Winne replaced the failed Command and Monitoring Unit 1 of the Data Management System in the Columbus Laboratory, which he accessed by tilting down NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 rack. De Winne carried out the replacement in coordination with staff at the Columbus Control Centre who were monitoring the replacement via video. After the replacement De Winne tilted the Human Research Facility rack back to its normal position. The new unit is functioning well.


  • Columbus Control Centre teleconference
    During the two weeks up until 28 August ESA astronaut Frank De Winne and other ISS Expedition crewmembers have taken part in the weekly teleconferences with ESA staff at the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany.


  • Storage configuration
    On 24 August Canadian Space Agency astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk consolidated the storage for the European Physiology Modules facility and the European Transport Carrier.


  • Computer and laptop reboot
    On 28 August De Winne completed the monthly reboot of laptops in the Columbus laboratory and all US laptops and recorded the battery state-of-charge.

Activities of ESA astronaut Frank De Winne

  • System and payload activities
    During the two weeks up until 28 August in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, Frank De Winne: carried out periodic maintenance on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device and its Vibration Isolation System and the CEVIS cycle ergometer (with Bob Thirsk) including lubricating relevant parts; configured a Node 2 avionics rack for the arrival and installation of the COLBERT treadmill; carried out the periodic inspection of Emergency Light Power Supplies in the US segment of the ISS with NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Tim Kopra; conducted the monthly safety inspection and audit of portable fire detection and suppression equipment on the ISS; relocated the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter (the principal ISS radiation measurement device) to the Columbus laboratory from the Russian Service Module; removed (for relevant activities) and the next day reinstalled alignment guides from the Fluids and Combustion Facility in the US laboratory; worked with ground staff in checking out the Hot Backup mode of the Mobile Servicing System; carried out initial troubleshooting steps to resolve a problem in downlinking HD video via the Multi-Purpose Converter; uninstalled and removed a temperature and humidity sensor from JAXA’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility; and changed out a receptacle and hose in the US Waste and Hygiene Compartment.


  • Experiment activities
    In addition to the European science programme detailed above ESA astronaut Frank De Winne has carried out additional science activities in support of the science programmes of ESA’s ISS partners. Frank De Winne, Bob Thirsk and NASA astronaut Mike Barratt (all Expedition 20 Flight Engineers) concluded a week long NASA SLEEP (Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure during Spaceflight) experiment, which had started on 10 August. The week long session included logging data from their Actiwatch devices to the Human Research Facility 1 laptop. The three astronauts started a new week-long session on 24 August. NASA astronaut Tim Kopra continued an extended period of the experiment throughout the two-week period. This experiment monitors the crewmember’s sleep/wake patterns and light exposure. From 24 – 27 August De Winne and Thirsk performed and filmed educational demonstrations for NASA. This covered demonstrations of conservation of linear momentum, rotation, centre of mass, moments of inertia, centripetal force and acceleration, surface tension and wave motion.


  • 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 Periodic Health Status check with Bob Thirsk on 24 August, with both astronauts assisting each other. This included blood pressure measurement. On 27 August De Winne undertook a Russian body mass measurement with Bob Thirsk and ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, and a Russian Biochemical Urinalysis with the rest of the crew the following day.

    In addition De Winne carried out the regular monthly refresher session of his Crew Medical Officer skills. On 21 August he assisted Tim Kopra in undertaking a US Periodic Fitness Evaluation, which includes taking blood pressure and ECG measurements on the CEVIS exercise bike. On 24 August De Winne similarly assisted ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Gennady Padalka in undertaking a Russian physical fitness evaluation on the TVIS treadmill. 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.


  • Other activities
    During the last two weeks Frank and the crew had their regular planning conferences with Mission Control in Houston and Moscow, and covered issues such as use of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, as well as details relating to the upcoming STS-128 mission. On 20 and 24 August De Winne was also involved with relocating equipment in the Columbus laboratory, the European-built Node 2 and the US and Japanese laboratories to make space for items arriving on the STS-128 and HTV missions. On 28 August the crew recorded a 90-minute discussion on living and working on the ISS as an international partnership.

STS-128/17A mission

  • Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre preparations
    Barratt and Padalka completed their fifth R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre skill training on 17 August. This involved photographing a Shuttle cutout inside the ISS with a D2X digital still camera using 400 and 800 mm lenses. This exercise is in preparation for photographing the Shuttle Orbiter during its pitch manoeuvre during rendezvous and docking in August. During the manoeuvre at a distance of about 180 m from the station, the photographers will only have around 90 seconds to take high-resolution digital photographs of all thermal protection tile areas and door seals on Shuttle Discovery, to be downlinked for launch debris assessment.


  • Space Station robotic arm procedures
    In preparation for the 17A mission, Barratt and Kopra supported the ground in checking out robotics mechanisms, including walking the Station’s principal robotic arm from a Power and Data Grapple Fixture on the US laboratory to one on Node 2 on 17 August


  • Prepacking
    Frank De Winne, Bob Thirsk, Mike Barratt and Tim Kopra were involved in several sessions during the last two weeks collecting and prepacking items for return on the STS-128 mission. This included De Winne prepacking the supply tank of the Fluid Servicing System and Bob Thirsk removing and stowing four ISS lockers from EXPRESS Rack 4 to make way for the equipment arriving on STS-128.


  • Shuttle launch delay
    Launch of STS-128 Space Shuttle on ISS flight 17A was delayed until 05:59 (CEST) on 29 August (23:59 on 28 August local time) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch attempt on 25 August was scrubbed due to bad weather conditions and the following day due to a fill-and-drain-valve problem. The mission will bring a seven-member crew to the station, which includes ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang and includes transport of a European-built Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, which will be carrying cargo that includes a European-built MELFI freezer and ESA’s Materials Science Laboratory.

Air Quality Monitor
Frank De Winne undertook sampling sessions with the new Air Quality Monitor on 17 and 26 August and Bob Thirsk undertook a session on 19 August. 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.

Regenerative ECLSS
During the two week period until 28 August Bob Thirsk serviced the Water Processor Assembly of the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), offloading water and then flushing the system and Frank De Winne has carried out the regular inspection/cleaning of the Potable Water Dispenser. Samples were collected during this period from the Potable Water Dispenser in order to carry out microbiology analysis. Bob Thirsk and Frank De Winne both carried out Water Processor Assembly sample analysis on 18 and 24 August respectively using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer. On 18 August Mike Barratt carried out a new sampling procedure on samples from the Potable Water Dispenser. This procedure called SWAB (Surface, Water and Air Biocharacterization) uses advanced molecular techniques to comprehensively evaluate microbes on board the space station.

On 18 August Frank De Winne and Bob Thirsk replaced an Oxygen Generator System pump filter as part of troubleshooting the failed Oxygen Generator Assembly. Following a subsequent leak check the maintenance proved to be unsuccessful as pressures were still too high. Following a ground review of the situation Bob Thirsk and Tim Kopra replaced a Water Orbital Replaceable Unit on 21 August. Pressures across the pump now have normal values.

US Airlock Activities
On 17 August an over current caused a trip in a Remote Power Controller, which powers the principal shell heater covering the circumference of the airlock’s Crew Lock. The secondary heaters can deal with the situation in the near future.

From 15 August NASA astronaut Mike Barratt inserted two more ICEPAC belts into the drawers of the European-developed MELFI freezer. These ICEPACs allow for samples to be returned to Earth on the Space Shuttle with the samples inside still frozen.

Russian Thermal Control System
Roman Romanenko completed replacement of condensate lines on the Russian SOTR Thermal Control System in the Service Module between on 17 August as part of major in flight maintenance.

Mini Research Module 2 preparations
Romanenko and Padalka installed communications cabling behind wall panels in the Russian Service Module on 17 August. This cabling will provide telephone communications to crew members inside the Russian Mini Research Module 2 after its docking to the upper docking port of the Service Module in November.

BITS 12 Telemetry System
ISS Commander Gennady Padalka carried out troubleshooting on the central processor subsystem of the BITS2-12 onboard telemetry measurement system in the Service Module between 17 and 25 August. As part of the troubleshooting he replaced a data storage unit and a ROM unit.

EVA simulation training
On 18 August Mike Barratt used new software to carry out training using the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue: the propulsive backpack that EVA astronauts can use if they become detached from the ISS during a spacewalk. He followed this with a simulation training session to refresh his knowledge on the Emergency Caution and Warning System on the Extravehicular Mobility Units, the US EVA suits.

HTV preparations
On 27 August Frank De Winne set up the Hardware Command Panel of the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) in the Japanese Kibo laboratory in advance of the HTV’s arrival. De Winne assembled the command panel with three power/data cables which were carefully secured.

Additional tasks
During the two week period until 28 August: Romanenko replaced Fire Detection and Suppression System equipment in the Zarya module that had reached the end of its certified life; Mike Barratt and Bob Thirsk relocated 31 Contingency Water Containers to the Japanese laboratory in preparation for installation of a rack in the US laboratory; Bob Thirsk replaced a Bus 1553 card in a Japanese robotic arm laptop and supported subsequent communications checkouts; Mike Barratt serviced the Combustion Integrated Rack in the US laboratory to support continuation of test point activities for the Multi-user Drop Combustion Apparatus; Gennady Padalka updated crew support laptops with new antivirus software; and the Japanese Mission Control Centre in Tsukuba has been troubleshooting the lack of medium rate data transfer from the MAXI (Monitor of All-sky X-Ray Image) external payload. The Russian SKV-1 air conditioner is also now fully functional after around two years of inactivity.

(*)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.

Martin Zell
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department

Markus Bauer
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer

Weekly reports compiled by ESA's Human Spaceflight Coordination Office.

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