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Science & Exploration

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

25 September 2009

This is ISS status report No 51 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 from the ISS Utilisation Department.

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 18 September application software updates for the Biolab facility and Yeast experiment were successfully performed from ground. The rack was activated on 23 September for check out, following the latest Columbus software transition. The Yeast experiment, which will be processed for a number of days in Biolab will be launched on Soyuz 20S on 30 September and returned with Soyuz 18S, which is due to land in Kazakhstan on 11 October. 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 tentatively be one of the next experiments to take place in the Biolab facility. This 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, which was the first experiment to take place in Biolab, has been deferred until spring 2010. This will take place after the science samples of the experiment are launched in conditioned state on Shuttle flight 19A. The necessary Experiment Containers for WAICO have been stowed on-orbit since November 2008. WAICO deals with the effect that gravity has on the spiralling motion (circumnutation) that occurs in plant (Arabidopsis) roots. It is suspected that this spiralling mechanism is an internal mechanism in the plant, independent of the influence of gravity.

European Drawer Rack
On 24 September a checkout of the European Drawer Rack and its Video Management Unit was successfully performed, following the latest Columbus software transition. 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 the conclusion of 3 ½ months of successful experiment runs in July. The Processing Unit of the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility was returned to Earth on Shuttle Endeavour (STS-127, 2J/A) on 31 July.

European Physiology Modules

The rack was activated on 23 September for check-out, following the latest Columbus software transition. The European Physiology Modules has been in use in the two weeks up to 25 September in connection with experiment procedures. The following experiments have recently used functions of the European Physiology Modules rack in the Columbus laboratory:

  • 3D Space
    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.


  • SOLO
    On 21 September ESA Astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Frank De Winne started his first session of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment. During this first six-day session De Winne will consume a low-salt diet, logging what he eats and drinks on a daily basis. On 24 September ISS Flight Engineer Nicole Stott retrieved the Portable Clinical Blood Analyzer from the MELFI (Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer for ISS) and blood sampling was carried out on De Winne. Urine samples were also provided with all samples being stored in MELFI and body mass measurements for De Winne were taken using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device in Human Research Facility 1 in the Columbus laboratory. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight. After the first session is complete, De Winne will undertake a second session of the SOLO experiment with a normal ISS salt-level diet.


  • Integrated Cardiovascular Frank De Winne assisted Nicole Stott as crew Medical Officer in undertaking her first session of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment starting on 15 September. This included 24-hr blood pressure measurement using ESA’s Cardiopres device, 48-hr ECG measurement with a holter device and 48-hr activity measurement using an Actiwatch. Cardiopres data was downloaded to the European Physiology Modules rack and then to a Human Research Facility laptop on 21 September. Other data was downloaded directly to the Human Research Facility laptop. On 25 September De Winne re-downloaded the data of the 17 September session, since only part of the earlier download was received on the ground.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
Vibrations measurements were performed on 17 September for the HTV berthing. A checkout of the Fluid Science Laboratory was successfully performed on 24 September, following the latest Columbus software transition. The Flight Acceptance Review for the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment has started and the launch is foreseen on a Progress flight mid 2010. This experiment will be studying emulsion properties. The hardware modifications for the implementation of the GeoFlow-2 experiment have been started in order to launch it still on a future Shuttle flight.

The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment is progressing well and the monthly data downlink is working perfectly. The DOSIS experiment will determine the nature and distribution of the radiation field inside European Columbus laboratory using different active and passive detectors spread around the laboratory. This is the first time that 'area dosimetry' is being undertaken on Columbus to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the module. DOSIS will continue to record the radiation environment in the Columbus laboratory for at least one year.

Kubik Incubator
After the HTV was berthed to the ISS on 17 September, unloading activities took place on 21/22 September. This included Kubik 6 Incubator hardware.

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 by Frank De Winne, now tentatively early in Increment 21 (mid October), after the series of STS-128, HTV-1 and Soyuz 20S and 18S flights. 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.

Foam Stability
Hardware for the Foam Stability experiment was delivered to the ISS on the first H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), which arrived at the ISS on 17 September. The project aims at the study of aqueous and non-aqueous foams in a weightless environment. The behaviour of foams in weightlessness and on Earth are very different, because the process of drainage is absent under weightless conditions. The effect/ enhancement of the foamability of liquid solutions without this drainage effect of gravity is investigated. Other fundamental questions addressed are: how long can those foams be stable? What is the role of solid particles in the liquid in water foam stabilization? Is it possible to create very “wet” foams in weightlessness? Frank De Winne is scheduled to undertake the first experiment session on 26 September.

On 21 September Frank De Winne carried out ESA’s Lesson-2 ‘Take your classroom into space’ educational demonstration in the Columbus laboratory during a live link to secondary school children from the ISS. The schoolchildren located at four science museums in Barcelona (Spain), Thessaloniki (Greece), Milan (Italy) and Mechelen (Belgium) simultaneously followed De Winne's demonstration. This activity was used to provide the students with an appreciation of the conditions of free fall using a demonstration about mass measurement (`Do objects have weight in space?’). Afterwards De Winne labelled and stowed the tape of the demonstration. The recording will be used to produce ESA multimedia educational material.

Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR)
On 19 September Frank De Winne conducted the first session with the new Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR) payload. After setting up the hardware, which includes a chest plate, headset with microphone, headphones, motion sensor and camera all connected to a laptop, De Winne conducted a speech recognition training session. With this complete he spent about 2.5 hrs using the WEAR hardware while performing a standard maintenance procedure.

This activity is demonstrating the usability of augmented reality technology on the ISS. The system will be worn by astronauts and will assist them when performing onboard tasks. When carrying out these tasks WEAR will allow the astronaut to consult procedures and manuals hands-free, with relevant information for the assigned task being displayed on a partially see-through screen before the astronaut’s eyes. The astronaut will control the system via voice commands. The main objective of this experiment involves assessing the maturity, suitability and overall usefulness of the technologies used in WEAR: object recognition, speech recognition, barcode reading, augmented reality and integration of multiple data sources such as the ISS Inventory Management System. The assessment will be based in the improvement observed using WEAR on a standard Columbus maintenance procedure.

Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2
No activities were carried out with the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks up until 25 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
The water pump servicing activity for the European Modular Cultivation System was successfully performed on 14 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
Flight Engineers Frank De Winne and Bob Thirsk installed ESA’s Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument (SODI) hardware inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox on 23 September, after activating and inspecting the Glovebox. Hereafter they set up equipment in the Glovebox for the ‘Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids’ (IVIDIL) experiment, the first of three SODI experiments, which also includes the ‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’ (DSC) experiment and the Colloid experiment, which covers the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions. The SODI-IVIDIL experiment was uploaded on the STS-128/17A Shuttle Flight and the DSC and Colloid experiments will follow during subsequent Shuttle flights in the time frame until spring 2010.

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 ESA’s SODI experiment series.

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 had 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 had been operated continuously for more than 1.5 years following its installation and activation, and was returned to the ground with STS-128/17A Shuttle Flight on 11 September (12 September CEST) for detailed analysis and evaluation of the space samples.

The scope of each individual experiment is as follows

  • DEBIE-2: The ‘DEBris In orbit Evaluator’ was designed to be a standard in-situ space debris and micrometeoroid monitoring instrument.
  • DOSTEL: The DOSimetric radiation TELescope is a small radiation telescope, which was designed to gather scientific data on the radiation environment outside the ISS.
  • EuTEMP: This multi-input thermometer measured EuTEF temperatures during transfer to and from the outside of Columbus from the Shuttle cargo bay.
  • EVC: The Earth Viewing Camera is a fixed-pointed Earth-observation camera.
  • EXPOSE-E: This is a series of exobiology experiments.
  • FIPEX: This sensor helped to build up a picture of the atmospheric environment in low-Earth orbit by measuring atomic oxygen.
  • MEDET: The Materials Exposure and Degradation ExperimenT (MEDET) acquired scientific data to help 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 studied the interactions between spacecraft and the space environment in low earth orbit, with reference to electrostatic charging and discharging.
  • 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.

SOLAR was put in Pointing Mode for the opening of the new Sun observation window on 15 September.

The platform was put into safe configuration on 16 September for an ISS propellant line purge, on 17 September for HTV berthing and again on 21 September for Progress M-67/34P undocking. On 22 September SOLAR was put in Survival Mode for the latest Columbus software transition. During this activity all SOLAR files on the Columbus Mass Memory Unit were erased and had to be uploaded from ground causing some delays. Sun observation could resume the following day after direct commanding from ground was performed as a work-around. Despite some orbits lost due to a software failure and the interruptions for the above mentioned activities, science acquisition continued till the end of the Sun observation window on 25 September. The platform is currently in survival mode.

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.

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 and is now installed 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.

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 which will be uploaded on the Progress 35P flight, which is due for launch on 15 October. 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. In the long-term Matroshka may again be accommodated 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)
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.

Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Human Research Facility 1
Human Research Facility 1 was activated on 21 September for data downlink from NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment. It was activated again on 24 September in support of body mass measurement for ESA’s SOLO experiment and activities for NASA’s Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Control on Return from ISS (CCISS) experiment with Flight Engineer Barratt as the experiment subject. The following day the facility was activated for downloading data from the CCISS experiment.

Human Research Facility 2
The facility was activated on 12, 19 and 20 September in support of the US Nutrition experiment. On 12 September a blood draw was performed on Nicole Stott who also started 24 hours urine collection. On 18 September Frank de Winne set up the hardware for another session of the experiment for himself and Bob Thirsk, which included 24 hours urine collections starting on 19 September and blood draws for De Winne and Thirsk on 19 and September respectively. Blood samples were centrifuged in Human Research Facility 2 and stowed in the MELFI Freezer. Urine samples were also stowed in MELFI. The facility was activated again on 25 September in support of ESA’s SOLO experiment.

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 was performed in Expose-E, a twin facility which had been in operation on EuTEF outside of Columbus since February 2008 until EuTEF’s return to Earth with the STS-128/17A Shuttle Flight.

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:

  • Radiation dosimetry
    In addition to radiation dosimetry research taking place within ESA's DOSIS experiment (See above), on 12 September the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter radiation measurement device, was moved from the Columbus laboratory back to the Russian Service Module by Canadian Space Agency astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk. The following day Bob Thirsk and Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko collected and took readings from bubble detectors that had been placed near the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter in Columbus for comparison purposes. The bubble detectors, which are used for measuring neutron flux, are part of the Russian Matroshka-R payload. (Not to be confused with ESA’s Matroshka payload).


  • Columbus Control Centre
    On 15 September 21, 2009 staff at the Columbus Control Centre and other partner control centres were involved in a training session for NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Nicole Stott covering location and status of emergency equipment on the ISS. ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Gennady Padalka also assisted in the exercise.


  • Columbus software upgrade
    From 21-23 September, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Frank De Winne supported the upgrade of Columbus laboratory software to the new Cycle 12 software. De Winne loaded the new software onto one of the Columbus laptops and configured laptop settings. After rebooting the laptop De Winne carried out a telecommand and telemetry checkout.

Activities of ESA astronaut Frank De Winne

  • System and payload activities
    During the two weeks up until 25 August in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, Frank De Winne: undertook a checkout and familiarisation session with Nicole Stott of the Crew Medical Restraint System, which helps strap a crew member securely for administering medical assistance if necessary; carried out an inspection of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, and its Vibration Isolation System, which included lubricating relevant rails and rollers; and activated and checked out the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter in the Russian Service Module, to verify new hardware performance.


  • 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. From 14 August Frank De Winne, Bob Thirsk and NASA astronauts Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott (all Expedition 20 Flight Engineers) started and concluded a week long NASA SLEEP (Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure during Spaceflight) experiment, logging data from their Actiwatch devices to the Human Research Facility 1 laptop. This experiment monitors the crewmember’s sleep/wake patterns and light exposure. De Winne also assisted ISS Commander Gennady Padalka in undertaking the Russian cardiological experiment ‘Study of the Bioelectric Activity of the Heart at Rest’ along with Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko.


  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks up until 25 September De Winne has undertaken an On-Orbit Hearing Assessment; carried out a Periodic Fitness Evaluation, which includes taking blood pressure and ECG measurements on the CEVIS exercise bike; 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; and undertaken Russian biomedical urinalysis.

    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. De Winne also carried out the regular monthly refresher session of his Crew Medical Officer skills and assisted Mike Barratt in undertaking his Periodic Fitness Evaluation.


  • Other activities
    During the last two weeks Frank De Winne and the rest of the crew had their regular weekly planning conferences with the Mission Control Centres in Moscow, Houston and Oberpfaffenhofen, and a teleconference with Expedition 22 crewmembers. In addition De Winne: carried out a new style of emergency drill with Romanenko and Thirsk to prepare the Soyuz TMA-15/19S crew to become the primary responders in an emergency; participated in a Canadian Space Agency TV educational event with Thirsk, Barratt and Stott; and spent some time unloading the HTV and transferring cargo to the ISS with Thirsk, Barratt and Stott.

H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)

  • ISS preparations for HTV arrival
    Following the launch of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) first H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) on 10 September, preparations for its arrival continued on the ISS. On 12 September Frank De Winne set up equipment and thereafter he and Nicole Stott practiced Space Station robotic arm approach and grapple of a grapple fixture on Pressurised Mating Adaptor 3. This acted as a stand in for the capture manoeuvres on the HTV. On 14 and 15 September De Winne, Stott and Thirsk carried out simulations for HTV tracking and robotic arm capture using laptops, graphics software and a hand controller. De Winne, Stott and Thirsk also conducted simulation training of robotic arm operations once the HTV is berthed to the ISS. This will involve the Station’s robotic arm taking the Exposed Pallet from the HTV, and handing it over to the Japanese robotic arm, which will place the Exposed Pallet onto the Japanese laboratory’s Exposed Facility. On 16 September De Winne configured Japanese robotic arm equipment.


  • HTV in-orbit manoeuvres
    Whilst on its orbital flight towards the ISS, following its launch on 10 September, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) first H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) carried out a number of test manoeuvres to check that all HTV systems worked properly. On 12 September the HTV successfully performed a collision avoidance manoeuvre demonstration to show that it could move away from the ISS in an emergency during final rendezvous and docking. After successful analysis of the data, the HTV performed its first Height Adjustment Manoeuvre on 16 September to raise its orbit to between 305 - 324 km. The following day the HTV carried out additional manoeuvres to raise its altitude further and bring it to a distance of 5 km behind the ISS.


  • HTV docking
    After setting up and verifying relevant equipment with Bob Thirsk, Nicole Stott and Frank De Winne captured the HTV with the station’s principal robotic arm at 21:47 (CEST) on 17 September. After De Winne and Stott inspected the HTV’s berthing mechanism through the Earth-facing hatch of Node 2 for foreign debris, Bob Thirsk installed a camera system at the same Node 2 hatch to assist with HTV berthing. With this complete Nicole Stott and Frank De Winne berthed the HTV on the Earth-facing port of Node 2. With the HTV securely attached to the ISS the Station’s robotic arm released the HTV and grappled the Exposed Pallet on the HTV. While Stott and Thirsk were busy with these robotics procedures, De Winne pressurised the HTV/Node 2 interhatch area and leak checks were performed. Frank De Winne and Bob Thirsk then opened the Node 2 Earth-facing hatch and connected up power and data cables to the HTV. This continued the following day. Once the interhatch area was outfitted the hatch into the HTV was opened and handrails and portable fire fighting equipment was installed.


  • External payloads transfer - robotic arm activities
    On 22 September Frank De Winne and Nicole Stott manoeuvred the Japanese robotic arm on Kibo to the handover point to receive the External Pallet from the Space Station Remote Manipulator System. The following day, together with Bob Thirsk they used the Space Station’s principal robotic arm to extract the Exposed Pallet from the HTV’s Unpressurized Logistics Carrier, handed it over to the Japanese Robotic Manipulator System and berthed it to the Japanese laboratory’s Exposed Facility. On 24 September De Winne and Stott again used the Japanese robotic arm to transfer Japanese payloads from the Exposed Pallet to their relevant locations on Kibo’s Exposed Facility: Firstly the Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) and the Remote Atmospheric and Ionospheric Detection System (RAIDS), followed by the Superconducting Submillimeter-wave Limb-emission Sounder (SMILES). On 25 September the Exposed Pallet was moved by De Winne, Stott and Thirsk back to the HTV.

Node 3 Atmosphere Revitalisation System Rack
On 22 September De Winne, Thirsk and Barratt, relocated the older Atmosphere Revitalization System Rack from the Destiny laboratory to the Japanese Kibo laboratory. Hereafter they installed the new Atmosphere Revitalization System Rack, which was delivered on Shuttle Flight STS 128/17A in the same location in the Destiny laboratory. The new rack will be checked out for proper functioning prior to its relocation to the European-built Node 3 after its arrival at the ISS early next year. The following day Mike Barratt removed the Major Constituent Analyzer Data and Control Assembly from the older Atmosphere Revitalization System Rack and installed it in the new rack on 25 September.

Air Quality Monitor
Frank De Winne and Mike Barratt 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.

Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
From 14 – 17 September, Mike Barratt carried out checkout and setup work on the European-built MELFI 2 freezer, which was transported to the ISS on the STS-128 Shuttle flight. The work included inspection of MELFI’s cold storage drawers or dewars, inspecting the contents in stowage, and configuring MELFI from launch to operational configuration including removal of ice bricks for stowage outside of the freezer and swapping trays between dewars. On 22 September De Winne inserted two new fresh Icepac belts into the MELFI 1 freezer for protecting samples.

Solar array tracking test
On 15 September an auto tracking test of a Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (one of the principal joints which rotate the Stations solar arrays) was carried out. The test is the fifth in a series of tests to restore confidence in the joints operational performance with a view to auto-track mode being part of standard operating procedures.

Amateur Radio on the ISS
Frank De Winne conducted a live link with students at the Euro Space Center in Transinne, Belgium on 16 September, using the amateur radio equipment in the Service Module of the ISS. This formed part of the Belgian Space Week 2009, which took place from 14 – 18 September.

Treadmill with Vibration Isolation System (TVIS)
On 16 September Mike Barratt and Roman Romanenko carried out maintenance on the Treadmill with Vibration Isolation System in the Russian Service Module. They removed three springs from the front right stabiliser (a broken spring had been removed in June) and installed four new springs before closing the stabiliser and reinstalling it on the treadmill. A checkout was carried out the following day by Barratt.

ISS crew return preparations

  • Soyuz TMA-15 seat liner check
    Gennady Padalka, Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott donned their Russian Sokol spacesuits on 16 September and carried out a 30 minute fit check of their contoured seat liners in the Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft.


  • Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
    On 21/22 September Padalka carried out medical operation procedures whilst wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit in preparation for his return to gravity on 11 October, assisted by Roman Romanenko and supported by ground specialists. The suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the Russian crewmember would cope with exposure to gravity on return to Earth.


  • Anti-g suit fit-check
    Padalka and Barratt carried out a fit check of their protective Kentavr anti-g suits on 24 September. These suits help long-duration crewmember with the return into Earth’s gravity.

Progress M-67/34P undocking


  • Preparations
    On 17 September Gennady Padalka started preparations for undocking of Progress 34P on 21 September. He removed temperature sensor and telemetry equipment and carried out a urine transfer to one of the Progress’ tanks. The following day he activated Progress electronics and removed light fittings and ventilation ducting into the Service Module. After removing the quick disconnect clamps, which stabilise the Progress/ISS connection, with Romanenko, the Progress and Service Module hatches were closed and the standard leak check was performed.


  • Undocking
    Progress M-67/34P successfully undocked from the Service Module aft port on 21 September. Progress 34P will free-fly for several days to support a plasma observation experiment and is scheduled for a planned destructive re-entry on 27 September.

Orbital debris
Orbital debris was being monitored from 18 September though by the following day it was determined that no avoidance manoeuvres were necessary.

Other activities
Bob Thirsk supported testing of JAXA microgravity measurement apparatus by tapping the portside seat track in the Kibo laboratory. The data from this test will be compared with data from NASA’s Space Acceleration Measurement System. Gennady Padalka ran tests on CO2 sampling/return line in an Orlan spacesuit and fitted a backup gas sampling line. On 25 September the ISS crew went through a crew safety familiarisation exercise of quickly disconnecting and connecting data cable drag-through Quick Disconnects for Crew Quarters in the Japanese laboratory at the Node-2 port hatch.

(*)These activities are highlights of the past two weeks 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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