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

17 July 2009

This is ISS status report No. 46 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 WAICO experiment
No activities were carried out with the Biolab facility in the two week period until 17 July. 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 part 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. Meanwhile the YEAST and ArtEMISS-A experiments will be tentatively executed in Biolab prior to the WAICO-2 experiment due to mission logistics.

European Drawer Rack including the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility
The European Drawer Rack has been continuously active and providing power, data and temperature control to the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility, which concluded the overall Protein experiment series on 11 July after a successful 3 ½ months period of science acquisition. Image recording continued during this period and science acquisition was successfully performed in the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility. The facility did experience spontaneous reboots on 5 and 8 July, but this had very little impact on the science due to rapid responses of the science and ops teams.

The final science run of the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility was concluded on 11 July on reactor 1 and now all the experiment reactors are being kept at a controlled temperature until their return on STS-127 Shuttle Endeavour, which docked to the ISS on 17 July. Reactors 2 and 4 are exhibiting the presence of good and stable crystals, which will undergo detailed analysis in various European science labs after return to earth. Ground teams are consolidating the imagery archive of the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility, carrying out regular replays and downlinks of the Video Management Unit of the European Drawer Rack. At this stage data integrity shows 99.1% good images.

The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility hosting currently the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility, which is an advanced ISS research payload for the investigation of problems of protein crystallisation in space.

European Physiology Modules

The following experiments have recently used functions of the European Physiology Modules in the Columbus laboratory.

  • 3D Space
    On 13 July ESA astronaut Frank De Winne and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk completed their second session of the 3D Space Experiment, though ground teams are assessing if there may be any impact on the science as the astronauts’ did not achieve a completely free-floating state. On 15 July JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata successfully performed his fourth session of the experiment. 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.


  • CARD Experiment
    No activities were carried out with the CARD experiment in the two weeks up until 17 July. The CARD experiment examines increased cardiac output and lowered blood pressure (caused by dilated arteries) in the face of increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system (which normally constricts arteries) in weightlessness. Experiment samples for the CARD experiment from ISS Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata are stowed in the European-developed MELFI freezer awaiting return to Earth.


  • Neurospat
    No activities were carried out with the NeuroSpat experiment in the two weeks up until 17 July. 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
    No activities were carried out with the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment in the two weeks up until 17 July. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects. The experiment will be continued with the next subjects in Increment 20. Experiment samples for the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment from ISS Commander Mike Fincke are stowed in the European-developed MELFI freezer awaiting return to Earth within the currently ongoing 2J/A Shuttle mission.


  • Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment
    From 6-8 July, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk undertook procedures of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment being supported by ESA astronaut Frank De Winne on the first day with putting on equipment and picture taking. On 10 July ESA astronaut Frank De Winne carried out final procedures of this session by downloading blood pressure data from ESA’s Cardiolab blood pressure device to the European Physiology Modules Facility, then copying blood pressure data across to NASA’s Human Research Facility laptop for downlinking later. This experiment includes ultrasound and ECG measurements for determining cardiac condition in astronauts.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
On 6 July ESA astronaut Frank De Winne removed an optical performance checkout target from the Fluid Science Laboratory following previous successful testing of various optical modes. At the same time Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk installed two hard disk drives of the Microgravity Vibration Isolation System. This Canadian-built system is integrated into ESA’s Fluid Science Laboratory to help isolate experiments from the harmful effects of vibrations on the ISS. Commissioning of the Microgravity Vibration Isolation System started on 10 July and resumed on 13 July following initial communication glitches. On 14 July tests of the sensor, actuator and Position Sensing Device of the Microgravity Vibration Isolation System were carried out and specialists from the Canadian Space Agency have been analysing the data.

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 tentatively still during Increment 20 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 in the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks up until 17 July. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility number 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory on 1 October 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
Following water pump servicing carried out on 2 July, no experiment activities were carried out in the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks up until 17 July. 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 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
ESA astronaut Frank De Winne worked on repairing the damaged end of an Ethernet cable of the Microgravity Science Glovebox on 6 July. From 13-15 July JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata set up activated and carried out procedures of NASA’s InSPACE (Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions) experiment in the Glovebox, including shaking the vials and looking for bubbles or any clumping of particles. InSPACE is looking into a new class of "smart materials". 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 upload of the SODI-IVIDIL experiment is secured on the 17A Shuttle flight and the DSC / Colloid experiments will follow during subsequent Shuttle flights in the time frame until spring 2010.

Hardware for the Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment was awaiting transfer for launch on the STS-127 2J/A flight up until 17 July. This experiment will determine the nature and distribution of the radiation field inside European Columbus laboratory using different active and passive detectors.

ERNObox Payload
Following file uplink to the ERNObox payload in Columbus on 7 July, recovery of the payload was interrupted and is being looked into. The ERNObox contains various radiation devices, including the LEON-2 Central Processing Unit developed by ATMEL/France and ESA, new memory devices, large Static Random Access Memory-based Field-Programmable Gate Arrays, and Micro-electromechanical Systems sensors. The ERNObox will be returned to Earth for detailed failure detection and, after repair, launched again as it will be needed for the AIS-Gator experiment which allows maritime surveillance of ships.

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 August) and returned to Earth for detailed analysis and evaluation of the space samples. The temperature of the platform was low through the start of the two week period up until 17 July due to the orbital profile of the ISS in relation to the Sun.

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. The instrument is currently inactive.
  • EXPOSE-E: This series of exobiology experiments is continuing to acquire scientific data.
  • FIPEX: This sensor is helping to build up a picture of the atmospheric environment in low-Earth orbit by measuring atomic oxygen. Science acquisition has been ongoing during the last two weeks.
  • MEDET: The Materials Exposure and Degradation ExperimenT (MEDET) had to be switched off on 6 July due to low temperatures. It was reactivated on 15 July and is again continuing to acquire scientific data. 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. Following on from the ISS Mission Management Team’s go ahead for PLEGPAY reactivation, successful Long Duration Tests were performed in the two weeks up until 17 July. Some Langmuir Probe measurements were performed on 13 July and PLEGPLAY Experiment 2 was started the following day though a cathode heater did not switch on properly and downlinked data is currently being analysed.
  • 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.

The SOLAR facility and its individual instruments were not acquiring scientific data in the two weeks up until 17 July as the next Sun observation window is not due to open until around 20 July. When the window opens further confirmation of the software upgrade from 1 July will take place. External imagery of SOLAR was being collected from 9 July on the request of the Belgian User Support and Operations centre in Brussels, ESA’s Facility Responsible Centre for the SOLAR facility. This imagery is being used to assess any movement of the facility when it is not motor controlled. On 12 July the SOLAR facility was also ‘safed’ in connection with the re-approach manoeuvres of Progress 33P, which had undocked on 30 June. (See ISS general system information and activities)

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 in August 2009. The experiment evaluates the effect of the space environment on a large variety of exposed materials.

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-/tri-lateral 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)
ISS Commander Gennady Padalka unstowed and set up a spectrum analyzer with cabling on 6 July and configured a Russian laptop accordingly. The spectrometer is part of the Global Transmission Service suite of equipment. Padalka then carried out a laptop reboot and a communications check. 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.

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, 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. 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 will be exposed to the harsh space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum), during the upcoming spacewalk, 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 in August 2009.

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:

  • Columbus Thermal Control System
    On 8 July ESA astronaut Frank De Winne relocated the Fluid Servicer System to Columbus from the Japanese Kibo Laboratory, connected it to the Columbus Thermal Control System loop and refilled it with coolant. JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata had carried out similar procedures in the Japanese Kibo laboratory the previous day. The following day De Winne connected the Hydrocyclone system to a Water Pump Assembly for subsequent ground-controlled “degassing” of water loop valves.


  • EXPRESS Rack 3
    On 10 July ESA astronaut Frank De Winne activated software to monitor Local Area Network data traffic from the EXPRESS Rack 3 laptop prior to data downlink from NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus. The Space Acceleration Measurement System equipment in EXPRESS Rack 3 which was activated on 30 June was deactivated and reactivated on 16 July. This was due to power transition activities for EXPRESS Rack 1 in connection with the docking of STS-127 2J/A. EXPRESS Rack 3 also houses the European Modular Cultivation System.


  • Oxygen Partial Pressure Sensor
    The principal oxygen partial pressure sensor in Columbus is no longer being used due to reliability issues though the backup sensor is still functioning well and providing good readings of the oxygen situation in Columbus.

Activities of ESA astronaut Frank De Winne

  • System and payload activities
    During the two weeks up until 17 July in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, De Winne carried out periodic maintenance on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device; removed alignment guides on the Fluids and Combustion Facility in the US Laboratory to allow activation of the Passive Rack Isolation System; took water samples from the Russian Service Module and carried out microbiology analysis; and relocated the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter, the primary radiation measurement tool in the ISS, in the Russian Service Module.


  • 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. De Winne, Bob Thirsk and NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Mike Barratt continued and concluded their 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 performed the IRIS visual perception experiment for the first time in orbit; undertook a session of the WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows) experiment, which is used for testing cognitive abilities, as well as conducting educational demonstrations of Bernoulli’s Law and eating in weightlessness


  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks up until 17 July De Winne has filled in Food Frequency Questionnaires to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health. On 10 July De Winne and Robert Thirsk undertook the a session of the Periodic Fitness Evaluation taking blood pressure and ECG measurements whilst using the Cycle Ergometer in the Destiny laboratory. In connection with health status Frank (and the rest of the crew) also undertake regular Private Medical Conferences with the ground, and daily exercise routines on the ISS. Frank was involved in the last two weeks of downloading exercise data for the crew for downlinking to the ground.


  • Amateur Radio on the ISS
    On 11 and 12 June Frank De Winne carried out live links with Technopolis, a science and technology platform in Mechelen, Flanders, Belgium and at the Euro Space Center at Transinne, Belgium using the amateur radio equipment in the Russian Service Module. These types of live contacts are useful as an educational tool for introducing or promoting science-based subjects amongst school pupils and students of all ages.

    Other activities
    During the last two weeks Frank and the crew had their regular Planning Conferences with Mission Control in Houston and Moscow. Frank also deployed formaldehyde kits in Destiny and the Service Module to catch any atmospheric formaldehyde; carried out periodic manual filling of the flush water tank of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment; supported a communications test with the Payload Operations Integration Center, Huntsville; and carried out an inventory of Operations Local Area Network equipment aboard the ISS.

Progress 33P Repeat Rendezvous Activities and Deorbit
Following undocking on 30 June and free flight thereafter, Roscosmos cosmonauts Gennady Padalka (ISS Commander) and Roman Romanenko (ISS Flight Engineer) reviewed procedures and recommendations for the repeat rendezvous of Progress 33P on 10 July. This repeat rendezvous test, which took place on 12 July, was to verify that antennas are installed properly on the upper docking port of the Service Module Transfer Compartment. The following day Progress 33P was deorbited, being placed into a planned destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
Barratt and Padalka completed their fourth R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre skill training on 6 July. 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 July. 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 Endeavour, to be downlinked for launch debris assessment.

STS-127 2J/A Mission – Launch to post-docking procedures

  • STS-127 Shuttle Endeavour launch
    Following the initial launch delays, STS-127 Shuttle Endeavour on ISS flight 2J/A was launched successfully at 18:03 local time on 15 July (00:03 CEST on 16 July). The Solid Rocket Boosters separated as planned 2 minutes after launch followed by main engine cutoff and External Tank separation 9 minutes after launch. The crew consists of Shuttle commander Mark Polansky, pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Dave Wolf, Christopher Cassidy, Julie Payette, Tom Marshburn, and Tim Kopra who replaces Koichi Wakata as ISS Flight Engineer 2. The Shuttle crew during ascent consists of all NASA astronauts except Payette who represents the Canadian Space Agency.


  • Shuttle docking preparations
    Mike Barratt supported the ground with pressurising/leak checking Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 (where Endeavour will dock). Padalka activated the Space Acceleration Measurement Unit in EXPRESS Rack 4 for taking vibration readings during Shuttle docking. The Space Acceleration Measurement Unit has sensors in several payload racks. Other preparations included configuring communications and video equipment for the Shuttle’s approach and docking with the Space Station.


  • Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre
    During the Shuttle’s R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre prior to docking Padalka and 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 Endeavour, which were downlinked for launch debris assessment.


  • STS-127 Shuttle Endeavour docking
    Space Shuttle Endeavour docked with the ISS at 19:47 (CEST) on 17 July with closure of the docking hooks to strengthen the interface between the ISS and the Shuttle a few minutes later. The station was reoriented as planned after the docking, to reduce the risk of orbital debris hitting the Shuttle. Following leak checks on the inter-hatch area and standard post-docking procedures, the ISS/Shuttle hatches were opened at 21:55 (CEST).


  • Shuttle post-docking activities
    With the ISS/Shuttle hatches open, ventilation ducting was installed into Endeavour. After the traditional welcome ceremony the ISS crew conducted the mandatory safety briefing for the Shuttle crew. Tim Kopra transferred his Soyuz seat liner from the Shuttle to the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft where Gennady Padalka installed it. The Soyuz seat liner of Koichi Wakata was removed and stowed for eventual return to Earth. The Soyuz acts as the crew return vehicle for the ISS crew.

Crew Health Care System (CheCS)
During the last two weeks ESA astronaut Frank De Winne mated umbilicals to the Crew Health Care System rack in the US Destiny laboratory to provide increased cooling to the rack.

Air Quality Monitor
On 6 July Frank De Winne started a sampling session with the new Air Quality Monitor. This device is being used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere. Robert Thirsk and Mike Barratt also undertook sampling sessions during the two week period. This new technology is being evaluated over the next few months.

Soyuz Descent Training
On 6 July Padalka, Barratt and Wakata conducted a Soyuz emergency descent drill, with the use of computer simulation.

Regenerative ECLSS
During the two week period until 17 July Frank De Winne serviced the Water Processor Assembly of the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), offloading water and then flushing the system on 6 July. He also replaced a Recycle Filter Tank Assembly of the Water recovery System on 9 July. De Winne and Wakata also collected samples from the Potable Water Dispenser to carry out microbiology analysis in the following days. This included De Winne undertaking analysis using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer on 14 July. JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata also conducted purge operations on the Oxygen Generator System in the Destiny Laboratory.

Russian Guidance Navigation and Control System
The GIVUS Guidance Navigation and Control system in the Russian segment of the ISS has failed and a new unit will be brought up on the unmanned Progress 34P logistics spacecraft due for launch on 24 July. The GIVUS system is used for determining the rate and attitude of the ISS. In the meantime a backup up rate sensor has been activated to determine station attitude, with the U.S. Rate Gyro Assembly 1 used as the principal system for attitude determination data.

VELO Cycle Ergometer
On 7 July Gennady Padalka, replaced noise-suppressing rubber-metal bushings of the exercise device’s generator unit, then configuring it for operation.

US Airlock activities
During the two weeks up until 17 July, various tasks have taken place in the US Airlock including recharging batteries used during spacewalks, carrying out filtering of the EVA suit cooling loops, and installing and connecting vibration sensor equipment prior to Shuttle docking.

Emergency Egress training
On 8 July the six-member crew performed the standard two-hour emergency egress drill for the case of rapid cabin depressurization. This drill is to familiarize the crew with location of hardware, position of valves used in an emergency and hardware deactivation procedures amongst other things. It was discovered that a manual crew response to such an event does not trigger automatic safing for the Non-Russian segment of the ISS. It has been determined that this is due to a Russian segment software coding change that that wasn’t picked up in the Non-Russian segment software. Procedures are being developed to overcome this issue, which has a very small likelihood of occurring.

In the two weeks up until 17 July, Padalka set up experiment hardware in the Russian Service Module and started a run of the Russian/German TEKh-20 Plasma Crystal-3 Plus (PK-3+) experiment, the first of Expedition 20. He continued attending the experiment throughout the period. The PK-3+ experiment was also undertaken during the Astrolab mission with ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter. The main objective of this experiment is to obtain a homogeneous plasma dust cloud at various pressures and particle quantities with or without superimposition of a low frequency harmonic electrical field.

HTV training
On 8 July Frank DeWinne and Mike Barratt carried out a two-hour training session review of approach monitoring and robotics/capture procedures for the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, which is due for its first launch in September. Frank De Winne will be one of the two operators of the Station’s robotic arm when it is used for docking the H-II Transfer Vehicle to the ISS.

Treadmill with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization (TVIS)
Speed characterization tests were carried out by Robert Thirsk on 8 July and Frank De Winne and Roman Romanenko on 13 July as part of troubleshooting measures on the TVIS treadmill. During unmanned operations TVIS exhibited a power sharing problem recently and audio recorded has revealed unusual noises. Frank also carried out regular weekly maintenance on the treadmill on 10 July.

Japanese Cell Biology Experiment Facility
On 9 July in the Japanese Kibo laboratory, Robert Thirsk removed a stirring fan from the Microgravity Incubator Unit of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility. Koichi Wakata configured the fan so that it could be attached on the temperature controller surface of the facility, and mounted it there. The following day Frank De Winne retrieved three Measurement Experiment Units from the Incubator Unit, then stowed the facility.

JEM Medium Rate Data Link
In the Japanese Kibo laboratory, Koichi Wakata carried out checkout 3 of the Medium Rate Data Link by performing a ping test to determine Ethernet connectivity between a payload laptop and an experiment laptop.

Beta Gimbal Assembly
Beta Gimbal Assembly 2B, one of the joints used in rotation of the Station’s solar arrays, became stuck at 163.9 deg on 9 July, following high current events while autotracking and attempts by ground controllers to resolve the situation by manual control. On 12 July it exhibited better performance and was parked at 225 degrees and two days later was placed back in autotrack mode. The problem was assumed to be high Beta angles, i.e. greater degree of Sun exposure during ISS orbital periods, which caused expansion of components of the Beta Gimbal Assembly.

Japanese Laboratory Exposed Facility Berthing Mechanism Checkout
On 16 July in the Japanese Kibo laboratory Robert Thirsk and Koichi Wakata checked out the latch action of the External Facility Berthing Mechanism from a control and display unit and function tested the control and display unit. This is in advance of the arrival of the Exposed Facility for the Japanese laboratory on the STS-127 flight.

(*)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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