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

20 November 2009

This is ISS status report #55 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 10 November ESA astronaut and ISS Commander Frank De Winne performed a functional check which confirmed leak tightness of both the gaseous nitrogen supply line and the internal Life Support Module loop of Biolab.

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 were removed from Biolab by Frank De Winne on 1 October, in preparation for the Yeast experiment. 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.

The TripleLux-B experiment will tentatively be one of the next experiments to take place in the Biolab facility during Increment 23/24. The objective of this experiment is to further understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the aggravation of radiation responses, and the impairment of the immune functions under spaceflight conditions.

The ArtEMISS-A experiment will also tentatively be one of the next experiments to take place in the Biolab facility. This will be tentatively performed on ISS during a sortie flight, which is envisaged in Increment 23/24. 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).

European Drawer Rack
No activities were carried out with the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks up until 20 November. 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 3½ 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.

Fluid Science Laboratory and FASES/Geoflow-2 experiments
No activities were carried out using the Fluid Science Laboratory in the two weeks up until 20 November. The upgrades of the video system are in progress in order to support the next experiments with demanding requirements.

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.

Foam Stability
No further runs of the Foam Stability experiment were performed in the two weeks up until 20 November as the overall experiment programme has been successfully concluded. The project aims at the study of aqueous and non-aqueous foams in a weightless environment. The behaviour of aqueous 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?

European Physiology Modules

No activities were carried out with the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks up until 20 November. The following experiments have recently used functions of the European Physiology Modules rack in the Columbus laboratory:


  • 3D Space
    On 10 November Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk successfully performed his final session of the 3D Space experiment, using the electronic tablet pen. 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.


  • Integrated Cardiovascular
    From 9 to 11 November ISS Flight Engineer Jeff Williams undertook his second Ambulatory Monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment, and from 12 to 14 November ISS Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk conducted his fifth Ambulatory Monitoring session. On 16 November Commander De Winne assisted ISS Flight Engineer Stott as Crew Medical Officer in performing her final Ambulatory Monitoring session. The NASA Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment consists of a Resting Echo session and of an Ambulatory Monitoring session, which includes 24-hr blood pressure measurement using ESA’s Cardiopres device, 48-hr ECG measurement with a holter device and 48-hr activity measurements using an Actiwatch.

Flywheel Exercise Device
No activities were carried out using the Flywheel Exercise Device in the two weeks up until 20 November. Detailed evaluation of acceleration data during the activation and checkout session with Frank De Winne is in progress. 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.

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.

Fluid Science Laboratory and FASES/Geoflow-2 experiments
The Fluid Science Laboratory was activated on 28 October for taking vibration measurements during the Flyweel checkout. Data was then successfully downlinked.

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.


Portable Pulmonary Function System
The facility was activated on 9 and 10 and 13 November to support the second sessions of NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment for ISS Commander Frank De Winne’s and ISS Flight Engineers Bob Thirsk and Nicole Stott respectively. The facility was also activated on 12 November as ISS Flight Engineer Jeff Williams performed his first session of the VO2 Max experiment as well as his second session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment.

The Thermolab experiment uses the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System to investigate thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise.

The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless condition in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology.

Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2 and the CARD Experiment
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks up until 20 November. 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.


 On 20 November Frank De Winne performed the Capillarity section of ESA’s Lesson-2 educational activity. This activity intends to provide the students with an appreciation of the conditions of free fall using a demonstration about the capillarity phenomenon. The recording will be used to produce ESA multimedia educational material.

Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR)
No sessions of the Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR) experiment were conducted in the two weeks up until 20 November.

WEAR 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.

European Modular Cultivation System
Routine water pump service activities were completed on 13 November. 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 in early 2010 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
On 10 November Commander De Winne activated the Microgravity Science Glovebox for ground-controlled payload operations. In the last two weeks additional re-runs of the ‘Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids’ (IVIDIL) experiment, one of the triple SODI (Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument) experiments, have been successfully performed and runs with cell array #1 have now been concluded. Vibration measurements were performed during all runs. On 12 November De Winne exchanged the cell array and flash disk. No runs will be performed during the STS-129 mission docked phase. Experiment runs will resume after the cell array exchange which is planned for 28 November.

In addition to the SODI-IVIDIL experiment the triple SODI experiments 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 DSC and Colloid experiments will be launched on future 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

The last Sun observation window started on 9 November and ended on 20 November. The platform was ‘safed’ on 12 November during the docking of the Russian Mini Research Module 2, and again on 18 November for the docking of Shuttle Flight STS-129/ULF3.

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. The SOLAR facility has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles. A detailed technical feasibility study for on-orbit lifetime extension is basically concluded and the science team will be able to gather further science data in a period of increasing solar activity up to the maximum in 2013.

European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory

Material Science Laboratory in the Material Science Research Rack
The commissioning of the Material Science Laboratory has been successfully concluded. The MICAST experiment was completed on 7 November, with a temporary interruption due to evacuation preparation for a possible debris conjunction with the Station. On 8 November Commander De Winne exchanged the used MICAST sample cartridge with a new sample cartridge for the CETSOL experiment, and the chamber leak test was successfully performed.

The Materials Science Research Rack-1 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. The return of the first two sample cartridges is scheduled on the next Shuttle flight in November for detailed scientific analysis on ground.

CETSOL and MICAST are two complementary science 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. The Phantom will be relocated to the Japanese Kibo laboratory and equipped with a set of new passive dosimeters which were uploaded on the Progress 35P flight, which docked to the Station on 18 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.

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 ESA’s EuTEF facility outside of Columbus since February 2008 until EuTEF’s return to Earth with the STS-128/17A Shuttle Flight in September.

Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus laboratory

Human Research Facility 1
On 15 November ISS Flight Engineer Stott undertook preparations for the replacement of the failed Human Research Facility Ultrasound board. On 16 November Commander De Winne activated the Facility for Integrated Cardiovascular data downlink. On the same day De Winne, together with ISS Flight Engineers Stott, Thirsk and Williams started another week-long session of the NASA SLEEP (Sleep-Wake Actigraphy & Light Exposure during Spaceflight) experiment, wearing their Actiwatch devices from which to log data to the Human Research Facility 1 laptop.

Human Research Facility 2
The Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 10 and 11 November to support ISS Flight Engineer Nicole Stott’s third session of the NASA Nutrition Experiment. Commander Frank De Winne assisted Stott with the blood draw. After samples were centrifuged in the Human Research Facility Refrigerated Centrifuge they were stowed in the Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer (MELFI). Urine samples were also placed in MELFI. This NASA experiment is a study of human physiologic changes during long-duration space flight. It includes measures of bone metabolism, oxidative damage, nutritional assessments, and hormonal changes. The Human research Facility gas bottle used for the NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment was returned to its nominal configuration into the Human Research Facility 2 Gas Delivery System on 13 November.

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 on top of the regular conferences of the ISS Crew with the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Main points of interest are as follows:

  • Radiation dosimetry
    Further to radiation dosimetry research taking place within ESA's DOSIS experiment (see above), on 9 November Canadian Space Agency astronaut Bob Thirsk assisted by Roscosmos cosmonaut Roman Romanenko (both ISS Flight Engineers) initialized eight bubble detectors of the Radiation Dosimetry inside the ISS (RaDI-N) assembly inside the Columbus laboratory.

Activities of ESA Astronaut Frank De Winne

  • System and Payload Activities
    In addition to what is stated in the remainder of the report, ESA astronaut and ISS Commander Frank De Winne: carried out the bi-monthly reboot of the OCA Router and File Server and Station support laptops; replaced an EDV container in the Water Recovery System; carried out periodic maintenance including greasing rails and rollers and evacuating the cylinder flywheels of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device to maintain proper vacuum condition and sensor calibration; configured the power supply of the Utility Outlet Panel in the US laboratory in support of activation of the Water Delivery System of the Oxygen Generation System; carried out sampling and analysis of water samples from the Russian Service Module; conducted an inspection and audit of the portable emergency equipment on the ISS; performed a leak check of the Pressurised Mating Adaptor 3/Node 1 hatch; replaced power indicator lights in EXPRESS Rack 6; and inspected the Automated External Defibrillator in the Crew Health Care Systems rack.


  • Experiment Activities
    As well as being a focus of 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 12-13 November De Winne conducted his first session of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Biological Rhythms experiment, which included 24-hour (portable) ECG measurement. On 13 November De Winne carried out a session of the Canadian Space Agency's Bodies in the Space Environment with ISS Flight Engineers Bob Thirsk (CSA) and Nicole Stott (NASA). This experiment aims to better understand how humans first adapt to weightlessness and then re-adapt to normal gravity conditions upon return to Earth. On 20 November De Winne performed his second session of the NASA NUTRITION experiment, including blood draw and 24-hour urine collection.


  • Health Status Activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the last two weeks De Winne undertook a US periodic health status exam, which included heart rate, blood pressure and temperature measurements; and a session of the Russian Biochemical Urinalysis medical assessment. De Winne also 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.

    In connection with health status De Winne (and the rest of the crew) undertake regular Private Medical Conferences with the ground, and daily exercise routines on the ISS. De Winne was involved on numerous occasions in the last two weeks with downloading exercise data for the crew for downlinking to the ground.


  • Public Affairs Events
    On 13 November De Winne undertook amateur radio sessions with students at the Scuola Istituto Salesiano "Sacro Cuore" Vomero in Naples, Italy.


  • Other Activities
    During the last two weeks Frank De Winne and the rest of the crew had their regular planning conferences/tag ups with the Mission Control Centres in Moscow and Houston. De Winne also carried out microbiology air sampling in the service Module, Node 1 and the US laboratory.

Mini-Research Module 2 Launch and Docking

  • Launch
    On 10 November the Mini Research Module 2 was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 15:22am CET, 20:22 local time on a Soyuz-U rocket. After orbital insertion of the modified Progress spacecraft, solar arrays and antennas deployed properly. Mini Research Module 2, called ‘Poisk’, which means ‘Search’ or ‘Quest’, is almost a copy of the Pirs Docking Module and acts as an airlock and docking port for Russian spacecraft. In addition the module can accommodate external research payloads.


  • Docking
    Docking of the Mini Research Module 2 under automatic Kurs control occurred at 16:44 CET on 12 November at the zenith-facing port of the Russian Service Module. Prior to docking, video and communications equipment was correctly configured. After hook closure the ISS was returned to Russian attitude control from free drift, manoeuvred back to its usual flight attitude, and thereafter attitude control handed back to back to US systems.


  • Post-Docking
    After docking of the ‘Poisk’ Mini Research Module 2 the TORU manual docking system (the backup system to the automatic Kurs system) was deactivated. Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Suraev and Romanenko carried out the standard one-hour leak check at the docking port. The following day the two cosmonauts configured communications systems for use inside Poisk and opened a pressure valve before opening the hatches into the new ISS module. Lighting was set up and air sampling took place. The docking mechanism was dismantled before powering down the spacecraft and installing a ventilation/heating ducts. Unloading took place the following day. Suraev continued with work to integrate the new module into ISS systems on 16 November, reconnecting cables and switching telemetry systems. On the same day the whole crew performed a standard emergency procedures drill to familiarise the crew with changes due to a new module attached to the Station. On 17 November Suraev activated the Multipurpose Control Panel in the “Poisk” module. On 19 November Suraev and Romanenko initiated the set up of the module and performed cargo transfer activities and Inventory Management System updates as well as installation of ventilation air ducting and telemetry equipment as well as removal of docking hardware.

STS-129 Mission

  • Pre-launch
    Frank De Winne carried out a number of reviews of the STS-129/ULF-3 mission timeline, and associated EVAs, with different ISS crew members including a conference with the complete ISS and STS-129 crew members on 11 November.


  • Launch
    STS-129 Shuttle Atlantis launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center at 20:28 CET, 14:28 local time on 16 November on ISS assembly mission ULF 3. Atlantis has a seven person crew, which includes Shuttle Commander Charlie Hobaugh, Pilot Barry Wilmore, and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Randy Bresnik, Mike Forman and Bobby Satcher. Nicole Stott will join the crew for the return trip. The principal payloads of Atlantis are two EXPRESS Logistics Carriers, carrying mostly spare parts to the ISS.


  • Pre-docking Preparations
    On 17 November De Winne undertook preparatory activities for the arrival of STS-129 Atlantis on the next day, including: configuring ventilation in the US Laboratory and Node 2; pressurizing and leak checking Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 where Atlantis would dock; and relocating Portable Breathing Apparatus from the Columbus laboratory to the Quest Airlock for the STS-129 EVA activities.


  • Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre
    On 18 November, during the R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre of Shuttle Atlantis prior to docking, ISS Flight Engineers and NASA astronauts Nicole Stott and Jeff Williams 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 the Shuttle, which were downlinked for launch debris assessment.


  • Shuttle docking
    After successfully completing the R-Bar Pitch Manoeuvre, Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 on 18 November at 17:51 CET. The Station now hosts twelve occupants. Nicole Stott is now officially a member of the Shuttle crew with which she will fly home. Shortly before the docking De Winne configured the Russian Motion Control System for Shuttle arrival.


  • Post-docking procedures
After the docking, the Station was reoriented in order to minimize the risk of debris impacts upon the Shuttle. Following relevant leak checks of the docking vestibule hatches were opened and the traditional crew welcome ceremony took place, followed by the safety briefing for the new arrivals. After hatch opening, ventilation ducting was installed between the ISS and the Shuttle. With the help of the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System and the Canadian Space Station Remote Manipulator System the first of two ExPRESS Logistics Carriers was transferred form the Atlantis Payload Bay to the ISS and installed on the Unpressurized Cargo Carrier Attachment System #2 on the port side segment of the main truss. This carried various spares including a Battery Charge/Discharge Unit, a Nitrogen tank Assembly, an Ammonia Tank Assembly, a Control Moment Gyroscope, a Pump Module, a Plasma Contactor Unit and a Latch End Effector. On 18 November Shuttle Commander Hobaugh set up the equipment for transferring nitrogen to the Shuttle then, together with ISS commander Frank De Winne, he purged the Node-2 oxygen supply line with nitrogen, setting it up to allow the Shuttle to supply oxygen to the ISS Portable Breathing Apparatus in support of pre-EVA mask prebreathe for denitrogenation.


  • Spacewalk 1 (Forman, Satcher)
    The spacewalk was preceded by standard procedures including the overnight camp out of the EVA astronauts in the Airlock at a reduced pressure and pre-breathing pure oxygen to remove nitrogen from their bodies. Spacewalk 1 was carried out by Mike Forman and Bobby Satcher on 19 November. During the 6 hr 37 minutes EVA the astronauts transferred an S-band Antenna Support Assembly from the Shuttle’s Payload Bay to the Z1 truss section for installation; lubricated the Payload Orbital Replacement Unit Attachment and Japanese Robotic Manipulator System (with robotics support by Frank De Winne); installed an Ammonia Bracket on a Node 1 handrail; installed Node 1 to Zarya Module Local Area Network cable and debris protection shielding; routed and installed a Space-to-Ground Antenna cable to the Z1 truss, and performed troubleshooting on the starboard truss avionics cable. They also deployed a Payload Attach System on the S3 truss as a get-ahead task, originally scheduled for EVA-2.

ISS Crew Return Preparations

  • Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
    On 10 and 11 November Maxim Suraev carried out his first training session of the medical operation procedures using the VELO ergometer and TVIS treadmill respectively, whilst wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit. He was assisted by Roman Romanenko I the activity. The Chibis 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. On 16 and 20 November Romanenko carried out his third and fourth orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test sessions using the TVIS treadmill whilst wearing the Chibis suit in preparation for his return to gravity with De Winne and Thirsk on 1 December.


  • Soyuz TMA-15/TMA-16 seat checks/removal
    On 10 November De Winne, Romanenko and Thirsk conducted the standard fit check of their contoured shock absorbing seats in the Soyuz TMA-15 Descent Module whilst wearing their Sokol space suits. They are scheduled to return to Earth in the Soyuz TMA-15 on 1 December. On 18 November Suraev transferred Nicole Stott’s Soyuz seat liner from Soyuz TMA-16 to the Japanese Laboratory as she is now officially a Shuttle crew member.

Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
During the past two weeks blood and urine samples have been placed in the European-built MELFI freezer from ISS Flight Engineer Nicole Stott in connection with NASA’s Nutrition experiment. On 16 November Frank De Winne removed the failed Electronics Unit from the MELFI-2 freezer for prepacking and return to earth. Additionally, on 19 November the equipment for the newly delivered CSA/NASA Advanced Plant EXperiments on Orbit - Transgenic Arabidopsis Gene Expression System (APEX-TAGES) investigation was also placed in MELFI.

Fluids Integrated Rack On 9 November Nicole Stott was assisted by Bob Thirsk in starting outfitting of NASA’s Fluids Integrated Rack with the Light Microscopy Module.

T2 COLBERT Treadmill Installation
On 9 November the ISS crew was given the go ahead to start using the T2/COLBERT treadmill again, with a belt speed between 5 and 16 kph, and a load on the treadmill not exceeding 75% of the runner’s body weight. Bob Thirsk and Nicole Stott carried out exercise sessions on the treadmill on 11 and 12 November respectively. A realignment procedure was performed on 20 November to ensure that the rack remains isolated and operates properly.

Crew Quarters
In Node 2 on 11 November, Nicole Stott took airflow readings near the starboard Crew Quarters as part of troubleshooting to determine if the airflow is above the trip limit for the airflow sensors. Stott continued with the troubleshooting measures the following day, by covering an exhaust airflow sensor to deliberately create a failure signal.

Urine Processor Assembly/Waste and Hygiene Facilities
The Urine Processor Assembly was deemed to be officially inoperable as of 13 November following its failure to spin up on 10 November due to high currents on the Distillation Assembly, which is assumed to be failed. On 15 November the Waste Storage Tank Assembly was emptied into an EDV-U urine container by Nicole Stott in preparation for removal of the Distillation Assembly. Jeff Williams also transferred stored water to supplement the Waste Water Tank of the Water Processor Assembly Tank. On 16 November Frank De Winne carried out another manual filling of the flush water tank of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment.

Air Quality Monitor
Frank De Winne, Bob Thirsk and Jeff Williams all completed several sampling sessions with the Air Quality Monitor in the last two weeks. This device is being used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere. This new technology is being evaluated over a period of several months.

Water Processor Assembly
The Water Processor Assembly failed on 16 November due to low water level in the Mostly Liquid Separator, though it was reactivated on 19 November running at a low rate.

NODE 3 Arrival Preparations
On 19 and 20 November Frank De Winne, together with ISS Flight Engineer Williams, continued outfitting Node 1 in preparation for the arrival of the European-built Node 3 in February 2010. This included: routing cables and hoses, completing Potable Water connections, data cabling, and installing ventilation ducting, cables and hoses in the Node 1 Alcove.

Other Activities
During the past two weeks: checkout of the Inter-Satellite Communication System was successfully completed by the Space Station Integration & Promotion Center in Tsukuba Japan. On 20 November Thirsk transferred the newly arrived Advanced Biology Research Facility from the Atlantis to the ISS. The same day a false ISS depressurization alarm happened, however no leak occurred.

(*)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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