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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

6 November 2009

This is ISS status report #54 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
No activities were carried out with the Biolab in the two weeks up until 6 November.

The ArtEMISS-A experiment will 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).

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.

European Drawer Rack
No activities were carried out with the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks up until 6 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.

European Physiology Modules

The European Physiology Modules facility was activated on 28 October for the checkout of ESA’s Flywheel Exercise Device. After ESA Astronaut and ISS Commander Frank De Winne updated a configuration file on the Flywheel’s memory from the facility laptop, ground commanding was performed to resolve a Flywheel no-power issue. Data files from the exercise sessions were downlinked via the European Physiology Modules. The facility was also activated on 30 October for downlink of data from the DOSIS experiment.

The rack was activated again on 5 November in support of Frank De Winne’s session of the CARD experiment. CARD data was downloaded on 6 November. On the same day De Winne swapped two electronic modules.

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

  • 3D Space
    The missing tablet pens were found though one cannot be retrieved as it is currently stuck behind a rack. The other tablet pen was stowed in the 3D Space Kit and will be used as a spare item, but not for upcoming sessions of the experiment, as in this case a reconfiguration of the pen would be required.

    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
    On 2 November ISS Flight Engineer Jeff Williams undertook his second Integrated Cardiovascular Resting Echo session, assisted by ISS Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk as Crew Medical Officer. However, the Echo scan could not be completed, due to an issue with the Ultrasound device in the Human Research Facility 1. 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
On 26 October ESA astronaut and ISS Commander Frank De Winne unstowed the elements of ESA’s Flywheel Exercise Device from the European Transport Carrier in the Columbus Laboratory, connected up a laptop (to record exercise device measurements) to the European Physiology Modules facility and assembled the new exercise device for the ISS crew in order to carry out a first functional checkout.

In order to take structural dynamics measurements during the check-out activities De Winne installed a sensor enclosure from the Space Acceleration Measurement from the Kibo Laboratory on the front foot of the Flywheel Exercise Device. The check-out was successfully performed by De Winne on 28 October, with the execution of four series of exercises with different settings. The complete data files were transferred to ground. The Flywheel was stowed later.

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.

DOSIS
The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment is progressing well and the monthly data downlink is working perfectly. The last data downlink was successfully performed on 30 October. 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.

 

Foam Stability
ISS Commander De Winne performed Runs 1 and 4 of the experiment as a voluntary science activity on 31 October, successfully completing all Foam Stability runs. The experiment 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 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?

Portable Pulmonary Function System
The facility was activated on 27 and 28 October to support sessions of NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment for ISS Flight Engineers Bob Thirsk and Nicole Stott respectively. 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
On 4 November Frank De Winne exchanged the batteries of the Holter instrument in view of his session of the experiment on the next day. On 5 and 6 November De Winne successfully performed the two-day CARD experiment, which included: 24-hour urine collection and blood pressure monitoring; a blood draw on day two; and five re-breathing sessions performed using the Pulmonary Function System. Blood samples were centrifuged and transferred to the Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer (MELFI) on 6 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.

Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR)
No sessions of the Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR) experiment were conducted in the two weeks up until 6 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.

EXPRESS Rack 3
EXPRESS Rack 3, which accommodates the European Modular Cultivation System was activated on 27 and 28 October for taking acceleration measurements in support of Flywheel check-out activities.

European Modular Cultivation System
No activities were carried out with the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks up until 6 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 24 October Bob Thirsk recorded an educational science podcast as a voluntary science activity describing ESA’s SODI-IVIDIL (Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument/Influence of Vibration on Diffusion in Liquids) activities.

Numerous runs of the SODI-IVIDIL experiment were successfully carried out after 27 October with short stops for Flywheel check-out activities on 28 October, thermal stabilization on 2 November, and a Glovebox power down on 3 November. The science team has updated parameters after analyzing the results of the first runs. A run of the experiment on 29 October has confirmed that a software update to fix an image loss problem during low vibration runs has been succesful. Vibration measurements were performed during all runs.

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

SOLAR
SOLAR is currently in so-called survival mode after the last Sun observation window ended on 28 October. Internal firewall issues occurred at B-USOC during the last week. The problem was solved on 6 November, and a full copy of the firewall was made, which will allow for re-establishing the firewall within two to three hours in case of a future failure.

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 almost 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
On 2 November Commander De Winne, together with Flight Engineer Stott, continued commissioning activities on the Materials Science Research Rack. De Winne installed the first sample cartridges for the CETSOL experiment into the Low Gradient Furnace of the Material Science Laboratory and the Material Science Laboratory chamber leak test was also successfully performed. The following day the Material Science Laboratory evacuation was performed. Heating of CETSOL samples was started on 4 November, carried out in two phases, with the solidification process starting on 5 November, followed by the cool down phase. On 5 November De Winne successfully exchanged the used sample cartridges for CETSOL with new sample cartridges for the MICAST experiment. The chamber leak test was performed on 5 November with MICAST starting the following day.

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

Matroshka
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

Expose-R
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 26 October Commander De Winne, together with ISS Flight Engineers Stott, Thirsk and Williams, started another week-long session of the NASA SLEEP (Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure during Spaceflight) experiment, wearing their Actiwatch devices from which to log data to the Human Research Facility 1 laptop. On the same day Williams downloaded Actiwatch and Holter Monitor data from his Integrated Cardiovascular Ambulatory Monitoring session the previous week.

On 27 October De Winne removed and stowed the Ultrasound device in the Human Research Facility 1, and successfully performed a Rack Interface Controller software update and functional check out. The facility was activated on 2 November in support of the Integrated Cardiovascular Echo scan, and on 4 November for performing Body Mass Measurements for De Winne, Stott, Thirsk and Williams. On 6 November the facility was activated for troubleshooting activities of the ultrasound device which did not perform successfully during the Integrated Cardiovascular Resting Echo session on 2 November.

Human Research Facility 2
The Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 30 October for processing/centrifuging blood samples collected in connection with the Nutrition Experiment. After samples were centrifuged they were stowed in the Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer (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. On the same day a Rack Interface Controller software update was performed. The facility was activated again on 3 November for PC troubleshooting and on 5 and 6 November in support of ESA’s CARD experiment.

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:

  • New Laptops
    On 3 November ESA astronaut and ISS Commander Frank De Winne deployed three new laptops with associated PCMCIA memory cards to act as payload computers. These were installed in the Columbus Laboratory, the US Airlock and the Japanese laboratory. The laptops were left on overnight to allow patches to be loaded from the ground.

Activities of ESA Astronaut Frank De Winne

  • System and Payload Activities
    In addition to what is stated in the remainder of the report, Frank De Winne: took Intermodule Ventilation airflow measurements in the Kibo Laboratory, Node 1, US laboratory and European-built Node 2; stowed the backup Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter (radiation monitoring device) following troubleshooting; carried out inspection and lubrication of the Treadmill with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization as part of weekly and monthly maintenance; and carried out Water Processor Assembly sample analysis using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer.

     

  • 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. On 24 October De Winne conducted a session of the Canadian Space Agency’s Bodies in the Space Environment with ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Nicole Stott. 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 27 October De Winne was assisted by Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko in undertaking the Russian cardiological experiment ‘Study of the Bioelectric Activity of the Heart at Rest’.

     

  • Health Status Activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the last two weeks De Winne undertook: a session of the WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows) experiment, which is used for testing cognitive abilities. 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. De Winne also carried out the regular monthly refresher session of his Crew Medical Officer skills

     

  • Public Affairs Events
    On 6 November ESA astronaut and ISS Commander Frank De Winne and Canadian Space Agency astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk were involved in an ESA TV event with broadcasters from Belgium and France. On the education side De Winne undertook amateur radio sessions with: Belayr Pathfinders at Dartmouth/Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on 24 October; students at the Copernicus Science Centre, Warsaw, Poland on 27 October; and a live TV link with students at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. On 5 November he also took part in a US public affairs event with the rest of the ISS crew to mark the 10th anniversary of International Education Week.

     

  • 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. In addition De Winne: carried out the periodic deployment of formaldehyde sampling kits in the US laboratory and Service Module for two days before being retrieved by NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Jeff Williams; carried out pre-packing/cargo transfer operations for the upcoming STS-129 mission; and carried out the weekly inventory of water supplies in the Contingency Water Containers.

HTV Departure Preparations and Unberthing

  • HTV Departure Preparations
    In addition to HTV-related cargo transfer activities, on 26 October De Winne, Stott and Thirsk carried out a computer simulation of robotics procedures for undocking of the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) on 30 October. On 29 October, in preparation for undocking Frank De Winne relocated an extra laptop to the US laboratory from the Columbus laboratory for unberthing operations, set up and checked out the HTV Control Panel, and stripped the HTV of reusable items such as light fittings, fire safety equipment. Bob Thirsk and Jeff Williams used the Station’s principal robotic arm to grapple the HTV at 14:30 (CET). Thirsk also installed equipment at the Node 2 earth-facing port with Nicole Stott to allow the Mission Control Centre in Houston to perform demating preparations during crew sleep time. Frank De Winne and Nicole Stott closed the HTV hatch at 20:30 (CET) configured the Node 2 to HTV interhatch area, disconnected relevant cables and ducting.

     

  • HTV Unberthing
    On 30 October De Winne, Stott and Thirsk disconnected the remaining power line to the HTV, installed the HTV thermal cover and closed the Node 2 nadir hatch. This was followed by the 30-minute depressurisation of the interhatch area and associated leak checks. After the docking mechanism bolts were removed and latches were deployed the HTV was unberthed from the Node 2 earth-facing port by the Station’s main robotic arm at 18:18 (CET), moved to its release position and released 20:32 (CET), carrying its cargo of 727.7 kg for disposal. A departure manoeuvre was carried out at 21:01 (CET) The deorbit burn was carried out 21:11 (CET).

ISS Crew Return Preparations
On 30 October and 5 November Roman Romanenko carried out medical operation procedures on the TVIS treadmill and VELO ergometer respectively, whilst wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit in preparation for his return to gravity on 1 December with Frank De Winne and Bob Thirsk. 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.

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 Jeffrey Williams in connection with NASA’s Nutrition experiment.

T2 COLBERT Treadmill Installation
Frank De Winne, Bob Thirsk and Jeff Williams undertook long-duration runs and passive running tests on the T2 COLBERT treadmill on 26 October as part of activation and checkout activities. The following day Nicole Stott carried out troubleshooting activities to try and retrieve previous treadmill data from a Station laptop and the treadmill rack itself. Attempts to retrieve the missing data were carried out on 2 November by Stott and on 3 November by Frank De Winne using an uplinked batch file. On 4 November De Winne installed an Internal Wireless Instrumentation System accelerometer on the treadmill to take vibration measurements. These measurements were taken on 6 November.

Urine Processor Assembly/Waste and Hygiene Facilities
The Urine Processor Assembly and Destiny’s Waste and Hygiene Compartment were out of use on 26 October due to an unaccountable fluid decrease in the Urine Processor Assembly. On inspection no visible fluids were spotted by the crew. It is believed that the lost fluid is in the Distillation Assembly due to a blockage between the Distillation Assembly and the Fluid Control Pump Assembly. Before resolution of this issue the periodic change-out of the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly of the Urine Processor Assembly took place on 29 October.

The following day the nearly full EDV-U urine container from the Waste and Hygiene Compartment was removed and used to fill the new Recycle Filter Tank Assembly. An attempt to empty out the Distillation Assembly (by ground commanding) was unsuccessful. On 4 November Stott and Thirsk drained the Waste Storage Tank Assembly from about half full to 10% into a Russian urine container to allow for Distillation Assembly dryout. Afterwards Stott carried out a procedure to flow urine in the opposite direction back into the Distillation Assembly to clear the suspected blockage. The Distillation Assembly was successfully drained on 5 November showing that the blockage is now clear. Until the situation is completely resolved, urine from the Waste and Hygiene Compartment will be routed to Russian urine containers.

Service Module Thermal Control System
On 27 October Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko replaced a pump assembly on loop 1 of the Service Module’s thermal control system. However, one of the two pumps in the assembly malfunctioned during ground-controlled testing. This is currently being looked into. Two days later Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev drained coolant from loop 2 and checked pressures at various valve settings to determine the free air in the loop and to check the leak tightness of the accumulator bellows of loop 2.

Air Quality Monitor
Frank De Winne completed sampling sessions with the new Air Quality Monitor on 28 October and 4 November. Nicole Stott and Bob Thirsk also each completed a sampling session on 26 October and 2 November respectively. This device is being used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere. This new technology is being evaluated over a few months.

Orbital Debris
On 28 October, Orbital debris from the Russian Cosmos 2421 satellite was being monitored especially with possible conjunctions being in close proximity to primary and backup HTV release times. The following day, with additional data, it was determined that a debris avoidance manoeuvre would not be required by the ISS, though the HTV release was delayed by one orbit to provide a clear trajectory for HTV after undocking. Another object was being monitored on 6 November in connection with a conjunction with the ISS though the possibility of this past.

Mini-Research Module 2 Docking Preparations

  • Kurs Automatic Docking System Configuration
    On 30 October Romanenko configured the Kurs system in the Service Module to support docking operations at the Service Module’s zenith port. This is in preparation of docking of the Russian Mini-Research Module 2 on 12 November. The module will act as another Russian airlock/docking port similar to the Pirs Docking Module.

     

  • TORU Manual Docking System Training
    On 6 November Suraev and Romanenko carried out a three-hour training session on the Russian TORU system in preparation for Mini-Research Module 2 docking on 12 November. The TORU system acts as a manual backup to the Kurs automated rendezvous and docking system. The session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss.

US Airlock Activities
During the past two weeks in connection with the upcoming STS-129/ULF3 spacewalks, regeneration of CO2 absorption canisters and recharge of batteries has taken place in preparation for their use in the US EVA suits, EVA tools have been prepared and EVA suits have been resized. Jeff Williams degassed four reservoirs of water for use in the EVA suits and filtered the cooling loops of two EVA suits for particulate matter and Stott checked out two SAFER (Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue) units, propulsive units used by EVA astronauts in the unlikely event that they become detached from the ISS during a spacewalk.

Oxygen Generator System
On 2 November Williams and Nicole Stott replaced the failed water Orbit Replaceable Unit with a refurbished unit as part of Oxygen Generator System troubleshooting.

Thruster test
On 2 November a ground-controlled test of Service Module thrusters was carried out in order to take structural dynamics data from the Internal Wireless Instrumentation System. ISS attitude control was returned to US systems after the test was complete.

Node 3 preparations
Pressurised Mating Adaptor 3 was pressurised by Bob Thirsk on 2 November in order to carry out Node 3 bulkhead work in preparation for the arrival of Node 3 in February 2010 as part on the STS-130 mission. The following day Thirsk and Williams opened the Node 1 port-side hatch to Pressurised Mating Adaptor 3 (the same docking port where Node 3 will be attached), removed closeout panels and other elements and spent several hours swapping five electrical feedthrough cables for five fluid feedthrough lines. Nicole Stott also swapped an Intermodule Ventilation Valve for a Negative Pressure Relieve Valve at the same docking port. After closing out the activities the following day the Node 1 port-side hatch was closed and Pressurised Mating Adaptor 3 again depressurised by Frank De Winne and Bob Thirsk. On 5 and 6 November Jeff Williams and Frank De Winne respectively carried out leak checks on the hatch of the Pressurised Mating Adaptor 3.

Robotic Arm Operations
On 3 November the Space Station Remote Manipulator System, the Station’s principal robotic arm, was commanded from ground to translate from a grapple fixture on Node 2, first to one of the grapple fixtures on the Mobile Base System of the ISS truss, and thereafter onto a second grapple fixture on the Mobile Base System. The following day the Mobile Base System and robotic arm were moved along the rails on the truss from worksite 5 to worksite 3 in connection with STS-129/ULF-3 Shuttle flight requirements.

Power Loss
On 3 November Main Bus Switching Unit 1, which controls half the station’s systems, experienced an unexpected power loss, which was recovered almost immediately. Systems were down for three hours but engineering teams, who are reviewing the occurrence, believe that this was a random event.

SUBA Onboard Equipment Control System
On 4 November Maxim Suraev installed a new Common Power Switching Timer and associated equipment on the SUBA Onboard Equipment Control System in the Russian Service Module. The Onboard Equipment Control System controls, monitors, and diagnoses systems status in the Service Module.

Inter-Satellite Communication System
On 4 November JAXA successfully sent a test command to the Inter-Satellite Communication System as part of checkout procedures and everything is operating nominally.

US Internal Thermal Control System
On 5 November Bob Thirsk refilled the Internal Thermal Control System loops in the US and Japanese laboratories with fresh coolant from the Fluid Servicing System, which also included Frank De Winne reconfiguring Low Temperature Loop valves of the Thermal Control Assembly in the Japanese laboratory.

Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
Williams and Stott completed their third R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre skill training on 5 November. This involved photographing a Shuttle diagram 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 November. 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 Atlantis, to be downlinked for launch debris assessment.

Other Activities
During the past two weeks: a ventilation fan was replaced in the Zarya Module by Romanenko; Bob Thirsk replaced a faulty pressure probe on the Internal Sampling Adapter Scopemeter, used during leak-checking; an audit of the available Zarya, Service Module, and the Pirs Docking Compartment stowage was carried out; unloading of Progress M-03M/35P took place; and a dysfunctional dosimeter instrument was removed from the SRK Radiation Monitoring System in the Service Module.

(*)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.

Contact:
Martin Zell
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
martin.zell[@]esa.int

Markus Bauer
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
markus.bauer[@]esa.int

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

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