Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 22 December, 2020 – Physics Phenomena

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
December 28, 2020
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 22 December, 2020 – Physics Phenomena
NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 22 December, 2020 - Physics Phenomena.

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew, consisting of five astronauts and two cosmonauts, will spend the rest of the year conducting valuable space research aboard the International Space Station.
Tuesday’s slate of science investigations explored a range of space biology and physics phenomena to benefit human health and manufacturing. Results from these microgravity studies could also boost the commercialization of space.

The crew has been looking at tiny organisms including microbes and fruit flies today to gain insights into immunology and genetic expression. These experiments will return to Earth on Jan. 11 for analysis when the SpaceX Cargo Dragon undocks from the Harmony module and splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean.

Weightlessness has the potential to increase the virulence of microbes and the Micro-14A study seeks to understand why. The astronauts are looking at the opportunistic pathogen Candida albicans in a human cell host to see how it adapts to space. Results could help doctors quantify the health risk to space crews and formulate countermeasures.

The Genes in Space-7 investigation examines the central nervous system of fruit flies for space-caused changes in genetic expression. The lack of a day-night cycle in space can create cognitive changes to molecular pathways that scientists want to track. Monitoring the changes to neural systems in space will help scientists understand how the biological clock adapts to long-term space missions.

A pair of physics studies is under way aboard the station seeking to promote the manufacturing of high-quality fiber optics that only microgravity can provide. Optical fiber samples were swapped out inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox today for the Fiber Optic Production study that is testing commercial production on the station. A secondary experiment, Space Fibers-2, explores a custom fiber fabrication method that operates autonomously inside its own specialized device that can be examined back on Earth.

The 2,400-pound NanoRacks Bishop research airlock is now part of the orbiting lab’s Tranquility module and will be activated and pressurized for operations at a later date. Bishop will increase the station’s capacity for private and public research and also enable the release of larger satellites and the transfer of cargo inside and outside the station.

On-Orbit Status Report


Astrileux The crew fabricated a protective cover for the Astrileux hardware to allow it to be returned to the ground for analysis. The experiment was retrieved from its external ISS location earlier this year. NanoRacks-Astrileux evaluates the effects of space exposure on new materials that, for the first time, show optical performance in the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelength range (10-20 nm). These materials have potential for a new generation of space instrumentation that can capture EUV radiation for use in remote sensing, planet mapping, telescopes, semiconductor applications and other systems.

Confocal Microscope: The crew verified functionality of a stage within the JAXA Confocal Microscope system. They also verified a good connection for a Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface within the system. The Confocal Space Microscope is a JAXA facility that provides fluorescence images of biological samples aboard the International Space Station. Confocal microscopy uses spatial filtering techniques to eliminate out-of-focus light or glare in specimens whose thickness exceeds the immediate plane of focus. With the Confocal Microscope data can be obtained on the fundamental nature of cellular and tissue structure and functions in real-time.

Fiber Optic Production (FOP): To continue the FOP experiment, the crew performed additional sample exchanges. The ground team uses data from previous runs to refine the experiment parameters, allowing them to draw longer fibers with better characteristics. The FOP investigation creates optical fibers with high commercial value aboard the ISS using a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium, and aluminum called ZBLAN. Extensive theoretical studies along with a limited number of experimental studies suggest that ZBLAN optical fibers produced in microgravity should exhibit far superior qualities to those produced on Earth. The resulting optical fiber from FOP is expected to help verify these studies and guide further engineering efforts to manufacture high value optical fiber in large volume aboard the ISS.

ISS Experience: The crew set up the hardware to capture recordings of cosmonaut logs. The ISS Experience is a cinematic virtual reality (VR) series documenting life and research aboard the space station. Filmed over multiple months, the immersive VR series documents different crew activities – from science conducted aboard the station to preparation for a spacewalk. The ISS Experience uses a Z-CAM V1 Pro Cinematic VR 360-degree camera with nine 190° fisheye lenses.

Micro-14A: The crew completed the last day of the current Micro-14A experiment session by preserving the samples for return to the ground. The Characterizing the Effects of Spaceflight on the Candida albicans Adaptation Response (Micro-14) investigation aboard the International Space Station (ISS) extends previous flight and ground-based studies on an opportunistic yeast, Candida albicans, to define mechanisms that lead to cellular adaptation responses to the spaceflight environment. As an opportunistic pathogen, C. albicans is capable of causing severe, life-threatening illness in immunocompromised hosts. This investigation seeks to evaluate the responses of the microorganism to microgravity conditions and, in particular, to assess changes at the physiological, cellular, and molecular level and to characterize virulence factors.

Space Fibers-2: The crew installed a new fabrication module into the Space Fibers-2 facility. Manufacturing Fiber Optic Cable in Microgravity (Space Fibers) evaluates a method for producing fiber optic cable from a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium and aluminum, called ZBLAN, in space. ZBLAN produces glass one hundred times more transparent than silica-based glass, exceptional for fiber optics. Microgravity suppresses mechanisms that commonly degrade fiber, and previous studies showed improved properties in fiber drawn in microgravity compared to that fabricated on the ground.

Time Perception: The crew set up the appropriate hardware and participated in a Time Perception science session. The accurate perception of objects in the environment is a prerequisite for spatial orientation and reliable performance of motor tasks. Time perception in microgravity is also fundamental to motion perception, sound localization, speech, and fine motor coordination. The Time Perception in Microgravity experiment quantifies the subjective changes in time perception in humans during and after long-duration exposure to microgravity.


Channel 4B Status: Following Flight Investigation Team (FIT) recommendation, teams are currently proceeding with Channel 4B recovery to a nominal, untied configuration. This includes inhibiting the 20s Persistent Amp Delta Fault Detection, Isolation and Recovery (FDIR) for all power channels in addition to the 6s Amp Delta FDIR inhibit already in place.

Mobile Servicing System (MSS) Operations: Robotics Ground Controllers powered up the MSS and maneuvered the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) to un-grapple the Nanorack Airlock (NRAL) berthed to Node3 Port. SSRMS was then maneuvered to Park position.

Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Pistol Grip Tool (PGT) Torque Analyzer Kit (TAK) Data Collection: The crew installed the TAK on all PGTs and recorded five data points for each PGT. Output torque data was provided to the ground for analysis.

Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Return Grille Cleaning: The crew removed return grille mesh covers and cleaned the inside of return grilles at various locations in the JEM. This is standard scheduled preventive maintenance.

Completed Task List Activities:

Today’s Ground Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Dragon cargo transfer ops
EVA PGT TAK data collect
Payloads ops support
Look Ahead Plan

Wednesday, 12/23 (GMT 358)

Bacterial Adhesion and Corrosion, Cardinal Heart, CBEF-L config change, FOP sample exchange, ISS Experience, Rodent Research, Space Fibers-2, Standard Measures, Veggie Monitoring

N3 IMV install/checkout, ITCS Maintenance Canister install
Thursday, 12/24 (GMT 359)

AstroPi, Food Acceptability, FOP sample exchange, ISS Experience, JAXA video take, Rodent Research, Standard Measures, SoundSee stow, Veggie Monitor

MAS/SSK sampling, NRAL vestibule outfitting, Galley supply hose R&R
Friday, 12/25 (GMT 360) – Crew off duty for Christmas

Standard Measures
Today’s Planned Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

ISS Experience setup in RS/recording ops
Time Perception
FOP sample change
Dragon cargo transfer ops
Cupola AVU R&R [Aborted]
Genes In Space mini PCR stop/stow
POLAR desiccant swap
IMAK unpack
Space Fibers 2 Fabrication module install
Micro-14A preservation

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