Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 23 December, 2020 – Space Biology

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
December 28, 2020
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 23 December, 2020 – Space Biology
NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 23 December, 2020 - Space Biology.

The seven Expedition 64 residents living aboard the International Space Station will be going into the Christmas holiday focusing intensely on space biology.
The entire crew will be off duty on Christmas day relaxing following an increased pace of microgravity research.

Rodent research will be the highlight through Christmas eve as the astronauts explore how living in space affects eyesight and bones. Scientists are observing mice launched to the orbiting lab earlier this month to understand why 40 percent of crew members living in space have reported vision impairment. A combination of factors, such as headward fluid shifts and space radiation, is suspected of impacting eyesight off the Earth.

Another group of mice is being analyzed for space-caused genetic changes in bone tissue. The study is exploring the molecular mechanisms of tissue degeneration that may provide preventative therapies for astronauts in space and humans on Earth.

The mice from both biomedical studies will be returned to Earth aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship in January for analysis by scientists in Florida. The Cargo Dragon completes its mission on January 11 when it undocks from the Harmony module and splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean. It will be packed with finalized science experiments and space station hardware for servicing.

Heart research continued today with Flight Engineer Kate Rubins exploring engineered heart tissues to gain insights into aging and weakening heart muscles. The cardiovascular study was activated shortly after its arrival aboard the Cargo Dragon and may improve treatments for heart conditions on and off Earth.

Microbes are also being examined for the risk they pose to spacecraft systems and astronaut health. The experiment may provide insight into better ways to control their growth and disinfect surfaces on Earth and in space.

On-Orbit Status Report


Bacterial Adhesion and Corrosion: The crew gathered materials and performed the BAC inoculation. Polymicrobial Biofilm Growth and Control during Spaceflight (Bacterial Adhesion and Corrosion) explores the formation under microgravity conditions of multi-species biofilms, which may behave differently from single-species biofilms. This investigation identifies the bacterial genes used during biofilm growth, examines whether these biofilms can corrode stainless steel, and evaluates the effectiveness of a silver-based disinfectant. The microorganisms in biofilms can become resistant to traditional cleaning chemicals, leading to contamination of water treatment systems, damage to equipment, and potential health risks to astronauts.

Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF)-L Config Change: The crew changed the CBEF-L config from ‘F’ to ‘G’. CBEF-L is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) new subrack facility, which is an upgraded facility of the original CBEF currently aboard the ISS. CBEF-L provides new capabilities with additional new resources such as Full High Definition video interface, Ethernet, 24 VDC power supply, and a larger diameter centrifugal test environment. By using the original CBEF and CBEF-L as one facility for the same experiment, the payload user is provided with an upgraded experimental environment that can handle the processing of more experimental samples for a wider array of experiments.

Fiber Optic Production (FOP): In a continuation of the FOP experiment, the crew performed an additional sample exchange. 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.

Genes in Space-7: The crew performed GIS-7 Freeze-and-fly run 2. Genes in Space-7 establishes a workflow in order to examine changes in gene expression in the nervous system of fruit flies, targeting those related to the circadian system. This system of daily rhythms for bodily processes is regulated by light cues, which are disrupted during space travel. Spaceflight is known to cause cognitive changes, and this study could help establish a way to monitor changes in nervous system gene expression during lengthy space travel.

Rodent Research (RR): The crew restocked the RR Habitats and reviewed materials for future RR operations. The habitats are currently being used to support Rodent Research-23. RR-23 looks at changes to the eye which occur as a result of microgravity. At least 40 percent of astronauts experience vision impairment known as Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS) on long-duration spaceflights.

Space Fibers-2: The crew removed and stowed the processed fabrication module. 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.


Power Channel 4B Status: Yesterday, teams presented their findings of both historical on-orbit data assessment and lab test runs at the Ops Tag. It was agreed that the team could safely suppress the 20 second Persistent Amp-Delta Failure, Detection, Isolation and Recovery (FDIR) for all channels until before the February 2021 high beta event. Multiple overvoltage and Over Temperature Li-Ion FDIRs will remain active and protect the hardware. Channel 4B and 4A were untied successfully and both channels are providing power to their respective loads.

Thermal Amine Scrubber (TAS) Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Hose Installation and Sampling: Following installation of the TAS CO2 Hose on Monday, the system failed two fine leak checks. It was theorized that off gassing from the hose was contributing to the apparent leak rate and that an overnight operation of TAS would help clear that condition. Yesterday day ground teams performed another fine leak check of system and received the same leak rate as yesterday of ~0.14 lb/day. TAS leak source troubleshooting plans are under development for execution prior to resuming nominal TAS operations.

Crew-1 Dragon Cabin Reconfiguration: As a result of using the Dragon as a sleep station, there are some items that are more at risk of being damaged given frequent movement around the vehicle. Today the crew moved those items to a more secure location where they are less likely to be damaged.

Completed Task List Activities:

ARED spreadsheet recording
NanoRacks external platform module-12 cover fabrication
FOP sample exchange
ISS Experience Russian Segment setup
Today’s Ground Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Dragon cargo transfer ops
Payloads support
Look Ahead Plan

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

Saturday, 12/26 (GMT 361)

ISS Experience Stow, MVP2 cell-06, Plant Habitat-02 leaf sample, Rodent Research

Crew off duty; housekeeping
Sunday, 12/27 (GMT 362)


Rodent Research ops, Plant Habitat-02 leaf sampling, Monoclonal Antibodies

Crew off duty
Today’s Planned Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Dragon cargo transfer ops
RR Habitat restock
CBEF-L reconfiguration
Space Fibers-2 temperature check
Cupola acrylic scratch pane install
Genes In Space 7 run
Bacterial Adhesion and Corrosion inoculation
FOP sample changeout
ITCS maintenance canister gather
Dragon cabin reconfig

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