Status Report

ESA ISS Science & System – Operations Status Report Increment 20 9 October 2009

By SpaceRef Editor
October 26, 2009
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ESA ISS Science & System – Operations Status Report Increment 20 9 October 2009

This is ISS status report No 52 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.

Highlight: The official ISS Change-Of-Command Ceremony took place on 9 October handing stewardship of the International Space Station over to the ISS Expedition 21 crew of which ESA astronaut Frank De Winne is the Commander. De Winne is set to become the first ESA and European Commander of the International Space Station on 11 October following undocking of Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka, Expedition 20 Flight Engineer Michael Barratt and Spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté in Soyuz TMA-14/18S.
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 2 October ESA Astronaut Frank De Winne installed the Yeast B1 and B2 Experiment Containers, brought to the ISS on Soyuz 20S, on the Biolab Incubator Rotors and started the Yeast B2 experiment. The Yeast B1 experiment was activated on 5 October. One motor for two of the cultivation chambers could not be fully activated due to an over-current but a recovery action was successfully performed from ground on 7 October. The experiment was completed by Frank De Winne on 8 October with the fixation of the samples and removal of the Experiment Containers from the incubator, and storage of the Experiment Containers in the Thermal Control Unit of Biolab. On 9 October De Winne packed the Experiment Containers for return to Earth with Soyuz 18S, which successfully landed in Kazakhstan on 11 October.

The Yeast experiment studies the influence of weightlessness on so-called Flo proteins which regulate flocculation (clumping together) and adhesion of cells. The overall goal is to obtain a detailed insight into the importance of weightlessness on the formation of organised cell structures, and on flo processes, which are of considerable interest for fundamental science, industry and the medical field.

The ArtEMISS-A experiment will tentatively be one of the next experiments to take place in the Biolab facility. This will be brought to the ISS on a similar ISS sortie flight scenario, which is envisaged in early 2010. 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 9 October. 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 3 ½ 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 rack was activated for data downlink in connection with the DOSIS experiment on 1 October. On 9 October a subject file for the Flywheel Exercise Device was transferred to the European Physiology Modules. The following experiments have recently used functions of the European Physiology Modules rack in the Columbus laboratory:

  • 3D Space
    On 8 October NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Mike Barratt successfully performed his last session of the 3D Space experiment. This human physiology study investigates the effects of weightlessness on the mental representation of visual information during and after spaceflight. Accurate perception is a prerequisite for spatial orientation and reliable performance of tasks in space. The experiment has different elements including investigations of perception of depth and distance carried out using a virtual reality headset and standard psychophysics tests.
  • Integrated Cardiovascular
    Frank De Winne assisted NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Nicole Stott as Crew Medical Officer in undertaking her first session of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment starting on 6 October. This included 24-hr blood pressure measurement using ESA’s Cardiopres device, 48-hr ECG measurement with a holter device and 48-hr activity measurement using an Actiwatch. Cardiopres data was downloaded to the European Physiology Modules rack and then to a Human Research Facility laptop on 9 October. Other data was downloaded directly to the Human Research Facility laptop.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
Check-outs 5 and 6, carried out without optical targets, were performed successfully on the Fluid Science Laboratory on 2 and 3 October. Check-outs 5 and 6 with optical targets were completed on 6 and 9 October respectively following installation of the optical targets on 5 October by ESA astronaut Frank De Winne and 8 October by Canadian Space Agency astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk.

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.

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 1 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.

Kubik Incubator
The Kubic 6 incubator, brought to the ISS by the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, which arrived at the ISS on 17 September, is currently stowed in Columbus.

Flywheel Exercise Device
The Flywheel Exercise Device will be removed within the next few weeks from its on-orbit storage location in the European Transport Carrier rack of the Columbus Laboratory for deployment and first functional checkout by Frank De Winne, now tentatively early in Increment 21 (mid October), after the series of STS-128, HTV-1 and Soyuz 20S and 18S flights. 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.

Foam Stability
Frank De Winne performed seven runs of the Foam Stability experiment on 26 September and six runs on 2 October in the framework of Voluntary Science activities. 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 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?

Lesson 3 – Lesson from Space
On 6 October Frank De Winne, performed an ESA educational demonstration during a live link from the ISS to an audience of 350 10-12 year old children in Brussels, Belgium. De Winne used ice samples to demonstrate water behavior in weightlessness. During the live event, which consisted of three simple demonstrations followed by a questions and answers session, De Winne also announced Benedetto Lui, a 14-year old boy from Italy, as the winner of the ESA-UNICEF water competition. During the activity Bob Thirsk assisted as camera operator

Portable Pulmonary Function System
On 3 October De Winne set up and manually checked out ESA’s new Portable Pulmonary Function System hardware, working with the Payload Operation and Integration Center in Huntsville. Afterwards De Winne stowed the hardware. 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. Checkout was successfully completed on 8 October by De Winne and Thirsk after a software update solved a communication issue with the US Local Area Network (LAN) connection. On 9 October De Winne performed the first session of the Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment, aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular. This includes measurements taken during various degrees of exercise.

Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2 and the CARD Experiment
Mike Barratt successfully performed the ESA CARD experiment on 5 and 6 October. This included 24 hour blood pressure monitoring and urine collection, a blood draw and five re-breathing sessions for cardiac output measurements, performed with the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2. The CARD experiment examines increased cardiac output and lowers blood pressure (caused by dilated arteries) in the face of increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system (which normally constricts arteries) in weightlessness. 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.

Frank De Winne successfully completed his first sessions of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment on 1 October. During this first six-day session De Winne consumed a low-salt diet, and then he undertook a second session with a normal ISS salt-level diet. Besides the daily diet monitoring and logging, the experiment included body mass measurements performed using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device in Human Research Facility 1 in the Columbus laboratory (on 26 and 29 September, and on 1 October), as well as blood sampling on 30 September assisted by NASA astronaut Nicole Stott and 24-hour urine collection completed on 1 October. Extra samples were taken on 26 September due to an issue with sample measurements from the previous day. Blood and urine samples were stored in MELFI. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight

Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR)
No activities were carried out using the WEAR hardware in the last two weeks. This activity 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

No activities were carried out with the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks up until 9 October. 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 still 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 1 October the vibration sensor equipment of the Microgravity Science Glovebox was activated in preparation for the start of the Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument (SODI) experiment series. The initialization of the ‘Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids’ (IVIDIL) experiment hardware, the first of three SODI experiments, was hereafter successfully performed. After an issue was resolved to allow downlinking through the Microgravity Science Glovebox laptop on 5 October, four IVIDL science runs were successfully completed between 6 and 9 October, with data successfully downlinked. A Soyuz thrusters test occurred during runs 3 and 4, but during a phase with strong movements of the experiment shaker. The vibration sensor equipment of the Microgravity Science Glovebox were active during the period. During the next weeks the IVIDIL experiment series will run continuously on week days as previously.

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 is currently out of a Sun observation window with the next visibility window expected to start on 17 October. The platform was ‘safed’ on 7 October, due to an additional Soyuz thruster test which took place on 8 October. Calibration of SOLAR’s SOLSPEC instrument was performed on 1 and 7 October by ground commanding,

The SOLAR payload facility studies the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range during a 2-year timeframe on-orbit. A detailed feasibility study for on-orbit lifetime extension is ongoing on request of the science team to gather further science data in a period of higher solar activity. The SOLAR facility has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles.

European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory

Material Science Laboratory in the Material Science Research Rack
In the last week the crew started the commissioning of the new Materials Science Research Rack, in which ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the principal payload. Installation of the rack’s Active Rack Isolation System is on hold.

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. After on-orbit commissioning the first experiment runs are planned, with the return of the first two sample cartridges scheduled on the next Shuttle flight in November for detailed scientific analysis on ground.

CETSOL and MICAST are two complementary 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. In October 2009 the Phantom will be relocated to the Japanese Kibo laboratory and equipped with a set of new passive dosimeters which will be uploaded on the Progress 35P flight, which is due for launch on 15 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.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Human Research Facility 1
In addition to SOLO experiment procedures (see above) Body Mass Measurements using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device in Human Research Facility 1 were performed for Mike Barratt, Nicole Stott and Bob Thirsk on 1 October. On 29 September the Facility was also used in support of Nicole Stott’s Integrated Cardiovascular Resting Echo session and on 3 October in support of NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Jeff Williams’ session of the Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure during Spaceflight (SLEEP) experiment.

On 5 October De Winne, Barratt, Stott, Thirsk and Williams started a new week long session of the NASA SLEEP (Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure during Spaceflight) experiment, logging data from their Actiwatch devices to the Human Research Facility 1. This experiment monitors the crewmember’s sleep/wake patterns and light exposure.

Human Research Facility 2
The facility was activated on 26 and 27 September in support of the US Nutrition experiment. On 26 September a blood draw was performed on Mike Barratt who also started 24 hours urine collection. On 27 September a blood draw was performed on Nicole Stott who also concluded 24 hours urine collection. Blood samples were centrifuged in the refrigerated Centrifuge in the Human Research Facility 2 and stowed in the Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI). Urine samples were also stowed in MELFI. The facility was activated again on 30 September in support of ESA’s SOLO experiment, and again on 5 October in support of CARD experiment activities.
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

Human Research Facility 1 was activated on 17 and 19 August for body mass measurements with the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in support of the SOLO experiment. On 21 August the facility was activated again for checkout following the replacement of Command and Monitoring Unit 1 of the Data Management System, which was accessible by tilting down the Human Research Facility 1 rack. Frank De Winne worked with Columbus Control Centre on this activity. The rack was tilted back to its normal position after good data was received on the ground.

Human Research Facility 2
The facility was activated on 18 August in support of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment. Blood samples from ISS Flight Engineer Mike Barratt were centrifuged in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 and stowed in the MELFI Freezer.
ISS general system information and activities *
ESA astronaut Frank De Winne: ISS Commander
ESA astronaut Frank De Winne will become the first ESA and European commander of the ISS on 11 October following departure of old commander Gennady Padalka in Soyuz TMA-14 together with NASA astronaut Mike Barratt and Spaceflight Participant Guy Laliberté. On 9 October the traditional Change-of-Command ceremony took place with the combined ISS crews. Padalka and Barratt transferred the stewardship of the International Space Station to the Expedition 21 crew, which now consists of Commander Frank De Winne, and Flight Engineers Maxim Suraev, Nicole Stott, Roman Romanenko, Bob Thirsk and Jeff Williams.

Columbus laboratory

In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above, the Columbus systems have been working well. In addition to the weekly conferences of the ISS Crew with the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, some regular maintenance activities have been executed by the crew and the Flight Control Team. Main points of interest are as follows:

  • Columbus software upgrade
    On 29 September ESA astronaut Frank De Winne reconfigured a Columbus laptop for transition to Columbus laboratory Cycle 12 software. After rebooting the laptop De Winne carried out a telecommand and telemetry checkout. The following day De Winne loaded the two Columbus laptops with new configuration files for the Columbus Local Area Network (LAN) Switch before using one of the laptops to configure the LAN for HTML-format report capability.

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 disconnected the new Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter radiation measurement device on 26 September after some glitches were encountered following activation and checkout on 21 September. On 29 September De Winne carried out microbiology analysis for samples from the Water Processor Assembly, which forms part of the Water Recovery System on the ISS. Analysis was carried out in the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer. The following day De Winne undertook the periodic backfill of the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly (also part of the Water Recovery System). On 1 October, De Winne rebooted all the laptops in use in the non-Russian segment of the ISS. On 6 October he re-installed and re-connected the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization (CEVIS) in the US Laboratory which had been temporarily moved to make room for performing Material Science Research Rack activities.
  • Experiment activities
    In addition to the 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 3 to 9 October De Winne, Barratt, Stott, Thirsk and Williams performed saliva and blood collection for NASA’s Integrated Immune experiment, the aim of which is to validate procedures for monitoring crew member immune function. Samples were stored at ambient temperature on the Soyuz TMA-14 for return to ground.
  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. On 26 September De Winne undertook a session of the Russian Periodic Fitness Evaluation, which utilises the TVIS treadmill with ECG measurements. On 5 October he performed another session with the Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows (WinSCAT) experiment, a monthly questionnaire test of cognitive abilities. In addition De Winne 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.
  • Public Affairs events
    Frank De Winne was involved in different public affairs events in the past two weeks. This included a televised in-flight call with 300 students at the Delft University of Technology in Delft, the Netherlands, on 29 September, moderated by ESA astronaut André Kuipers on the ground, and two amateur radio contacts with students at the Ciência Viva School in Lisbon, Portugal on 1 October and students at the University of Liege in Liege, Belgium on 2 October. On 6 October all crewmembers participated in three live TV interviews with US and Canadian media and with ESA/German ZDF Television.
  • Other activities
    During the last two weeks Frank De Winne and the rest of the crew had their regular weekly planning conferences with the Mission Control Centres in Moscow and Houston. In addition De Winne: carried out a review of emergency procedures on 28 September with the rest of the crew, which encompasses a 9-day period with 9 crew and 3 Soyuz spacecraft; a review of the activities of spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté on 29 September with Roscosmos cosmonauts Gennady Padalka (Expedition 20 Commander) and Roman Romanenko (Expedition 20/21 Flight Engineer), 3 days prior to Laliberté’s arrival; participated with all crewmembers in a Safety Conference and Briefing with ground specialists on 4 October, followed by a Crew Safety Handover to review emergency procedures; assisted spaceflight participant Laliberté with video recording activities on 4 and 7 October; and continued cargo and trash transfer activities between the HTV and the ISS.

Soyuz TMA-16/20S

  • Soyuz TMA-16 launch and docking

    Roscosmos cosmonaut Maxim Surayev, NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams and spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté were launched successfully in the Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on flight 20S to the ISS on 30 September at 09:14 (CEST). Surayev and Williams would become Flight Engineers for ISS Expedition 21, for which ESA astronaut Frank De Winne will become Commander on 11 October. Following orbital insertion, Soyuz TMA antennas and solar arrays were deployed and various orbital burns were carried out over the following two days to bring the Soyuz in the vicinity of the ISS to begin docking procedures. Prior to Soyuz TMA-16 docking the ISS crew configured relevant communications and video equipment. The Soyuz spacecraft docked successfully with the ISS at the Service Module aft port on 2 October at 10:35 (CEST).

  • Soyuz TMA-16 post-docking activities
    Video of the docking was downlinked by Romanenko and the one-hour interface leak check between the Soyuz and the ISS was carried out by Padalka and Romanenko. On completion the hatches were opened on 2 October at 13:31 (CEST) and the usual crew greeting took place. For the next eight days the ISS crew now totals eight astronauts/cosmonauts (ISS Commander Gennady Padalka and ISS Flight Engineers Frank De Winne, Bob Thirsk, Mike Barratt, Nicole Stott, Jeffrey Williams, Roman Romanenko and Maxim Surayev) with the addition of spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté who will return with Padalka and Barratt in Soyuz 14S on 11 October. Quick disconnect clamps were installed at the interface between the Soyuz and the ISS to further stabilise the connection and intermodule air ducting was set up inside the Soyuz spacecraft, which was deactivated. Following the standard crew safety briefing, Surayev and Padalka moved all three Soyuz seat liners from the Soyuz TMA-16 to Soyuz TMA-15 for Surayev and Williams and to Soyuz TMA-14 for Guy Laliberté. The seat liners of Romanenko, Stott and Thirsk were moved into Soyuz TMA-16. Accompanying Sokol spacesuits were also moved. On 8 October Suraev dismantled the two “Klest” TV cameras and their light units in the Descent Module for return to the ground on Soyuz flight 18S.

ISS crew return preparations

  • Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
    In the last two weeks Gennady Padalka carried out medical operation procedures whilst wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit in preparation for his return to gravity on 11 October, assisted by Roman Romanenko and supported by ground specialists. 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. On 9 October Padalka and Suraev performed the Russian sanitary-epidemiological status check, which is also carried out before Soyuz departures.
  • Soyuz descent training
    On 28 September Gennady Padalka and Mike Barratt carried out a simulation training of their return journey in Soyuz TMA-14/18S on 11 October. The training was carried out on a Russian laptop with a hand controller. Being supported during the activity by ground personnel at the Mission Control Centre in Moscow, the training covered emergency and off-nominal procedures such as manual undocking. On 30 September and 1 October the Russian Istochnik-M telemetry reception and recording system in the Service Module was checked out by Padalka and Romanenko. This system allows the ISS to receive telemetry from Soyuz spacecraft. This included activating telemetry equipment in the Soyuz TMA-14 to check signal strength from the Service Module antenna. On 7 October Padalka, Barratt and spaceflight participant Laliberté carried out the Soyuz descent drill in the Soyuz TMA-14. On the same day a problem was observed with the thrusters firing while testing the Soyuz Motion Control System. A second motion control test, performed on the following day, pointed to a sensor problem, with no impact to nominal Soyuz 18S undocking, reentry, or landing operations.

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 ESA astronaut Frank De Winne as part of ESA’s SOLO experiment (see above), and from NASA astronauts Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott in connection with NASA’s Nutrition experiment. On 30 September Stott placed four samples bags from JAXA’s Dewey’s Forest educational experiment into MELFI.

On 2 October Bob Thirsk checked out the new MELFI-2 freezer. After activating the freezer (and laptop) Thirsk checked that all switches, light and displays functioned correctly before confirming the freezer’s nitrogen pressure was within range, and carrying out functional tests on the rack.

T2 COLBERT treadmill installation
On 28 September Frank De Winne started routing data and power cabling through Node 2 prior to installation of the T2 “COLBERT’ Treadmill. De Winne continued pre-installation activities the following day along with Thirsk, Barratt and Stott. In addition to installing additional cabling the astronauts prepared the treadmill for installation and prepared and installed the necessary brackets. The treadmill itself was installed by De Winne, Thirsk, Barratt and Stott on 30 September. Installation and activation were successfully completed on 8 October, and checkout began immediately afterwards.

Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator commissioning
Ground teams ran through commissioning activities from 28 September for the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre, the smaller two-armed robot capable of handling the delicate assembly tasks currently handled by astronauts during space walks. Commissioning activities included manoeuvring and grasping with both arms of Dextre and checking out the tools using the change out tool mechanisms. Dextre forms part of the Station’s Mobile Servicing System, which also includes the Station’s principal robotic arm ‘Çanadarm 2’ and the Mobile Base System.

Air Quality Monitor

Mike Barratt completed two sampling sessions with the new Air Quality Monitor on 29 and 30 September while Frank De Winne performed another sampling session on 5 October. This device is being used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere. This new technology is being evaluated over the next few months.

Carbon dioxide monitoring
Canadian Space Agency astronaut Bob Thirsk monitored carbon dioxide levels from 26 – 28 September in the US laboratory using the hand-held Carbon Dioxide Monitoring Kit. He backed this up with readings from the Compound Specific Analyzer. This equipment was used as the Major Constituents Analyzer instrument is currently inactive. Barratt set up the Carbon Dioxide Monitor for a day-long data take on 7 October.

Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation System
On 5 October Stott and Williams replaced the braking band of the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation System (CEVIS).

Waste and Hygiene Compartment
On 4 October a Russian urine container was installed in Destiny’s Waste and Hygiene Compartment. On the following days the container was connected to the Urine Processor Assembly, thus enabling for the first time processing of Russian Segment urine by the Urine Processor Assembly in the US Laboratory.

Japanese Laboratory Internal Thermal Control System

On 8 October Mike Barratt installed the Antimicrobial Applicator in the Internal Thermal Control System of the Japanese Laboratory to introduce an antimicrobial medium into Kibo’s cooling system.

(*)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.

SpaceRef staff editor.