For release: 05-08-02 (for week ending 05-08-02)
Science Ops status report #: 02-118
Zeolite experiment completes testing aboard Space Station
The Zeolite Crystal Growth (ZCG) experiment aboard the International Space Station was concluded this week, with results that could contribute to improvements in the petroleum industry, such as increasing the amount of gasoline from a barrel of crude oil. The zeolite crystal research project is led by Dr. Al Sacco of Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., where Sacco heads a NASA-sponsored Commercial Space Center. Station experiments and payload operations are managed by the Marshall Center.
Photo: Zeolite crystals (NASA/MSFC)
The Zeolite Crystal Growth (ZCG) experiment was concluded a day early this week and the samples will be returned for analysis on the upcoming UF-2 Space Shuttle mission, which also is scheduled to ferry up new samples for the experiment.
Zeolites are used in many chemical manufacturing processes on Earth, including gasoline production. Insights from the Station experiment could lead to improvements in manufacturing processes. The principal investigator is Dr. Al Sacco, Jr., with the Center for Advanced Microgravity Materials Processing at Northeastern University in Boston.
Scientists on the ground began trouble shooting a potential problem with the zeolite experiment when it stopped receiving experiment health and status data on Monday. When they regained contact with the experiment, they learned that the furnace used to growth zeolites had lost power for about half an hour and experienced a temperature drop.
After evaluating their options, scientists elected to wrap up the experiment a day early rather than subject the samples to additional temperature cycling and possibly ill-defined thermal history that could hamper analysis later. The zeolite experiment arrived on the recent STS-110 mission to the Station and was scheduled for a 15-day run.
All checkout activities were completed Saturday with EXPRESS Rack 5 and its payload lockers, and the rack was powered off. It will begin hosting experiments on Expedition 7. However, the checkout enables it to serve as a backup for EXPRESS Rack 4 in a contingency.
Plant growth continues in the Biomass Production System (BPS) experiment, an experimental version of a permanent plant growth facility for the Space Station. The crew continued root priming activities over the weekend and again on Monday, injecting water into the growth chambers and removing air from the fluid lines. The crew collected water samples from the system reservoirs today (Wednesday). They are scheduled to downlink video from chambers 2 and 4 on Thursday and take gas samples from those chambers on Friday.
In response to a loss of humidity control in Chamber 2, scientists have asked the crew to swap the wheat growing in Chamber 2 with Brassica rapa plants growing in Chamber 4. Brassica rapa can be grown in Chamber 2's higher humidity, while the wheat will be moved into a chamber that retains humidity control. The swap will prevent any negative impact to the transpiration and photosynthesis data being collected on the plants. The crew has already harvested wheat samples, and the first harvest of Brassica rapa samples is planned for next week. The BPS principal investigators are Dr. Robert Morrow of Orbital Technology Corp., Madison, Wisconsin and Dr. Gary Stutte, of Dynamac Corp., Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Trouble-shooting with the Medium-rate Communication Outage Recorder (MCOR) was scheduled for today (Wednesday). MCOR serves as the main science data storage unit during Loss of Signal periods when the Station is not in satellite contact with the ground. The device has been unable to record since April 18.
The Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus (CGBA) experiment continued to run normally in the past week. The experiment automatically collected antibiotic-producing bacteria on April 24, April 28 and again Tuesday for later analysis on the ground. CGBA is studying the process of fermentation used in production of antibiotics, including a class of drugs used to treat cancer. Earlier research indicates that those types of microorganisms tend to grow better in space. The principal investigator is Dr. David Klaus, of BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Dr. Wenying Li, of Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Wallingford, Conn.
Commander Yury Onfrienko completed his Crew Interactions survey on Tuesday. Flight Engineer Carl Walz completed his today (Wednesday) with Bursch scheduled to complete the questionnaire Thursday. The crew also completed the regular monthly background radiation readings on the EVA Radiation Monitoring experiment badges worn by astronauts during spacewalks outside the Station.
Crew Earth Observations (CEO) photography targets for the week include wildfires in Cambodia and southwest Vietnam, wetlands and dam construction along the Mekong River, vegetation around Lake Eyre, Australia, human development in Bombay, India, the first tropical cyclone of the season over the Arabian Sea, water levels in the Kariba and Cahora Basa reservoirs in Africa, and fires in Yucatan, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Editor's Note: The Payload Operations Center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages all science research experiment operations aboard the International Space Station. The center is also home for coordination of the mission-planning work of a variety of international sources, all science payload deliveries and retrieval, and payload training and payload safety programs for the Station crew and all ground personnel.