For release: 06-05-02 (for week ending 06-05-02)
Science Ops status report #: 02-145
Ground controllers get ready for new experiments on Space Station
Astronaut Peggy A. Whitson, Expedition Five flight engineer, practices experiment procedures using a training mockup of the Human Research Facility rack. This rack is one of the main facilities for collecting human life sciences data on the International Space Station. Procedures for carrying out the experiments are prepared by scientists with the help of the team at NASA's Payload Operations Center at the Marshall Center.
Photo: Expedition Five astronaut Peggy Whitson trains in Destiny laboratory mockup (NASA)
The Payload Operations Center team has finished most Expedition Four science activities and is busy planning and preparing for Expedition Five the next four-month research mission on the International Space Station.
Expedition Five will officially get started during Space Shuttle Endeavour’s visit to the orbiting laboratory on the STS-111 mission. Endeavour will deliver two new research facilities – EXPRESS Rack 3 and the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The new Space Station crew, also riding up on Endeavour, will install these facilities in the Station’s Destiny laboratory.
To enhance hands-on investigations inside the Station, engineers and scientists at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., collaborated with the European Space Agency to build the glovebox.
“Without the glovebox, many types of hands-on experiments would be impossible or severely restricted on the Space Station,” said Charles Baugher, project scientist for the glovebox at the Marshall Center.
The glovebox a sealed container with built in gloves on its sides and front will enhance the Space Station’s science capabilities by providing a facility where the crew can work safely with experiments that involve fluids, flames, particles and fumes that need to be contained.
During the upcoming four-month Expedition Five on the Station, the glovebox will support the first two NASA materials science experiments to be conducted on the Space Station: the Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules, or SUBSA, and the Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation, or PFMI. These experiments will study materials processes similar to those used to make semiconductors for electronic devices and components used in jet engines.
High-temperature furnaces and toxic materials required for the experiments will be safely contained inside the sealed glovebox work area. Yet by inserting their hands in the gloves, the crew will still be able to change out samples and adjust video for the experiment two critical hands-on activities crucial to the success of both investigations. The glovebox is connected to Station resources like power and computers, so investigators on the ground can still send commands to their experiments and receive data, such as video of samples being melted.
Besides the two materials experiments, two more new experiments will be delivered to the Station, along with two experiments that are being reflown and samples for research facilities already on board the Station. Another 11 experiments are continuing operations started on earlier Station expeditions. Endeavour will bring home samples and equipment for 11 experiments completed during Expedition Four.
This week, scientists finished the year-long Active Rack Isolation System ISS Characterization Experiment (ARIS-ICE) data collection with three hammer tests. The ARIS system is installed in EXPRESS Rack 2 to protect experiments from vibrations that disturb the quiet, low-gravity environment. The hammer test imparts a known disturbance to the rack, and then measures how ARIS responds to negate vibrations that would disrupt experiments.
ARIS will remain installed in EXPRESS Rack 2 to support payloads in that rack. One of the payloads, the Zeolite Crystal Growth Furnace, finished processing its first set of zeolite samples during Expedition Four. Endeavour will return the samples, so scientists can use them to better define the structure of zeolites. Zeolites may potentially be used to safely store hydrogen fuel. Endeavour will deliver a new set of zeolite samples that will be crystallized during Expedition Five.
This experiment and others are being flown through NASA Commercial Space Centers managed by NASA’s Space Product Development Program at the Marshall Center. Antibiotics produced in space are being returned for a pharmaceutical experiment, sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Wallingford, Conn. Endeavour is delivering a commercial experiment that will grow soybeans in space for Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a Dupont Company, with headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa.
Endeavour will return plants grown in the Biomass Production System sponsored by the Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. This experiment examines both technology for a permanent plant growth facility for the Station and the microgravity performance of Apogee wheat and Brassica rapa plants. There are three sets of plants currently in the Biomass Production System. The final set of wheat seeds will be planted one day after Endeavour launches and will grow while the Shuttle is docked with the Station. When the Endeavour returns to Earth with the plants, scientists will harvest the wheat plants to study the effect of microgravity on photosynthesis. The Brassica rapa plants will be examined to help scientists evaluate the hardware performance.
This week and during Shuttle docked operations, the crew will continue their Crew Earth Observations (CEO) photography. Potential subjects for the week include floods in Honduras and fires and volcanic activity in Colima, located on the western side of Mexico on the Pacific coast, ranging from the southern slopes of the Fuego de Colima volcano to the Pacific coastal plain.
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.