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For release: 01-03-03 (for week ending 01-03-03)
Science Ops status report #: 03-001

Improved processing of fuels experiment completes run on Space Station

Photo description: Astronaut prepares zeolite samples.

The International Space Station science team has completed its first 15-day research run of Expedition Six with the Zeolite Crystal Growth experiment, which could help improve energy production and the use of cleaner fuels on Earth. The goal of the Zeolite Crystal Growth experiment is to grow larger, higher-quality crystals used in petroleum production that could lead to advances in using cheaper, cleaner-burning hydrogen as fuel. Space Station science experiments and payload operations are managed by the Payload Operations Center at Marshall Center.

Photo: Astronaut prepares zeolite samples. (NASA/JSC)


The International Space Station science team successfully completed the first Expedition Six research with the Zeolite Crystal Growth (ZCG) experiment on Wednesday. 

The second 15-day sample run is scheduled to begin on Friday.  The experiment was developed by the Center for Advanced Microgravity Materials Processing at Northeastern University in Boston.

Zeolites are used in many manufacturing processes on Earth.  Virtually all the world’s gasoline is produced or upgraded using zeolites.  Improving zeolites could make gasoline production more efficient or lead to ways of storing clean-burning hydrogen for fuel.  Zeolites can also be applied to detergents, optical cables, gas and vapor detectors for environmental monitoring.

The microgravity environment of the Space Station allows scientists to grow higher-quality crystals that are 100 to 500 times larger than normal for analysis and test the crystallization process in “slow motion” without being rushed by the effects of gravity.

On December 20, the station crew and ground controllers successfully installed and checked out a new High rate Communications Outage Recorder (HCOR), significantly upgrading the Station’s research capabilities.  The HCOR replaces the Medium rate Communications Outage Recorder (MCOR).  The purpose of these two payload recorders is to store science data during periods when the Station is not in communications contact via satellite with the ground.  The new HCOR can store 220 gigabits of data, record from up to eight input sources simultaneously and playback two channels of data simultaneously.  The MCOR could store 75 gigabits of data, record two input sources, and playback one channel at a time.  The new HCOR is also more resistant to radiation-induced errors that require ground controllers to reboot the recorder.

On Tuesday, December 24, Bowersox performed the first FOOT/Ground Reaction Forces During Space Flight (FOOT) research, collecting nine hours of data with this human life science experiment.  FOOT is designed to characterize the stress on the lower extremity bones and muscles in microgravity.  Bowersox downlinked the data to the ground on December 26.  The next FOOT session is planned for January 6, 2003. 

Also on December 24, Expedition Six Science Officer Don Pettit relocated part of the Advanced Astroculture (ADVASC) experiment inside the Destiny lab module.  On Friday, December 27, he relocated the Biotechnology Specimen Temperature Controller and its associated Gas Supply Module.  All transfers were in preparation to support new experiments arriving on the Utilization and Logistics Flight-1 mission.

On Monday, December 30, the crew conducted their regular monthly data collection with the EVA Radiation Monitoring (EVARM) experiment dosimeter badges. 

Also Monday, Pettit conducted a science conference with Expedition Six Lead Payload Operations Director Lamar Stacy on possible ways to maximize use of the Microgravity Science Glovebox once it is repaired and reactivated.

On Tuesday, Pettit reviewed the procedures for using the Human Research Facility (HRF) Ultrasound imaging system in preparation for today’s (Thursday’s) checkout of the device.  Ultrasound provides medical imaging of the heart and other organs, muscles and blood vessels for a variety of research and diagnostic applications.

The crew during the week also continued to perform daily status and maintenance checks on Station science payloads and equipment.

Among the Crew Earth Observation (CEO) photography subjects for this week were protected forests of the Ganges River Delta, Rangoon, Burma, coastal changes in the Irrawaddy River Delta, Bangkok, Thailand, Karachi, Pakistan, Bombay, India, Dakar, Senegal, the Great Barrier Reef, New Zealand, human development in the Congo near the Ubangi and Congo Rivers, the Limpopo River Delta, the Cape Town region of South Africa, the northern part of South America, the Grand Canyon, and vegetation patterns in Costa Rica.

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.

For more information:
Status report
ZCG fact sheet
Science Ops Web site


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