Cutting-edge experiments transport SpaceX’s 26th CRS mission to the space station


Cutting-edge experiments transport SpaceX's 26th CRS mission to the space station

This preflight image shows a Red Robin dwarf tomato used to grow Veg-05 in the vegetable instrumentation at Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA

SpaceX’s 26th Commercial Resupply Mission (CRS) to the International Space Station is scheduled to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in late November. The Dragon spacecraft carries science experiments and technology demonstrations that explore growing plants in space, making on-demand feeders, building in space, and more.


Below are details of some of the research launched at space station:

High hopes for little tomatoes

A continuous source of nutritious foods is essential for long-duration exploration missions, and the typical pre-packaged diet of an astronaut may need to be supplemented with fresh foods produced in outer space. The researchers tested a plant growth unit in a plant known as vegetarian It has successfully grown a variety of leafy greens. Vegetarian-05The next step in this business is to focus on growing dwarf tomatoes.

says Gioia Massa, NASA Life Sciences Project Scientist and VEG-05 Principal Investigator. “We are also studying the general impact of growing, nurturing and eating crops on the behavioral health of the crew. All of this will provide valuable data for future space exploration.”

Massa adds that tomatoes can be eaten fresh, nutritious and widely consumed. Red Robin, the dwarf cherry tomato variety used in the investigation, grew well during the land testing and produced a large crop of nutritious, fruity fruit.

Cutting-edge experiments transport SpaceX's 26th CRS mission to the space station

Staining reagents and syringe storage box (top left), staining device (bottom left), and miniature microscope (right) for the Moon Microscope Inspection. Image credit: NASA JSC Immunology/Virology Laboratory

Diagnostics on the fly

Lunar binoculars He tested an in-flight medical diagnostic kit that included a portable microscope and a small device for staining a blood sample. An astronaut collects and stains a blood sample, obtains images with a microscope, and transmits the images to Earth, where flight surgeons use them to diagnose disease and prescribe treatment.

“We don’t have a profound clinical problem on the space station, but crew members are already experiencing changes in their immune systems,” says Brian Crucian, an immunologist and principal investigator at NASA. “During deep space missions, all stressors increase and our ability to care for the crew decreases, a combination that can increase some of the clinical risks. This project is designed to create a very small diagnostic laboratory capacity that is compatible with microgravity and operational constraints. A sick crew member can take the blood smear And photographing and transferring images in minutes.

The kit could provide diagnostic capabilities to crew members in space or on the Moon or Mars, as well as the ability to test water, food, and surfaces for contamination. The devices may also enable improved medical monitoring on upcoming Artemis and Gateway missions.

Cutting-edge experiments transport SpaceX's 26th CRS mission to the space station

An MIT Space Exploration Initiative team is conducting a parabolic flight test of an early version of the extrusion device, which demonstrates a technique that uses liquid resin to create shapes and shapes to support future construction of large structures in space. Credit: Steve Boxall, MIT

Build larger structures

On Earth, gravity deforms large objects such as beams used in large-scale construction. Microgravity makes it possible to fabricate taller and thinner structures without this deformation. bump Demonstrates a technique that uses liquid resin to create shapes and forms that cannot be created on Earth. Filmable resin is injected into flexible pre-made shapes and the camera captures footage of the process. The ability to use these shapes could enable the construction of structures in space such as space stations, solar arraysand equipment.

“This experiment takes advantage of a microgravity environment to extrude common and complex branching shapes,” says principal investigator Ariel Ekplau, director of the MIT Media Lab, Space Exploration Initiative. “Our method reduces the time needed to produce key parts needed for daily mission use and may support future space construction of large structures such as trusses and antennas. The realization of extrusion builds on our additive manufacturing and self-assembly workflows in space.”

The Space Exploration Initiative It supports a range of microgravity and lunar research in the fields of science, engineering, art and design. The experiment was packaged inside the Nanoracks black box with many other experiments from and sponsored by the MIT Media Lab ISS National Laboratory.

Cutting-edge experiments transport SpaceX's 26th CRS mission to the space station

Initial flight image of BioNutrients-2 yogurt bags. The blue color of their contents comes from the pH indicator, and the SABL faceplate behind the bags provides a reference for the starting and ending colors. BioNutrients-2 is testing a system for producing nutrients in space from yogurt, kefir, and yeast-based beverages. Credit: NASA Ames Research Center

Customized feeders

Providing adequate nutrition is a major challenge to maintaining crew health on future long-duration space missions. Many vitamins, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals have a limited shelf life, and the ability to make such compounds on demand could help maintain crew health and well-being. Vital Nutrients -2 It is testing a system for producing key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage.

The investigation begins the second phase of five years vital nutrients It is headed by the NASA Ames Research Center and managed by Game Changing Development in the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate. The program started with launch Vital Nutrients -1 in 2019. BioNutrients-2 uses a smaller system with a heated incubator that promotes the growth of beneficial organisms.

“This experiment adds follistatin, a therapeutic protein used to maintain muscle mass, as well as fermented dairy products, yogurt and kefir,” says principal investigator John Hogan of NASA Ames. “We are also testing a new lightweight bag system for efficient storage of microbes and growth in microgravity and evaluating our technologies for food safety.” For a third investigation, the researchers plan to engineer a single yeast strain to create up to four nutritious products.

Researchers are also working on efficient ways to use local resources in the manufacture of bulk products such as plastics, building binders, and chemical feedstocks. These technologies are designed to reduce launch costs and increase self-sufficiency, broadening the horizons of human exploration.

Cutting-edge experiments transport SpaceX's 26th CRS mission to the space station

ROSA solar panels on the space station during pre-deployment and backtracking testing in 2017. The second set of iROSA panels being launched into the SpaceX-26 box could provide a 20 to 30% increase in power for space station research and operations. Credit: NASA

adding solar energy

Two solar power arrays, or iROSAs, have been launched aboard SpaceX-22 and installed in 2021. These Solar Panelswhich rolls like a rug or yoga mat using stored kinetic energy, expanded The space station’s energy production capabilities. The second group, launched in the SpaceX-26 box, provides a 20 to 30% increase in power for space station research and operations.

“The first two arrays performed remarkably well,” says Matt Mickle, senior director of development projects at Boeing. “Solar cells are significantly more powerful than previous generations. We have made minor hardware modifications for subsequent launches that improve operational efficiency.”

These arrays, the second of three packages, upgrade 50% of the station’s power channels. Roll Out Solar Array technology was the first tested on the space station in 2017. ROSA was used on the NASA DART asteroid mission and is scheduled to be used on Gate Lunar outpost, a vital component of NASA’s Artemis mission. The iROSA program provides a great example of using the space station as a testing ground for the technology and research needed to explore further into space.

Cutting-edge experiments transport SpaceX's 26th CRS mission to the space station

Ground test of Falcon Goggles. This technology captures high-speed video of a person’s eyes, provides accurate data about eye alignment and balance and could guide researchers in developing ways to help crew members adapt to different gravity conditions on future exploration missions. Credit: NASA

Facilitate gravitational transitions

All space travelers experience the transition from one gravitational field to another. On future exploration missions, astronauts may experience three different gravitational fields: weightlessness during space travel, the gravity of another planet, and Earth’s gravity when they return. These shifts can affect spatial orientation, head-eye and hand-eye coordination, balance, and locomotion and cause some crew members to experience space motion sickness.

The Falcon Goggles captures high-speed videos of a person’s eyes, providing accurate data about eye alignment and balance.

“These goggles can better inform our researchers about the effects of microgravity on humans Crew members and their ability to adapt and operate in new gravity,” said Dr. Sherry Ober, deputy aeronautical scientist at NASA. human research programme. “Equipment like this will be invaluable as we work to prepare astronauts for long-term exploration missions to the Moon and beyond to Mars, and similar technologies can also be improved here on Earth.”

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