KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (July 20, 2016) – The SpaceX Dragon capsule berthed with the International Space Station (ISS) this morning loaded with payloads sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. Over 20 separate ISS National Lab payloads encompassing over 40 investigations in a variety of scientific disciplines will be conducted on the orbiting laboratory in the coming months.
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is tasked with managing and promoting research onboard the ISS National Lab, and all manifested payloads must contain the potential for Earth benefits. The following highlights major investigations featured on this mission.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran
This project will screen fungi in microgravity for novel metabolic pathways and the production of natural products that could be beneficial for biomedical and agricultural applications. Microgravity is a stressful growth environment, and these fungal strains, recovered near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, are a rich source of biologically active compounds with properties that may be useful for the treatment of human disease and/or the growth of food crops.
Dissolution of Hard-to-Wet-Solids
Eli Lilly & Co.
This experiment seeks to investigate the solubility of pharmaceutically manufactured tablets. By examining how a tablet formulation interacts with a liquid solution in microgravity—an environment that eliminates the confounding factors of gravity and buoyancy—investigators are able to gain a better understanding of how the tablet dissolves in the body and releases medicine. Data from this experiment will help improve drug formulations for accurate time-released delivery of the correct dosage.
Earth Abundant Textured Thin Film Photovoltaics
Georgia Institute of Technology
Dr. Jud Ready
The International Space Station relies on solar panels for electricity. On Earth, solar power is an increasingly important part of the power grid. This project will examine a new type of three-dimensional solar cell that absorbs sunlight more efficiently on Earth and in space. The new three-dimensional solar cell can trap sunlight coming from any direction, improving efficiency. The investigation will study the solar cell’s response to the continually changing sun angles and the harsh environment of space.
Effects of Microgravity on Stem Cell-Derived Heart Cells
Dr. Joseph Wu
Dr. Joseph Wu, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, leads a research group focused on developing stem-cell based therapies to treat heart disease. This study will examine how adult skin cells induced to revert back to stem cells and then differentiated into heart cells mature and age in microgravity, where prolonged spaceflight causes documented changes in heart structure and physiology. The results of this study will provide important insight into the cells’ biology and utility for repair of damaged heart tissue.
Evaluation of Gumstix Performance in Low Earth Orbit
Dr. Kathleen Morse
Computers used in space must be designed to withstand radiation, and the lengthy testing process often means that space-based computers are two or three generations behind state-of-the-art computers on Earth. This investigation tests small computers called Gumstix modules, which are based on open-source software, as an alternative off-the-shelf option for use in space. The investigation studies whether the Gumstix microprocessors can withstand the radiation environment on board the International Space Station.
Fluorescent Polarization in Microgravity
Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute
Dr. Siobhan Malany
Scientists study chemical reactions using a technique called fluorescence polarization, which produces changes in light when molecules bind together. This technique enables researchers to measure the interactions of proteins with DNA or antibodies and many other biomedical functions. This project seeks to test a commercial plate reader instrument that detects changes in light for these types of reactions to examine microgravity’s effect on fluorescent polarization, which paves the way for advanced biology research and drug development in space.
Global AIS on Space Station
JAMMS America, Inc.
A signal receiver and router system will be installed on the International Space Station to demonstrate the ability of the ISS to serve as a remote sensing platform for maritime tracking. Ships broadcasting information (for example, location, speed, heading, and registration number) through an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder will benefit from improved signal transmission. The vantage point of the ISS in low Earth orbit extends the range and efficiency of maritime AIS signal transmission compared to high-altitude satellites which are impaired by transmission latency.
MultiLab: Research Server for the ISS
Space Tango, Inc.
The new MultiLab facility will be permanently installed on the International Space Station and will serve as a multi-user, general-purpose research platform for conducting research in microgravity. MultiLab provides structural support and a simple standard interface for lab modules called CubeLabs™ that are adaptable for experiments from any scientific discipline (chemistry, biology, physics, etc.). This platform technology from Space Tango, Inc. reduces the cost and time associated with flight experiment design and implementation for users in government, industry, and academia, and will enable more access to space for research and education.
University of Minnesota
Dr. Bruce Hammer
Millions of Americans experience bone mineral density loss resulting from disease, the progressive effects of aging, or the accelerated loss of bone when confined to bed for long periods. Microgravity exposure also accelerates bone loss if astronauts do not engage in load-bearing, resistive exercise and take medicine to maintain healthy bones. This project will test whether the magnetic levitation of bone cells (osteoblast cells that build bone and osteoclast cells that tear down bone) in a bioreactor on Earth can be used to accurately simulate the free-fall conditions of microgravity by comparing gene expression in space- and Earth-grown bone cells. This information helps scientists determine the molecular changes that take place in the cells when cultured in magnetic levitation versus microgravity. This investigation is in coordination with the National Institutes of Health.
Plate Reader-2 is a laboratory instrument on the International Space Station designed to detect biological, chemical, or physical events from samples in a standard sample container (a microplate). The instrument operates on an automated system, which minimizes the required astronaut handling time. Astronauts only need to load samples into the microplate, and NanoRacks will remotely run the instrument from the ground. Microplate readers are widely used in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and this improved technology on the ISS will accelerate science return and advance research in those fields.
First the Seed Foundation
Tomatosphere™ is an educational program started in 1999 in which students investigate how the space environment affects tomato plant growth. Each participating class is sent two packages of tomato seeds—one package of seeds that has been sent into space and one package of control seeds that have not been in space. Students and teachers compare the germination rates of the two groups of seeds, not knowing which seeds went to space and which are the control seeds. This project will provide transportation of 1.2 million seeds to and from the ISS (the seeds will remain in orbit between 10 and 60 days). The project will also include monitoring and data tracking (temperature, humidity, and pressure) for both the seeds sent to the ISS and the control seeds. Tomatosphere™ is a hands-on student research experience with a standards-based curriculum guide that provides students the opportunity to investigate, create, test, and evaluate a solution for a real world case study.
On this mission, the ISS National Lab also supports a variety of education payloads, including those derived from the CASIS National Design Challenge, the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) and the High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH).
To learn more about the payloads onboard SpaceX CRS-9, please visit this video:
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About CASIS: The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) was selected by NASA in July 2011 to maximize use of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory through 2020. CASIS is dedicated to supporting and accelerating innovations and new discoveries that will enhance the health and wellbeing of people and our planet. For more information, visit www.iss-casis.org.
About the ISS National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the International Space Station as the nation’s newest national laboratory to maximize its use for improving life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing STEM education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by other U.S. government agencies and by academic and private institutions, providing access to the permanent microgravity setting, vantage point in low Earth orbit, and varied environments of space.
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Photo Credit: SpaceX