Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft has delivered its 7,600 pound cargo to the International Space Station.
This delivery, Northrop Grumman's 11th cargo flight to the space station under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract, will support dozens of new and existing investigations. Here are details about some of the scientific investigations Cygnus is delivering to the space station.
Models for growing increasingly complex materials
Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-10 (ACE-T-10) will test gels in a microgravity environment. This research could aid in the development of increasingly complex materials that may serve as the building blocks for a range of applications on Earth including foods, drugs and electronic devices. The process also may provide an efficient method to build new materials and equipment in space.
Better life science research in a few drops
Although the space station is well equipped for health and life sciences research, the equipment available for cellular and molecular biology still is limited compared to capabilities found in laboratories on Earth. To address this limitation, CSA designed Bio-Analyser, a new tool the size of a video game console that astronauts on station can use to test body fluids such as blood, saliva and urine, with just a few drops. It returns key analyses, such as blood cell counts, in just two to three hours, eliminating the need to freeze and store samples.
Analyszing ageing of the arteries in astronauts
The Vascular Ageing investigation uses ultrasounds, blood samples, oral glucose tolerance tests, and wearable sensors to study ageing-like changes that occur in many astronauts during their stay on the space station. It's one of three Canadian experiments exploring the effects of weightlessness on the blood vessels and heart, and the links between these effects and bone health, blood biomarkers, insulin resistance, and radiation exposure. Increased understanding of these mechanisms can be used to address vascular ageing in both astronauts and the ageing Earth population.
Testing immune response in space
Spaceflight is known to have a dramatic influence on an astronaut's immune response, but there is little research on its effect following an actual challenge to the body's immune system. The rodent immune system closely parallels that of humans, and Rodent Research-12: Tetanus Antibody Response by B cells in Space (TARBIS) will examine the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory. This investigation aims to advance the development of measures to counter these effects and help maintain crew health during future long-duration space missions. On Earth, it could advance research to improve the effectiveness of vaccines and therapies for treating diseases and cancers.
Big buzz for new robots
A fleet of small robots is set to take on big jobs aboard the space station. Building on the success of SPHERES, NASA will test Astrobee, a robotic system comprised of three cube-shaped robots and a docking station for recharging; the first two are aboard Cygnus. The free-flying robots use electric fans for propulsion and cameras and sensors help them navigate their surroundings. The robots also have an arm to grasp station handrails or grab and hold items. Astrobee can operate in automated mode or under remote control from the ground as it assists with routine chores on station, and requires no supervision from the crew. This has the potential to free up astronauts to conduct more research.
These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations that will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars. Space station research also provides opportunities for other US government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions, to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth.