Northrop Grumman’s 13th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is slated to launch no earlier than February 9 at 5:39 p.m. EST from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The ISS U.S. National Laboratory is sponsoring multiple investigations on the Northrop Grumman Cygnus capsule that are aimed at improving life on Earth through space-based research.
Below highlights the ISS National Lab-sponsored research and hardware facilities that are launching as part of this mission to the orbiting laboratory.
The Mobile SpaceLab is a tissue and cell culturing facility that launches and returns on International Space Station (ISS) resupply vehicles to offer investigators a quick-turnaround, high-throughput platform to perform sophisticated microgravity biology interrogations. The Mobile SpaceLab operates with autonomous microfluidic delivery of multiple reagents as well as automated brightfield and fluorescence microscopy. The Mobile SpaceLab can perform a biology experiment autonomously for up to a month on the ISS without the need for crew operations.
Implementation Partner: HNu Photonics
Tapping Microgravity to Enhance Biofuel Production
University of Alaska-Anchorage
PI: Dr. Brandon Briggs
This project seeks to examine genetically engineered E. coli bacteria in microgravity to better understand the metabolic pathways involved in the bacteria’s production of isobutene. Isobutene is a key precursor for numerous products such as plastics and rubber and is primarily produced through petrochemical processes. Bacteria that are found in manure, such as E. coli, can also produce isobutene, but the metabolic process is inefficient. This project seeks to identify metabolic pathways in E. coli that can be genetically modified to increase bioproduction rates of isobutene.
Implementation Partner: Space Technology and Advanced Research Systems, Inc.
Multi Experiment Module #3
PI: Danny Kim
Researchers at the Quest Institute are working with Dr. David Bubenheim in the NASA AMES Biospheric Science Branch, Dr. John Freeman at Intrinsyx Bio, and Dr. Sharon Doty at the University of Washington to send into space rice seeds coated with a healthy dose of diazotrophic nitrogen-fixing plant probiotics. The goal of the experiment is to explore the potential role of these endophytes (microorganisms that live between plant cells) in helping rice plants grow better in extreme low-gravity environments and in environments where nutrients or water could be lacking such as on the Moon or Mars. This investigation is primarily being conducted by students at Quest Institute’s Valley Christian High School in San Jose, California.
Implementation Partner: Space Tango
New Phage-Bacteria Interactions from Exposure to Space Environment
PI: Dr. Heath Mills
The overall objective of this study is to understand the effects of radiation and microgravity on the co-evolution of a phage (a virus that infects bacteria) and its host bacteria, leveraging such effects to drive rapid evolution in target strains for novel antibacterial therapies. Exposing the same phage strain to unique forms of low-dose radiation in space will provide a chronic exposure source to test the potential for enhanced rates of a phage/host system co-evolution. The expansion of phage technology is an emerging strategy for threat reduction for many defense-relevant applications.
Implementation Partner: Rhodium Scientific
Millions of Americans experience bone loss, which results from disease or disuse that can occur in bedridden patients. This project aims to test whether magnetic levitation accurately simulates the free-fall conditions of microgravity by comparing the genetic expression of osteoblastic cells, a type of bone cell, levitated in a high-field superconducting magnet with cells flown in low Earth orbit. This information will help scientists determine the molecular and metabolic changes that take place in magnetic levitation and real microgravity.
Implementation Partner: BioServe Space Technologies
For this plant growth investigation, Magnitude.io will grow cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata) and common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) seedlings onboard the ISS. The experiment aims to further examine the potential of sustainable cropping in space by establishing the viability of legumes and their modulation with Rhizobium (a type of nitrogen-fixing bacteria that is symbiotic with legumes) in microgravity. This would not only substantiate legumes as potential food crops for human space exploration but also demonstrate the ability of legumes to aid other crops that are nitrogen-intensive to grow by providing a natural source of nitrogen through the production of excess fixed nitrogen by the Rhizobial nodules of the legumes. This is a follow-up to a recent mission that launched on SpaceX CRS-18. While this experiment runs onboard the ISS, students in participating classrooms will run Earth-based versions of the same experiment using the Magnitude.io plant growth chamber hardware.
Implementation Partner: Space Tango
This investigation aims to develop and demonstrate technologies that increase the utility of low-cost microsatellites. RED-EYE will demonstrate lightweight, low-power, gimballed inter-satellite communications links appropriate for the class of satellites approximately 100 kg in size. RED-EYE will also demonstrate new attitude control components, onboard processors, and software-defined radios. The RED-EYE satellite will deploy from the ISS via the Japanese Experiment Module Airlock using the NanoRacks Kaber MicroSat Deployer.
Implementation Partner: NanoRacks, LLC