The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory is enabling a new era of research in space aimed at improving life on Earth. The 10th Northrop Grumman Commercial Resupply Services (NG CRS-10) mission is slated for launch no earlier than November 15, 2018, carrying multiple ISS National Lab payloads.
The NG CRS-10 mission includes a variety of payloads representing diverse science investigations, ranging from the life and physical sciences to Earth observation and remote sensing, as well as educational experiments intended to engage and excite the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Below are highlights of sponsored ISS National Lab investigations that are part of the NG CRS-10 mission to the space station.
CHEFSat (Cost-Effective High E-Frequency Satellite)
United States Naval Research Laboratory
CHEFSat serves space applications by preparing a low-cost and readily available technology for mission use. CHEFSat also demonstrates how technology can be adapted and translated into viable space solutions. Linking consumer innovation with space exploration creates positive feedback loops for both endeavors. Deployment in high profile space applications can create incentives for further innovation.
Hardware Partner: NanoRacks
Crystallization of LRRK2 Under Microgravity Conditions
The Michael J. Fox Foundation
PI: Marco Baptista
Approximately 5 million people worldwide are currently living with Parkinson’s disease, and this number is estimated to double by the year 2040. This project aims to utilize the microgravity environment onboard the ISS to optimize the crystallization of the human protein kinase leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2). LRRK2 is a key signaling molecule in neurons and is closely associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease. Despite a relatively straightforward chemical approach for making drugs that inhibit LRRK2, its complex biology and critical role in normal cellular function and disease remains largely unclear. Characterization of LRRK2’s protein structure, identified through crystallization on the ISS, will support efforts to develop the most selective and potent LRRK2 inhibitor with potential to treat the disease with minimal negative side effects.
Hardware Partner: Bionetics
Design of Scalable Gas Separation Membranes via Synthesis under Microgravity
PI: Negar Rajabi
Membrane separation is among the most energy-efficient and cost-effective technologies for removing carbon dioxide from waste gases to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cemsica has developed a novel approach to synthesize de novo nonporous membranes using particles of calcium-silicate (C-S) to separate carbon dioxide gas molecules from air or other gases. By leveraging microgravity onboard the ISS to synthesize nonporous C-S materials, this project aims to resolve existing challenges in membrane manufacturing to develop lower-cost membranes with improved flux and high-temperature stability. This project may lead to improvements in the design and manufacture of cost-effective, eco-friendly membranes that significantly benefit fossil-fuel power plants and gas separation technologies, resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions by separating and capturing carbon dioxide.
Hardware Partner: Tec-Masters, Inc.
Effects of Microgravity on Production of Fluoride-Based Optical Fibers
Made In Space
PI: Jan Clawson
Made In Space, the company that developed the Additive Manufacturing Facility, a permanent 3D printer onboard the ISS, has launched several recent payloads looking at the viability of in-orbit manufacturing. In this investigation, the team seeks to leverage microgravity to improve the production of high-performance ZBLAN optical fiber. ZBLAN optical fiber has the potential to far exceed the performance of other ﬁbers in common use and has important Earth-based applications in telecommunications and medical devices such as laser scalpels. However, ZBLAN ﬁber produced on the ground often contains impurities and microcrystals that reduce performance. ZBLAN production in microgravity has been shown to reduce these imperfections, resulting in higher-quality fiber than can be produced on the ground.
Hardware Partner: Made In Space
The Effect of Microgravity on Self-Healing Composites
PI: Michelle Lucas
Research into self-healing materials (materials that automatically self-repair when damaged) holds great potential for benefits both on Earth and for long-term space travel. This investigation examines the efficiency of bacteria calcification into pores of a broken concrete block in a microgravity environment. It is hypothesized that by combining a sporulated bacteria (Bacillus subtillis) culture with a “healing solution” containing nutrients and scaffolding for bacterial calcification, imperfections, and small cracks can be healed over time. Hypothesized calcite precipitation and the timescale of the healing process will be observed by imaging throughout the duration of the mission. By injecting both healing solution and bacteria onto a rough concrete surface and observing the bacterial calcite formation, concrete repair in the space environment can be observed. The ease of construction and sustained tensile strength and integrity of self-healing materials make them optimal for the high-stress load associated with spaceflight. Understanding the role that gravity plays in the process of microbial calcite precipitation and the overall self-healing process could be valuable in constructing better materials both on and off of Earth.
Hardware Partner: Space Tango
Experimental Chondrule Formation Aboard the ISS (EXCISS)
PI: Tamara Koch
Chondrules are a main component of many meteorites and are believed to be the building blocks of our solar system; however, their origin is still not understood. It is thought that most chondrules formed 4.56 billion years ago when our solar system consisted of a protosun and a dense nebula of gases and silicate/metal dust particles, called the solar nebula. In this environment, the particles would have been heated to 1,700–2,100 K to form chondrules. This investigation seeks to gain new insights into the origin of chondrules by studying chondrule formation by electrical charge.
Hardware Partner: NanoRacks, in collaboration with Education Partner DreamUp
Stanford University and NASA’s Ames Research Center
PI: Zachary Manchester
KickSat-2 is a CubeSat technology demonstration mission designed to validate the deployment and operation of prototype Sprite “ChipSats.” The Sprite is a tiny spacecraft that includes power, sensors, and communications systems on a printed circuit board measuring 3.5 by 3.5 cm, with a thickness of a few millimeters and a mass of a few grams. It is intended as a general-purpose sensor platform for electromagnetic, micro-electro-mechanical, and other chip-scale sensors with the ability to downlink data to ground stations from low Earth orbit. ChipSats such as the Sprite represent a disruptive new space technology that enables new types of science and exploration missions and dramatically lowers the cost of access to space. Sprites have been developed and tested to Technology Readiness Level-7, and an orbital demonstration is necessary for their continued advancement.
Hardware Partner: NanoRacks
Metal Additive Manufacturing Aluminum Alloy Satellite Antennas
PI: Michael Hollenbeck
This project seeks to leverage the Materials International Space Station Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) to measure performance degradation in a small satellite antenna array resulting from exposure to the extreme environment outside of the space station. Higher-performance antennas for small satellites are desired; however, increasing capability is challenging due to volume and weight constraints. Through metal additive manufacturing using aluminum alloys, Optisys is able to produce significantly smaller and lighter antenna structures compared to traditional manufacturing. Optisys fabricated a 30 Ghz monopulse tracking array, and testing on MISSE-FF will allow exposure to atomic oxygen, which is expected to cause a degradation of performance of the structure.
Hardware Partner: Alpha Space
Microfluidic Lab-on-a Chip to Track Biomarkers in Skeletal Muscle Cells
PI: Siobhan Malany
The current high failure rate (more than 50%) of drugs in clinical trials has been linked, in part, to a lack of accurate preclinical testing. This project aims to expand use of Lab-on-a-Chip (a fully automated, multifunctional cell culture platform previously validated in bacterial and crystal growth studies) to study human skeletal muscle cell growth. Micro-gRx builds on recent ISS stem cell studies and provides a model for microgravity-induced muscle atrophy, with the potential for additional research efforts in modeling musculoskeletal disease. This project seeks to advance microfluidic technologies that better mimic the cell microenvironment in the body. Such technology would provide more accurate cell culture models for use in preclinical drug efficacy and safety screening.
Khalifa University (United Arab Emirates)
PI: Prashanth Marpu
MYSat-1 is a student-built CubeSat to train students on space systems engineering. MYSat-1 has two payloads, a camera module to take color pictures of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a small lithium ion coin-cell battery that communicates in VHF and UHF amateur radio bands. The battery will be charged and discharged over several orbits, and the collected data will be communicated to a ground station in the UAE and used to study the performance of the battery under different temperature conditions in the space environment. MYSat-1 also transmits beacons carrying vital telemetry data every 30 seconds as it orbits the Earth. The beacons can be easily decoded by amateur radio operators around the world. Additionally, MYSat-1 also seeks to validate the accuracy of its altitude control system. This project was done in collaboration with Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems.
Hardware Partner: NanoRacks
SiC UV Sensor for Reliable Operation in Low Earth Orbit
Ozark Integrated Circuits, Inc.
PI: Jim Holmes
This project seeks to leverage MISSE-FF to demonstrate the performance of silicon carbide photo-transistor technology for UV-sensing applications (SiC UV-PT) in the extreme environment of space. The high responsivity of the SiC UV-PT means that amplification, which is currently standard in UV detectors, is no longer necessary, thus reducing the cost of UV detection. SiC UV-PT technology can be used to detect ocean-based oil spills, enable early fire detection in remote areas, and kill pathogens in water, food, and air.
Hardware Partner: Alpha Space
Space Development Acceleration Capability
PI: Ryan Jeffrey
There is growing demand for use of external platforms on the ISS for testing materials and subsystems. This project aims to accelerate ﬂight hardware development and test schedules utilizing additive manufacturing technologies and a Flight Test Platform (FTP) to support low Earth orbit and ISS missions and experiments. The FTP will integrate into the MISSE-FF or NREP external platforms and provide new capabilities to support the evaluation of materials and subsystems focused on additive manufacturing. This project aims to transition into a marketable capability that will increase the opportunity for multiple industries to develop, test, and ﬂy hardware and experiments on the ISS or other spacecraft in low Earth orbit with a reduced cost and timeframe.
Hardware Partner: Craig Technologies