The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory is sponsoring more than 20 payloads launching onboard Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft that are aimed at improving life on Earth through space-based research. The Northrop Grumman commercial resupply services (CRS)-12 mission is slated for launch no earlier than November 2 at 9:59 a.m. ET from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Below are highlights of ISS National Lab-sponsored investigations that are part of the Northrop Grumman CRS-12 mission to the space station.
This project will test the performance of the AstroRad radiation shielding vest on crew members onboard the ISS. The AstroRad vest selectively protects organs most sensitive to radiation exposure—with a focus on protecting stem cell concentrations within those organs. Selectively shielding stem cells reduces stem cell mutation from radiation exposure and enables regeneration of damaged tissue, thereby alleviating the effects of exposure and reducing the risk of more serious effects from radiation, such as cancer. The concept behind the AstroRad vest evolved from a commercially available device developed by StemRad Ltd., the 360 Gamma shield, which is an effective wearable shield for first responders to radiation incidents on Earth. Knowledge gained from this project could aid in the development of shielding technologies for patients on Earth receiving radiation treatments and personnel who work in areas where radiation exposure is a risk.
Implementation Partner: Lockheed Martin Corporation
Commercial Polymer Recycling Facility
Made In Space
PI: Matthew Napoli
This project aims to demonstrate the plastic recycling capabilities of the Commercial Polymer Recycling System (CPRS) on the ISS. The CPRS, developed by Made In Space, is designed to take plastic waste, such as expended polymer parts and plastic bags, and process the excess material into a uniform feedstock suitable for use in additive manufacturing. The CPRS would augment the commercial Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) on the ISS and create a “regenerative materials” cycle that turns used broken parts and excess packaging into new parts. The in-orbit demonstration will include recycling of 3D prints made from Braskem North America’s Green Polyethylene (Green PE), a plastic derived from sugarcane. Green PE is ideal for use in a regenerative materials cycle on the ISS because it reduces material waste in orbit without increasing the carbon footprint on Earth. Terrestrial versions of the CPRS could be used for recycling of 3D printed materials in hardware stores or for expeditionary manufacturing on small surface ships and submarines and on offshore oil and gas platforms.
Implementation Partner: Made In Space
Evaluation of Anabaena Growth for Potential Use in a Sustainable, Microgravity Agriculture System (Space Tango-Cyanobacteria)
Astromeda Space Private Limited
PI: Dr. Puneet Seth
This investigation explores how nitrogen-fixing bacteria perform this function in the unique environment of space. Ninety percent of the reduced form of nitrogen required by plants on Earth is produced through nitrogen fixation completed by bacteria. The investigation seeks to determine whether these bacteria retain their nitrogen-fixing ability to help crops grow in space.
Implementation Partner: Space Tango
Freshwater Algae Production of Astaxanthin in a Microgravity Environment (Space Tango-Astaxanthin Production) investigates the production of astaxanthin by Haematococcus pluvialis, a type of freshwater algae, in microgravity. The algae produces astaxanthin when stressed, so its production may increase in space. Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that could help protect the health of crew members on future long-duration space missions.
Commercial Service Provider: Space Tango
In the first set of experiments for Genes in Space 6, students from Mounds View High School in Minnesota were interested in studying DNA damage and DNA repair mechanisms in the space flight environment. These experiments successfully completed the first CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing investigation in space. Yeast cells were transformed aboard the ISS with CRISPR-Cas9, which caused a double strand DNA break in the genome. The cells were then allowed to grow and repair their DNA. Yeast colonies that had undergone successful transformation displayed a color change. DNA was extracted and sequenced to understand if any insertions or deletions occurred during repair, as compared to ground controls. The methods used in this experiment were based on smaller polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplicons which provided a limited picture of the total outcome. This reflight experiment will allow validation of a variety of amplicon sizes and further develop techniques available onboard. This will also provide additional sequencing data for a deeper understanding of the DNA repair mechanisms.
Implementation Partner: miniPCR
Inertial Spreading and Imbibition of a Liquid Drop Through a Porous Surface
PI: Michel Louge
This investigation will examine imbibition, a process in which water is absorbed by solids, that is easier to measure in microgravity, toward improvements in flood control and methods to stop bleeding. The imbibition process is critical for life on Earth (for example, plant seeds absorb water to germinate) and for many engineering and industrial processes. Understanding how solids and liquids interact can lead to significant improvements in flood control, estimated to cause $11 billion in damages annually. Additional applications include medical advances to help stop bleeding as well as improvements in wet granulation, a process used by pharmaceutical companies for drug manufacturing.
Implementation Partner: Zin Technologies
Investigation of Deep Audio Analytics on the International Space Station
Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
PI: Dr. Andrew Horchler
This project aims to validate a novel technology from Bosch USA Research, called Deep Audio Analytics (DAA), that transforms audio patterns into actionable information. DAA can be used to monitor machines, environments, and critical infrastructure by “making sense” of distinctive audio patterns emitted. The research team seeks to determine whether the DAA can be used on NASA’s Astrobee vehicle, a mobile robotic platform, to conduct autonomous acoustic environment scans onboard the ISS—an activity currently performed by ISS crew members. The research team will evaluate whether the technology is able to detect degradation in ISS-specific assets, such as the treadmill and components in the Environmental Control and Life Support System. Market data indicates that this technology has high market potential in several business verticals, including machine monitoring, infrastructure, healthcare, security solutions, smart homes, and smart factories.
Investigation will leverage the Astrobee facility.
Microgravity as a Disrupter of the 12-hour Circatidal Clock (Rodent Research-14)
Baylor College of Medicine
PI: Dr. Brian York
This rodent research experiment aims to explore the role of regulatory genes in metabolic disorders such as liver disease, diabetes, and other illnesses associated with obesity. In addition to the circadian rhythm that governs biological functions in a 24-hour cycle, many genes involved in metabolism oscillate over 12 hours, termed circatidal rhythm, particularly under conditions of cellular stress. This circatidal clock functions even when circadian rhythm is disrupted. Characterizing circatidal gene expression in mouse tissues such as the liver under the stress of spaceflight may inform methods for modulating these gene pathways in the treatment of metabolic disorders.
Implementation Partner: Leidos Innovations Corporation
Zero-G Oven explores the possibility and challenges of baking fresh meals in a microgravity environment. Investigators will explore how to heat and then cool the space oven in a manner that is safe for all crew member interaction. This payload will be operated internally onboard the ISS in a specially designed locker insert and will receive mechanical and electrical support from the Expedite the Processing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) Rack. Once installed, the crew will load samples and initiate baking cycles. The oven will heat to the specified temperature, at which point the crew will load samples for cooking. After a specified period, the crew will remove the samples and stow them in the integrated cooling rack. Once cool, the samples will be removed from the rack for photos and then returned to the ground for analysis.
Implementation Partner: NanoRacks
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 or NREP external platforms and provide new capabilities to support the evaluation of materials and subsystems focused on additive manufacturing. This project seeks to transition into a marketable capability that will increase the opportunity for multiple industries to develop, test, and ﬂy hardware and experiments on ISS or on low Earth orbit spacecraft at reduced cost and schedule.
Implementation Partner: Craig Technologies
Study of Lamborghini’s Carbon Fiber Composites for Aerospace Applications
Houston Methodist Research Institute (in collaboration with Lamborghini)
PI: Dr. Alessandro Grattoni
This investigation seeks to leverage the extreme environment of space to test the performance of five proprietary carbon fiber materials developed by Automobile Lamborghini for aerospace applications. The research team will assess the ability of the materials, which include forged and 3D-printed carbon fiber composites, to withstand exposure to temperature fluctuations, radiation, vacuum, and atomic oxygen. Results from this project could help identify new resilient composite materials suitable for made-in-space applications. Successful validation of 3D-printed carbon fiber composites could significantly impact the field of carbon fiber manufacturing, replacing lengthy and expensive traditional manufacturing methods.
Implementation Partner: Craig Technologies (leveraging the NanoRacks External Platform)
The Universal Manufacture of Next Generation Electronics
PI: Dr. Supriya Jaiswal
Astrileux (NanoRacks-Astrileux) evaluates the effects of space exposure on new materials that, for the first time, show optical performance in the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelength range (10-20 nm). These materials have potential for a new generation of space instrumentation that can capture EUV radiation for use in remote sensing, planet mapping, telescopes, semiconductor applications and other systems.
Implementation Partner: NanoRacks