Northrop Grumman’s 14th commercial resupply mission (CRS-14) to the International Space Station (ISS) is slated for launch no earlier than September 29 at 10:27 p.m. ET from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The ISS U.S. National Laboratory is sponsoring more than 20 payloads on this mission that will bring value to our nation, and further enable a sustainable market in low Earth orbit. These payloads represent a diverse mix of research and technology development seeking to leverage the unique space-based environment of the orbiting laboratory to push the limits of fundamental and applied science.
Below are highlights of ISS National Lab-sponsored research and technology development investigations that are part of the Northrop Grumman CRS-14 mission to the space station.
Biomanufacturing Processes for Human Systems in Remote Environments
Principal Investigator (PI): Olivia Holzhaus
This project aims to determine whether microgravity exposures can provide advantages in bioengineered systems for the production of specific chemical products. The production effort will focus on biomanufacturing biodegradable, 3D printer-compatible polyhydroxyalkonoates (PHAs), the best candidate for the replacement of plastic packaging materials.
The expansion of conventional petrochemical plastics production and consumption is having a significant impact both visibly and invisibly on the environment and our society. Rising demand for bioplastics and increasing use of PHAs in various applications such as packaging and food services, biomedical, and agriculture are expected to drive the PHAs market. This project is expected to contribute to products and processes that provide recyclable options in markets in which plastics play a role.
Implementation Partner: Rhodium Scientific
Detached Melt and Vapor Growth of Indium Iodide
Illinois Institute of Technology
PI: Dr. Aleksandar Ostrogorsky
This project seeks to synthesize new types of semiconductor crystals on the ISS. The research team aims to demonstrate that this new material positively compares with other semiconductor materials in that it is nontoxic and can be grown at a much faster rate.
Implementation Partner: Techshot, Inc.
Effects of Microgravity on Soil Stability for Controlled Environment Agriculture
PI: Dr. Heath Mills
This project aims to understand the effects of gravity on fungal mycelial movement and bacterial holdfast in natural Earth soils. Through this study, the research team hopes to determine how gravitational changes affect fungal-microbial dynamics within soil and how these dynamics impact soil stability. Soil health is linked to agricultural health and is key in producing food that promotes environmental and human health in space and on Earth. A better understanding of how soil microbial populations function and adapt could lead to new soil conservation and management techniques on Earth and help increase agricultural yields.
Implementation Partner: Rhodium Scientific
Evaluation of Long-Term Stability of Pharmaceutical Ingredients in an Excipient Matrix for Use in Potential Future On-orbit Manufacturing
University of Adelaide
PI: Volker Hessel
Researchers from the University of Adelaide are working to develop micro-flow spacelabs for in-orbit pharmaceutical formulation and manufacturing. This project seeks to evaluate the effects of microgravity and radiation on the long-term stability of medicines in an excipient (the nonactive ingredients in medicines) matrix made from materials abundant both on Earth and on the lunar surface, such as silica, magnesium, and calcium phosphate. This study could provide information that is helpful in developing the capability to formulate medicines in space to benefit both people on Earth and future space explorers. This experiment will leverage two platforms on the space station—Space Tango’s CubeLab hardware inside the orbiting laboratory and Alpha Space’s MISSE Flight Facility on the exterior of the ISS in the extreme environment of space.
Implementation Partners: Alpha Space (external facility), Space Tango (internal facility)
Leveraging Microgravity to Screen Onco-Selective Messenger RNAs
PI: Dr. Yusuf Erkul
This investigation seeks to use microgravity to further improve a messenger RNA (mRNA) immunotherapy treatment for leukemia being developed by Kernal Biologics. The mRNA-based drug is both onco-selective (capable of differentiating cancer cells from healthy cells) and is capable of destroying cancer cells in a way that triggers an immune response that prevents recurrence. Kernal Biologics has identified mRNAs that are fully selective (fully able to differentiate cancer cells from healthy cells) under normal gravity conditions. However, microgravity induces changes in mRNA that allow the research team to further screen and identify mRNAs that are even more resistant to “leakiness” (activity that is nonselective). The mRNAs found to be fully selective under microgravity conditions are expected to have a higher probability of efficacy and a lower probability of adverse effects in clinical studies.
Implementation Partner: BioServe Space Technologies
Novel Protein Aggregation/Degradation Studies in the Unique ISS Environment
Co-PIs: Dr. Deidre Dalmas Wilk & Dr. Matthew Henry
This project evaluates the stability of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies to better understand the mechanics of protein aggregate formation and oxidative processes. The resulting data will allow for a better understanding of the causes that form the basis of biopharmaceutical degradation in solution, leading to safer and more efficacious formulations for protein drugs with longer shelf lives—useful for drugs that need to be stockpiled in large quantities (such as antibodies against anthrax), stored for extended periods of time for rare uses (such as antivenins to treat snake bite), or used where refrigeration is unavailable. The results of this study are applicable not only to GlaxoSmithKline biopharmaceuticals but also to the development of all protein-based therapies. Biopharmaceutical sales are worth $200 billion annually.
Implementation Partner: Lamont Aerospace
PI: Jeffrey Hobbs
SharkSat is a small payload that will mount to the Cygnus spacecraft, with a mission to collect telemetry data demonstrating the feasibility of new sensor and processing technologies in low Earth orbit.
Implementation Partner: Northrop Grumman
Spacewalk VR Experience (EVA Camera)
Felix & Paul Studios (in cooperation with Time LIFE)
PI: Félix Lajeunesse
Felix & Paul Studios will be launching a 360-degree camera designed to accompany astronauts outside the space station for the first time ever to film a spacewalk in cinematic virtual reality. This will be part of an upcoming virtual reality series intended to engage and educate the general public on living and working onboard our orbiting laboratory
Implementation Partner: Nanoracks
Spherical Cool Diffusion Flames Burning Gaseous Fuels
University of Maryland
PI: Peter Sunderland
Cool diffusion flames (flames burning at temperatures below 400°C) were first observed in space during experiments onboard the ISS in 2012. Although cool diffusion had been observed in earlier drop tower experiments, cool flames had never been observed as steady spherical flames because drop tower experiments had uneven burn rates. This project seeks to increase a fundamental understanding of the physics of cool diffusion flames by observing quasi-steady spherical flames on porous burners in microgravity. Results could have impacts on combustion engine efficiency and could help reduce emissions on Earth. This project has been funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Implementation Partner: Zin Technologies
Turbine Ceramic Manufacturing Module
Made In Space
PI: Michael Snyder
This project seeks to demonstrate the manufacture of single-piece turbine blade/disk combinations (blisks) in microgravity for commercial use. Manufacturing blisks in space could produce parts with lower mass and residual stress and higher strength than those made on Earth, due to greatly reduced sedimentation of the solution in microgravity. Single-piece turbine blisks have significant advantages over current assemblies used in aircraft jet engines and integrated rotors. Successful production in microgravity may provide additional gains in decreasing the mass and residual stress of these parts and increasing their fatigue strength, which could convey significant advantages to the aviation industry.
Implementation Partner: Made In Space
Unmasking Contact-Line Mobility for Inertial Spreading Using Drop Vibration
PI: Susan Daniel
This project seeks to provide a better understanding of inertial spreading by studying the motion of liquid droplets across a solid surface. Inertial spreading is vital to many processes on Earth, with applications in manufacturing, agricultural, medical, and other industrial processes. Studying the motion of liquid droplets across a surface is difficult on the ground because the movement happens quickly and on a small scale. In microgravity, the size of the droplets can be increased, and the motion of the droplets is slower, making measurements of movement easier. Knowledge gained from this research could be applied to immersion lithography, an important technology used to manufacture semiconductor chips that enable faster computer processors. Such knowledge could also improve the process of inertial spreading (a fundamental process in immersion lithography) and reduce the number of defects in semiconductors manufactured today. Such improvements could lead to cost savings of around 10% in the semiconductor industry, which has an annual worth of several hundred billion dollars. This investigation has been funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Implementation Partner: Zin Technologies