SpaceX Cargo Craft Docks at the International Space Station
As the International Space Station traveled more than 250 miles over the South Pacific Ocean, a EspaceX The Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docked on the space-facing side of the Orbiting Lab’s Harmony Module at 5:09 a.m. EDT on Saturday, June 5. Nasa Astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur oversaw Dragon’s docking operations.
This 22nd contracted refueling mission for SpaceX delivers the new ISS deployment solar panels (iROSA) to the space station in the trunk of the Dragon spacecraft. The Canadarm2 robotics will extract the arrays and the astronauts will install them during spacewalks scheduled for June 16 and 20.
The Dragon was launched during SpaceX’s 22nd Contracted Commercial Refueling Mission at 1:29 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 3 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After Dragon has spent about a month tethered to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with cargo and research.
Some of the science experiments Dragon delivers to the space station include:
Symbiotic squids and microbes
The Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions (UMAMI) study uses bobtail squid and bacteria to examine the effects of spaceflight on interactions between beneficial microbes and their animal hosts. This type of relationship is known as symbiosis. Beneficial microbes play an important role in the normal development of animal tissues and in the maintenance of human health, but the role of gravity in forming these interactions is not well understood. This experiment could support the development of measures to preserve the health of astronauts and identify ways to protect and improve these relationships for applications on Earth.
Produce stronger cotton
Cotton is used in many products, but its production uses significant amounts of water and agricultural chemicals. Cotton targeting improved through cultivation in orbit
(TICTOC) focuses on improving the resilience, water use and carbon storage of cotton. On Earth, root growth depends on gravity. TICTOC could help define which environmental factors and genes control root development in microgravity. Scientists could use what they learned to develop cotton varieties that require less water and pesticides.
Water bears take up space
Tardigrades, also known as water bears for their appearance when viewed under a microscope, are creatures that can tolerate extreme environments. The Cell Science-04 experiment aims to identify the genes involved in the adaptation and survival of water bears in these highly stressed environments. The findings could advance scientists’ understanding of the stressors that affect humans in space.
Ultrasound on site
The portable, commercial Butterfly IQ ultrasound machine could provide essential medical capabilities to crews in long-term spaceflight where immediate ground support is not an option. This study will demonstrate the use of an ultrasound unit alongside a mobile computing device in microgravity. Its results have potential applications for medical care in remote and isolated regions of the Earth.
Develop better robot pilots
A survey by ESA (European Space Agency), Pilot, tests the effectiveness of robotic arms and remote-controlled space vehicles using virtual reality and haptic interfaces. Pilote studies existing and new microgravity technologies by comparing those recently developed for teleoperation with those used to pilot Canadarm2 and the Soyuz spacecraft. The study also compares the performance of astronauts in the use of interfaces on the ground and during space flights. The results could help optimize the workstations of the space station and future space vehicles for missions to the Moon and March.
The new solar panels for the station consist of compact sections that open like a long carpet. The ISS deployment solar panels (iROSA) are based on a previous deployment panel demonstration carried out in station. They should provide an increase in the energy available for research and station activities. NASA is planning a total of six new grids to boost the station’s power supply with the launch of the first pair on this flight. The Expedition 65 crew are due to begin preparations for spacewalks to complement the station’s existing rigid panels this summer. The same solar panel technology is planned to power NASA’s lunar orbiting gateway.
These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the fields of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and earth and space sciences. Advances in these areas will help 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 via Artemis.