Saturday, October 6, 2012

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch: ISS Research Capacity Increases With New Cargo Missions

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida - In an International Space Station (ISS) and Mission Science briefing for the upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 launch, an ISS program scientist lauded the advantages the Cargo Resupply Services missions will present for the scientific community.
Dr. Julie Robinson of Johnson Space Center noted four specific ways that SpaceX and its Dragon spacecraft will advance a variety of research with its upcoming 12 missions.
-         A diversity of disciplines with international breadth
-         Solicited and unsolicited opportunities for researchers through NASA’s relationship with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
-         New investigations that can ask basic questions
-         Long-term investigations that can make advances by building over time using multiple launches
“SpaceX replaces the opportunity for research capacity since the space shuttle,” Robinson said.  “Currently there are over 200 active experiments on ISS, 100 from the US alone.”
Robinson noted a variety of experiments from physical sciences, earth and space sciences, and human research.  These include ones that research on-board fires, use advanced visualization of droughts and floods for USAID, and test materials for satellite manufacturers.
CASIS scientist Dr. Timothy Yateman added that upcoming ISS experiments will allow “significant progress” for drug companies in crystal development, which is “the beginning of drug discovery.”  He added that CASIS has solicited research for microgravity experiments regarding osteoporosis, muscle wasting, and immune losses.  While these will be targeted for long-term spaceflight, he indicated that “Big Pharma” would be interested in them as well for commercial application.
On an even more fundamental level, a scientist from Montana State University has an experiment on this flight that is researching nail bed fungus and thrush.
“We are looking to see what happens when certain organisms are growing in special niches in the human body,” said scientist Sheila Nielsen-Priess.
Also participating was NASA scientist and nutritionist Scott Smith, who is coordinating multiple experiments over several launches related to urine and blood samples from ISS astronauts.
“Dragon will be returning 384 syringes of urine and 112 tubes of blood that have been on the station since the last shuttle flight,” Smith said.
Smith displays urine bag and catheter used by astronauts.

Research will focus on modifying diet to minimize bone changes during flight.  “It may be urine to you, but it’s gold to us,” Smith added.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle is set to lift-off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday October 7 at 8:35 pm.

The entire briefing can be viewed at

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