SpaceX CRS-29 Cargo Resupply Mission Includes Canadian Science Equipment

Artistic depiction of ILLUMA-T communicating to LCRD over laser links. ILLUMA-T demonstrates two different data transfer speeds from low Earth orbit to the ground via a relay link. The links can be used to stream real-time data or for large bulk data transfers. Image credit: NASA JSC>

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch tonight at 8:28 pm eastern on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. Included is a batch of Canadian science equipment along with new some new research experiments including NASA’s ILLUMA-T laser communication demonstration.

The Canadian Space Agency provided an update on their website today stating that the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will deliver Canadian science scientific equipment including “glucose test kits items for Vascular Aging” and “Bio-Monitor hardware that will be used for Space Health, as well as CARDIOBREATH.”

The ongoing Vascular Aging study “delves into arterial stiffness and insulin resistance among astronauts.” The CARDIOBREATH experiment “tracks changes in how astronauts’ cardiovascular and respiratory systems control their blood pressure, with the goal of keeping crews healthier in space and upon return.” The experiment uses the Bio-Monitor which includes a “smart shirt.”

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques sets up the Bio-Monitor during his mission on the International Space Station
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques sets up the Bio-Monitor during his mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

New NASA and European Space Agency Research

Some of the technology and science investigations NASA highlighted recently includes:

  • ILLUMA-T Laser Communication Initiative – NASA’s ILLUMA-T investigation tests technology to provide enhanced data communication capabilities on the space station. A terminal mounted on the station’s exterior uses laser or optical communications to send high-resolution information to the agency’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) system, which is in geosynchronous orbit around Earth. LCRD then beams the data to optical ground stations in Haleakala, Hawaii, and Table Mountain, California. The system uses invisible infrared light and can send and receive information at higher data rates than traditional radio frequency systems, making it possible to send more images and videos to and from the space station in a single transmission. The ILLUMA-T demonstration also paves the way for placing laser communications terminals on spacecraft orbiting the Moon or Mars.
  • Watching Waves in the Atmosphere – NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) uses an infrared imaging instrument to measure the characteristics, distribution, and movement of atmospheric gravity waves (AGWs). These waves roll through Earth’s atmosphere when air is disturbed much like waves created by dropping a stone into water.
  • Space Flight Induced Ovarian and Estrogen Signaling Dysfunction, Adaptation, and Recovery is a fundamental science investigation sponsored by NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division. It advances previous microgravity studies that seek to better understand the combined effects of spaceflight, nutritional, and environmental stresses on control of ovulation and resulting effects on the skeleton. Results of this study could help identify and treat the effects of stress on ovulation and improve bone health on Eart.h
  • Aquamembrane-3, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), continues evaluation of replacing the multi-filtration beds used for water recovery on the space station with a type of membrane known as an Aquaporin Inside Membrane (AIM). These are membranes that incorporate proteins found in biological cells, known as aquaporins, to filter water faster while using less energy. Initial testing of AIM technology in 2015 showed that water filtration by membranes is possible in microgravity, and this follow-up testing could demonstrate how effectively the membranes eliminate contaminants in space station wastewater. Results could advance development of a complete and full-scale membrane-based water recovery system, improving water reclamation and reducing the amount of material that needs to be launched to the space station. This water filtration technology also could have applications in extreme environments on Earth, such as military and emergency settings, and for decentralized water systems in remote locations.
  • Gaucho Lung, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, studies how mucus lining the respiratory system affects delivery of drugs carried in a small amount of injected liquid, known as a liquid plug. Conducting this research in microgravity makes it possible to isolate the factors involved, including capillary or wicking forces, mucus characteristics, and gravity. Understanding the role of these factors could inform the development and optimization of targeted respiratory treatments. In addition, the work could contribute to new strategies to control contamination in tubing for liquids used in the health care and food industries.

You can watch the launch tonight on NASA TV.

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