After just over a month of delay, NASA and SpaceX are ready to launch a resupply mission to the International Space Station that includes more than 5,800 pounds of materials, equipment and science.
The mission was previously scheduled to launch on June 10, but was delayed after engineers discovered a possible leak in the Dragon’s propulsion system. NASA ultimately stated that the problem that caused the elevated monomethylhydrazine vapor readings was related to the “valve inlet connection” in the Draco engines. This joint was replaced prior to this mission.
The leak marked a rare glitch in the SpaceX Dragon capsule program, which has so far carried out a number of crew and cargo missions to and from the ISS without major problems. This mission is part of the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract with NASA, which the company landed in 2016. SpaceX flew 20 missions under the agency’s previous CRS contract, earning about $3.04 billion, or $152 million per mission. , for this.
The Dragon capsule has already visited the ISS twice as part of this mission.
Experiments to improve life on Earth and in space
The cargo package includes a new NASA climate change monitoring study called Earth Surface Mineral Dust Sources Survey (EMIT). Mineral dust is formed in arid regions of the Earth and affects almost every aspect of our planet’s ecology: when released into the atmosphere, this dust can absorb and reflect sunlight, heating or cooling the planet; can accelerate melting if it falls on snow; or can cause algal blooms in the ocean.
For this reason, it is very important to understand how dust and the dust cycle interact with the planet, but scientists do not have a good way to measure this. “Currently, the dust cycle is limited to just 5,000 measurements of mineral samples for the entire planet,” NASA’s Dr. Robert Greene explained during a media briefing. Once EMIT is launched, it will use spectroscopy to make over one billion observations.
“There are big errors,” he said. “Once we have this information, we can also run these models in the future to see how things might change under different climate scenarios in 1,500 years. EMIT will fill a gap in our knowledge of what types of minerals are on the surface and released into the atmosphere.”
This closes a gap in knowledge about variables like this, which will help scientists better model much more complex processes like global climate change. The EMIT measurements will also contribute to the search for natural minerals, as it will be able to detect signs of certain minerals on the Earth’s surface.
Other experiments include trying to create an alternative to concrete, a material that is great for shielding spacecraft from radiation but is heavy and expensive to send into space; study of the behavior of models of sutured wounds in microgravity conditions, created on the basis of real biopsies of human skin and blood vessels; and a project to study the aging of immune cells, based on previous studies conducted on the ISS. The tissue from this latest experiment will eventually be returned to Earth for further study.
“SpaceX missions are particularly useful in that they allow samples developed in space to be returned to researchers on Earth for further analysis,” said Kirt Costello, chief scientist at the ISS. He explained that this explains the large amount of biological and biotechnological research involved in this mission.
The mission is also sending a number of studies through NASA’s In-Space Production Applications program, which provides funding to businesses wishing to test the production of goods in the space environment. This includes research into the production of stem cell therapies and others.
“NASA and the ISS National Laboratory are investing in these initiatives as part of our investment in commercial use. [low-Earth orbit] market,” Costello said.
The cargo package will launch in a SpaceX Dragon capsule aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX and NASA plan to launch at 8:44 pm EDT.
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