SpaceX Dragon breathes Astronomical Amounts of…

SpaceX is helping the crew members aboard the International Space Station get down and nerdy as they launch their Dragon cargo spacecraft into orbit for the 13th commercial resupply mission, targeted for Dec. 15 from our Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

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This super science-heavy flight will deliver experiments and equipment that will study phenomena on the Sun, materials in microgravity, space junk and more. 

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Here are some highlights of research that will be delivered to the station:

ZBLAN Fiber Optics Tested in Space!

The Optical Fiber Production in Microgravity (Made in Space Fiber Optics) experiment demonstrates the benefits of manufacturing fiber optic filaments in a microgravity environment. This investigation will attempt to pull fiber optic wire from ZBLAN, a heavy metal fluoride glass commonly used to make fiber optic glass.

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When ZBLAN is solidified on Earth, its atomic structure tends to form into crystals. Research indicates that ZBLAN fiber pulled in microgravity may not crystalize as much, giving it better optical qualities than the silica used in most fiber optic wire. 

Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor is Totally Teaching us About Earth’s Climate

The Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor, or TSIS, monitors both total solar irradiance and solar spectral irradiance, measurements that represent one of the longest space-observed climate records. Solar irradiance is the output of light energy from the entire disk of the Sun, measured at the Earth. This means looking at the Sun in ways very similar to how we observe stars rather than as an image with details that our eye can resolve.

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Understanding the variability and magnitude of solar irradiance is essential to understanding Earth’s climate.  

Sensor Monitors Space Station Environment for Space Junk

The Space Debris Sensor (SDS) will directly measure the orbital debris environment around the space station for two to three years.

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Above, see documentation of a Micro Meteor Orbital Debris strike on one of the window’s within the space station’s Cupola. 

Research from this investigation could help lower the risk to human life and critical hardware by orbital debris.

Self-Assembling and Self-Replicating Materials in Space!

Future space exploration may utilize self-assembly and self-replication to make materials and devices that can repair themselves on long duration missions. 

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The Advanced Colloids Experiment- Temperature-7 (ACE-T-7) investigation involves the design and assembly of 3D structures from small particles suspended in a fluid medium. 

Melting Plastics in Microgravity

The Transparent Alloys project seeks to improve the understanding of the melting and solidification processes in plastics in microgravity. Five investigations will be conducted as a part of the Transparent Alloys project.

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These European Space Agency (ESA) investigations will allow researchers to study this phenomena in the microgravity environment, where natural convection will not impact the results.  

Studying Slime (or…Algae, at Least) on the Space Station

Arthrospira B, an ESA investigation, will examine the form, structure and physiology of the Arthrospira sp. algae in order to determine the reliability of the organism for future spacecraft biological life support systems.

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The development of these kinds of regenerative life support systems for spaceflight could also be applied to remote locations on Earth where sustainability of materials is important. 

Follow @ISS_Research on Twitter for more space science and watch the launch live on Dec. 15 at 10:36 a.m. EDT HERE!

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