SpaceX is launching another cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) later this month. The Dragon spacecraft will be packed with science experiments and supplies for the seven-strong crew currently living and working aboard the orbiting outpost.
NASA, which is overseeing the mission, this week posted a short video (below) highlighting a few of the dozens of experiments and other equipment that will be heading to the space station 250 miles above Earth.
The cargo will include a device to document the progression of Space-Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome, a known vision problem experienced by astronauts that’s caused by prolonged periods in microgravity conditions. The device could eventually function as a mobile retinal diagnostics tool for long-duration missions to Mars and beyond, and could also be used by health care providers on Earth.
Space station crew have been growing plants on the orbiting laboratory for many years as they explore the best way to cultivate vegetables for extended stays in space. Scientists have learned that microgravity conditions cause plants a certain amount of stress that may impact their growth. With this in mind, NASA is sending an experiment that could offer insights into the mechanisms plants use to modulate the stress of microgravity, and also help it create plants better suited to such conditions. In addition, the experiment could improve scientists’ understanding of “the molecular mechanisms that allow plants to respond to general environmental stress on Earth, with impacts on agriculture, horticulture, and forestry,” according to principal investigator Patrick Masson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The space station will also be taking delivery of a robotic arm. Designed by space robotics startup GITAI Japan, the Nanoracks-GITAI Robotic Arm will be tested with a view to offering astronauts support with their various tasks aboard the station. NASA says that such a device could help to lower mission costs and enhance crew safety by allowing astronauts to hand potentially hazardous jobs to the robot. The technology could also be used on Earth for disaster relief, deep-sea excavation, and servicing nuclear power plants. “This technology demonstration is to show the world that the capabilities necessary for automation in space are finally available,” GITAI’s Toyotaka Kozuki said, adding, “It provides an inexpensive and safer source of labor in space, opening the door to the true commercialization of space.”
SpaceX will launch the cargo to the ISS on Saturday, August 28, with lift-off scheduled for 3:37 a.m. ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The event marks SpaceX’s 23rd cargo resupply mission to the station using its tried-and-tested Dragon spacecraft and workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.
To find out more about how astronauts work, rest, and play aboard the ISS, take a look at these videos made by former ISS crew members.