SpaceX will launch a Dragon cargo spacecraft on Monday on the company’s 26th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch – which will carry a variety of NASA experiments and equipment, as well as supplies for the orbiting lab crew – is scheduled for 4:19 p.m. EST (21:19 GMT) from the launch complex. 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Arrival at the ISS is scheduled for 9:43 a.m. EST (2:43 p.m. GMT) on Wednesday, November 23.
Upon reaching the ISS, the SpaceX Dragon 2 will autonomously dock to the Harmony module’s forward-facing port, which is the space station’s “utility hub” that connects US, European and Japanese laboratory modules.
The spacecraft is expected to spend about a month tethered to the orbiting facility before returning to Earth – carrying return cargo and research – to splash down off the coast of Florida for recovery.
NASA is providing live coverage of Monday’s launch, using footage taken around the launch pad. The stream can be viewed both on the NASA Live website and via NASA’s YouTube channel.
The space agency’s coverage of the launch can also be viewed on the NASA app. This is available for Android and iOS devices.
A NASA spokesperson said: “The Dragon spacecraft will provide a variety of NASA investigations, including the next pair of International Space Station Deployment Solar Panels (iROSA), which will increase the power of the laboratory. in orbit.”
Since its inception, NASA explained, the ISS has been powered by “large, heavy and complex” solar panels. As expected, however, these slowly degraded over time. From 2017, the space agency therefore launched an experiment with the installation of the first Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA), deployed from the orbital laboratory using the station’s robotic arm.
NASA explained: “Instead of a rigid solar panel, ROSA was made from a composite carbon fiber containing an array of solar cells that can be extended and retracted like a tape measure, using the stored strain energy of the material. ROSA was also lightweight and generated power more efficiently.
“Now larger versions of ROSA technology, known as iROSA, are permanently installed on the station through a series of launches and spacewalks. The arrays augment the existing power supply and restore power [the] previous levels [seen] when the original arrays have been installed.
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SpaceX’s Dragon 2 will also carry other experiments to the orbiting lab. NASA explained: “The spacecraft will also perform a study of growing bush tomatoes to help create a system for the continuous production of fresh food in space, as well as an experiment that tests an on-demand method for create specific amounts of key nutrients.”
The ability to sustainably grow food in space will be essential as astronauts begin undertaking multi-year missions to Mars and beyond. Currently, their diet consists mostly of pre-packaged foods that would degrade over such time scales.
To that end, scientists have developed the Plant Production System – also dubbed Veggie – a “garden” that allows NASA to experiment with growing produce in space. Veggie once grew leafy greens in space.
The final stage of this research program is the monstrously named “Productivity, Nutritional Value, and Acceptability of Crispy Take-Out Salads to Supplement the ISS Food System” survey—or “Veg-05,” for short. It will expand the variety of crops to include dwarf Red Robin tomatoes.
Veg-05, NASA explained, “will focus on the impact of light and fertilizer quality on fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, behavioral health benefits – and a crew taste test!”
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Veg-05 isn’t the only biology experiment. transported to the ISS on SpaceX’s 26th commercial resupply mission. BRIC-26 – short for the “Alteration of Bacillus Subtilis DNA Architecture in Space: Global Effects on DNA Supercoiling, Methylation, and the Transcriptome” survey – will study how space flight affects microbial cells.
The subject of the experiments, Bacillus subtilis, is a common probiotic gut bacterium that is used in food products to help prevent foodborne illness. It can withstand extreme environmental conditions due to its ability to shrink to a hard dormant state called an “endospore”.
BRIC-26, NASA explained, will assess how the DNA structure of B. subtilis changes after growing in space. They added: “This research will provide insight into how the spaceflight environment affects cellular outcomes, which would in turn influence the health of people on board a spacecraft as well as their ecosystem.
Another experiment launched on Monday will study the microstructure of bulk metallic glass composites and tungsten spheres produced in microgravity. Scientists believe these materials could be used to create high-performance alloys and coatings to increase the life of spacecraft and improve wear resistance in harsh environments, such as on the Moon.