SpaceX launches resupply mission to International Space Station after delays | Science & Tech News
After a series of delays SpaceX has launched a resupply mission for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS) carrying almost 2.5 tonnes of equipment.
The private space company founded by billionaire Elon Musk was forced to delay its initial launch after a massive power outage hit the space station.
Another power outage affecting SpaceX’s floating rocket-landing platform in the Atlantic Ocean occurred shortly after, requiring a replacement generator.
Given the all clear on Saturday morning, the Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, delivering the Dragon cargo capsule into orbit before landing on the floating platform at sea just minutes later.
The capsule the rocket launched is set to arrive at the ISS on Monday, when the astronauts on board will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture it and help it dock.
The Falcon 9 rocket would have normally landed back on land at Cape Canaveral, but SpaceX is currently cleaning up its landing area there after a mysterious incident destroyed its crew vessel there during a routine test two weeks ago.
A launchpad test of the crew Dragon vehicle – intended to one day fly astronauts to the ISS – ended in flames on 20 April. Investigations into the cause are ongoing.
The launch of the cargo Dragon capsule on Saturday morning occurred without incident.
It is carrying 5,500lbs (2,500kg) of NASA cargo, and scientific material includes kit that will support research into the Earth’s carbon cycle and into how asteroids and comets and formed.
:: Microalgae experiment
Among the scientific investigations which the resupply mission will support is one that aims to demonstrate whether microalgae – microscopic algae – could be used in the space station environment.
The algae, which are all unicellar forms of life, could be both cultivated for good and also contribute to a life support system which generates oxygen and consumes carbon dioxide.
In the future, during long-duration space exploration missions, microalgae could help astronauts reduce the amount of material astronauts need to bring with them.
Additional experiments include tools to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide from space, as well as a new technology called tissue chips which could help in the development of new medicines.
:: Tissue chip experiment
Tissue chips are essentially devices about the size of a thumb drive which contain human cells in a 3D matrix, and which can be exposed to different chemicals.
“Fluid that mimics blood can be passed through the chip to simulate blood flow, and can include drugs or toxins,” explained NASA.
“In microgravity, changes occur in human health and human cells that resemble accelerated ageing and disease processes.
“This investigation allows scientists to make observations over the course of a few weeks in microgravity rather than the months it would take in a laboratory on Earth.”