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CRS-26 marks 52 from FL

November 26, at 2:20 pm E.T. from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center

The newest Cargo Dragon 2 from SpaceX has launched a full load of supplies and science to the astronauts above in the International Space Station. It will rendezvous and dock at the Harmony module of the ISS in just over twenty-fours from now. Initially slated to launch four days ago, foul weather caused a scrub and the Thanksgiving holiday kept another attempt from happening until now.

Dragon will resupply the Expedition 68 crew and will also deliver a second pair of ISS Roll Out Solar Arrays or iROSAs inside the unpressurized trunk of the spacecraft. These arrays will eventually be installed to the exterior of the ISS during a few spacewalks currently planned for late November and early December. With the first two arrays having been performing outstandingly well. These cells are immensely more powerful than previous generations stated Matt Mickle, the development projects senior manager at Boeing. Minor modifications have been made to the hardware which will improve operational efficiency. These twin arrays, the second of three packages, will upgrade the stations power channels by fifty percent. This Roll Out Solar Array technology was first test back in 2017 on the space station and were used on NASA’s DART mission as well and are planned for use on the Gateway lunar outpost, a vital component to NASA’s Artemis mission.

Inside the pressurized cargo section of Dragon are a number of important scientific research that will hopefully not just make life better on Earth, but also help deep space travel, and life in stars a bit easier as well. The first of these is a Novel Bone Adhesive. More than two hundred million people worldwide are affected by osteoporosis, a crippling bone disease that decreases bone density and causes bones to weaken and more likely to fracture or break. Researchers from RevBio, are looking to use the microgravity environment of the ISS to further develop a novel therapeutic that could help repair bone fractures. This adhesive is possibly not only going to help strengthen bones by repairing fractures, but also help regenerate bones that are very low quality or deficient in volume. Microgravity has been shown to cause bone loss similar to that of patients with osteoporosis, but at an accelerated rate. Research shows that living in microgravity blocks the development of stem cells into new cells, which RevBio proposes could be why astronauts lose bone mass during space flights. That also makes the space station the most ideal place to study osteoporosis and to test therapeutics.

Another interesting study to soon take place during Expedition 68 is supplying adequate nutrition to astronauts. This is a major challenge to maintaining crew health on future long duration missions. Many vitamins, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals have a limited shelf life and the ability to make such compounds on demand could help maintain crew health and wellness. BioNutrients-2 is a testing a system to do just that, using yogurt, a fermented milk product know as kefir, and a yeast beverage. This will be the start of phase two of the five-year BioNutrients program, headed by NASA’s Ames Research Center. “This experiment adds follistatin, a protein therapeutic used to maintain muscle mass, as well as the fermented milk products yogurt and kefir,” says principal investigator John Hogan of NASA Ames. “We also are testing a new lightweight bag system for effective microbial storage and growth in microgravity and evaluating our food safety techniques.” For a third investigation, the researchers plan to engineer a single yeast strain to make up to four nutrient products. These researchers are also working to find more efficient ways to use local resources to make bulk products, like plastics, construction binders, and feedstock chemicals. These technologies are designed to reduce launch costs and increase self-sufficiency to astronauts above.

Another research study to provide nutrients is known as Veggie and is a plant growth unit currently onboard the ISS. Continuous sources of nutrients are essential for long duration missions and the typical pre-packed astronaut diet may need to be supplemented by fresh foods produced on site. So far, a variety of leafy greens have been successfully grown, now they will focus on dwarf tomatoes. “We are testing tomatoes, looking at the impacts of light spectrum on how well the crop grows, how delicious and nutritious the tomatoes are, and the microbial activity on the fruit and plants,” says Gioia Massa, NASA Life Sciences project scientist and VEG-05 principal investigator. “We also are examining the overall effect of growing, tending, and eating crops on crew behavioral health. All of this will provide valuable data for future space exploration.”

The Extrusion demonstration will use technology using liquid resin to create shapes and forms that cannot be created on Earth. On our home planet, gravity deforms large objects such as the beams used in large scale construction. Microgravity enables the fabrication of longer, thinner structures without deformation. The capability for using these forms could enable in space construction of structures such as space stations, solar arrays, and other equipment. “This experiment leverages the microgravity environment to extrude both common and complex branching shapes,” says principal investigator Ariel Ekblaw, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative. “Our method reduces the time to produce key parts needed for daily mission use and it may support future space construction of large structures like trusses and antennae. The Extrusion investigation builds on our additive manufacturing and in-space self-assembly workstreams.”

The last research subject we will discuss is a way to help space travelers face the transition from one gravity field to another. On future missions, astronauts may encounter three or more different gravity fields, the weightlessness while traveling, the gravity from another planet, and Earth’s gravity once they return. These transitions affect spatial orientation, head-eye, and hand-eye coordination, balance, and locomotion and cause many crew members to experience space motion sickness. A test of the Falcon Goggles hardware will capture high speed video of a subject’s eyes, providing precise data on ocular alignment and balance. They will better inform research of the impacts of microgravity on the crew and their ability to adapt in new gravities and are invaluable as scientists work toward preparing astronauts for long duration explorations to the Moon and beyond.

Supporting this mission is brand new Falcon 9 booster B 1076 and landed successfully on the drone ship Just Read the Instructions about nine minutes after liftoff. JRTI is located out in the Atlantic Ocean and will sail back to Port Canaveral for booster refurbishment once the Falcon 9 is secured to the deck and made ready to travel. This was also the first launch of the Dragon 2 C211, and the 55th flight of a Falcon 9 for SpaceX this year, now far past their previous record for number of launches in a single year.

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed my content, please consider checking out my store for some high-quality photography. Every sale helps me keep going to cover the launches we all love so much.

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