Space Station Science Highlights: Week of Mar 12, 2018

ISS – Expedition 55 Mission patch.

March 16, 2018

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credits: NASA/STS-132

The crew members aboard the International Space Station were busy this week with educational downlinks, emergency training and many hours of scientific operations, while also preparing for three new crew members to arrive following their March 21 launch.

Take a look at some of the science that happened this week aboard your orbiting laboratory:

Investigation studies changes to brain structure and function in spaceflight

Previous research and anecdotal evidence from astronauts suggests movement control and cognition can be affected in microgravity. Using MRI and fMRI imaging, NeuroMapping investigates whether long-duration spaceflight causes changes to brain structure and function. Changes in motor control or multi-tasking abilities are documented as well as the time it takes for the brain and body to recover from possible changes.

Image above: Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and other crew members ate some of the red romaine lettuce that was harvested from the VEG-03 experiment. Image Credit: NASA.

This week, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai completed NeuroMapping tests in both the “strapped in” and “free-floating” body configurations. The data were collected and downlinked to ground crews.

Crew members conduct fluid mechanics experiments

Using a Slosh study and a Wave Turbulence study, the FLUIDICS investigation examines fluid behavior under microgravity during satellite maneuvers and the impact of capillary effect on wave turbulence without being masked by the effect of gravity.

Beyond a better understanding of fluid movements and fuel tank development for future spacecraft, this experiment also helps to provide a better understanding of how the Earth’s oceans work, including the phenomenon of ‘rogue waves’. More broadly, the expected results could help to improve climate prediction systems, and optimize the use of ocean renewable energy.

Image above: Dwarf wheat stalks grow in the Advanced Plant Habitat, a fully automated facility that is being used to support plant bioscience research on the space station in a large, enclosed, environmentally controlled chamber. Image Credit: NASA.

This week, the crew members executed two runs of the FLUIDICS investigation.

Crew begins first week of new ACME operations

The Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME) investigation is a set of studies of gaseous flames to be conducted in the Combustion Integration Rack (CIR), one of which being Electric-Field Effects on Laminar Diffusion Flames (E-FIELD Flames).

In E-FIELD Flames, an electric field with voltages as high as 10,000 volts is established between the burner and a mesh electrode. The motion of the charged ions, which are naturally produced within the flame, are strongly affected by a high-voltage electric field. The resulting ion-driven wind can dramatically influence the stability and sooting behavior of the flame. Measurements are made of electric-field strength, the ion current passing through the flame, and flame characteristics such as the size, structure, temperature, soot, and stability. Conducting the tests in microgravity enables new understanding and the development of less polluting and more efficient combustion technology for use on Earth.

This week marks the first week of E-FIELD flames operations with a very successful first set of ten flames ignited for studying the effects of an electric field on laminar diffusion flames. Preliminary results show that the high-voltage electric field created forces similar to buoyancy. This effect dramatically affected the flame’s shape, intensity, and soot production.

Space to Ground: Neuromapping: 03/16/2018

Other work was done on these investigations: Crew Earth Observations, Veg-03, EMCS, MagVector, Space Headaches, Wisenet, Transparent Alloys, DOSIS-3D, EIISS,  Lighting Effects, ELF, Meteor, Two Phase Flow, Manufacturing Device, Airway Monitoring, Radi-N2, and Plant Habitat.

Related links:



Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME):

Combustion Integration Rack (CIR):

Electric-Field Effects on Laminar Diffusion Flames (E-FIELD Flames):

Crew Earth Observations:




Space Headaches:


Transparent Alloys:



Lighting Effects:



Two Phase Flow:

Manufacturing Device:

Airway Monitoring:


Plant Habitat:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Yuri Guinart-Ramirez, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 55 & 56.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

NASA Science Heading to Space Ranges from the Upper Atmosphere to Microbes

SpaceX – Dragon CRS-14 Mission patch.

March 16, 2018

SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply, arrival at ISS. Image Credit: NASA

A Dragon spacecraft scheduled to launch into orbit no earlier than April 2, carries the 14th SpaceX commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. Lifted into orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Dragon takes supplies, equipment and scientific research to crew members living and working aboard the station.

This flight delivers scientific investigations looking at severe thunderstorms on Earth, the effects of microgravity on production of high-performance products from metal powders, and growing food in space. Dragon also carries cargo for research in the National Laboratory, operated by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), including testing the effects of the harsh space environment on materials, coatings and components; identifying potential pathogens aboard the station; and investigating an antibiotic-releasing wound patch.

Image above: From left, Matthew Romeyn and Dr. Ye Zhang, project scientists, place Arabidopsis seeds in Veggie Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (PONDS) units inside a laboratory at the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image Credits: NASA/Daniel Casper.

Highlights of research to be delivered to the station include:

Capturing Sprites and Elves

The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) surveys severe thunderstorms in Earth’s atmosphere and upper-atmospheric lightning, or transient luminous events. These include sprites, flashes caused by electrical break-down in the mesosphere; the blue jet, a discharge from cloud tops upward into the stratosphere; and ELVES, concentric rings of emissions caused by an electromagnetic pulse in the ionosphere.

Image above: A view of ASIM being prepared for launch. Image Credit: NASA.

ASIM advances understanding of the effect of thunderstorms on Earth’s atmosphere, helping to improve atmospheric models and meteorological and climatological predictions. It also contributes to understanding the effect of dust storms, urban pollutants, forest fires, and volcanoes on cloud formation, as well as electrification and intensification of hurricanes and their relation to eye-wall lightning activity.

Metal Powder Fabrication

The NASA Sample Cartridge Assembly (MSL SCA-GEDS-German) experiment determines underlying scientific principles for a fabrication process known as liquid phase sintering, in microgravity and Earth-gravity conditions.

On earth, liquid phase sintering works like building a sandcastle with just-wet-enough sand; heating a powder forms interparticle bonds and formation of a liquid phase accelerates this solidification, creating a rigid structure. But in microgravity, settling of powder grains does not occur and larger pores form, creating more porous and distorted samples than Earth-based sintering. Sintering has diverse applications on Earth, including in metal cutting tools, automotive engine connecting rods, and self-lubricating bearings. It has potential as a way to perform in-space fabrication and repair, such as building structures on the moon or creating replacement parts during extraterrestrial exploration.

Testing Materials in Space

The Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) provides a unique platform for testing how materials, coatings, and components react in the harsh environment of space, which includes exposure to ultraviolet and ionizing radiation, atomic oxygen, charged particles, thermal cycles, electromagnetic radiation, and micro-meteoroids.

Image above: The Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) with MISSE Sample Carriers (MSCs) in the fully open position exposing samples/experiments to the harsh environment of space in low-Earth Orbit (LEO). Image courtesy of Alpha Space. Image Credit: Alpha Space.

A continuation of previous MISSE payloads, MISSE-FF’s new design eliminates the need for Extravehicular Activities (EVA) for these investigations. New technology includes power and data collection options and the ability to take pictures of each sample on a monthly basis, or more often if required, allowing scientists to monitor sample status throughout flight. The testing benefits a variety of industries, including automotive, aeronautics, energy, space, and transportation.

Patching up Wounds

NanoRacks Module 74 Wound Healing (Wound Healing) tests a patch containing an antimicrobial hydrogel that promotes healing of a wound while acting as a scaffold for regenerating tissue. Reduced fluid motion in microgravity allows more precise analysis of the hydrogel behavior and controlled release of the antibiotic from the patch.

This novel patch could serve as a non-surgical treatment for military combat wounds and reduce sepsis, or systemic inflammation, usually caused by contamination of an open wound. Currently, no wound dressing can sustain release of antibiotics or other agents directly to the wound site while simultaneously maintaining the structural integrity necessary for successful wound healing.

Drug Development in Space

Comparative Real-time Metabolic Activity Tracking for Improved Therapeutic Assessment Screening Panels (Metabolic Tracking) examines effects of microgravity on the metabolic impact of five different therapeutic compounds, evaluating the use of autobioluminescent human tissue culture for continuous tracking of metabolic activity without destroying the sample. This investigation determines the feasibility of developing improved pharmaceuticals in microgravity using a new method to test the metabolic impacts of drug compounds. This could lead to more effective, less expensive drugs.
These investigations are just a sample of the new science to be conducted aboard the orbiting microgravity laboratory. Follow @ISS_Research for more information about science happening on station.

Related links:

Commercial Resupply:

Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS):

Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM):

NASA Sample Cartridge Assembly (MSL SCA-GEDS-German):

Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF):

NanoRacks Module 74 Wound Healing (Wound Healing):

Metabolic Tracking:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/International Space Station Program Science Office/Melissa Gaskill.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link