Student Research Experiments to Play Prominent Role in Northrop Grumman Resupply Mission to the Space Station

Press Release From: Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
Posted: Monday, September 28, 2020

When Northrop Grumman launches its Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on its 14th commercial resupply services mission (CRS-14), it will do so with the eyes of children across the U.S. hoping to catch a glimpse of a rocket soaring into space. Rocket launches have a unique ability to captivate audiences and inspire young students to look to the stars for inspiration. The upcoming resupply mission contracted through NASA, currently scheduled for launch no earlier than October 1 at 9:38 p.m. ET, will carry dozens of research experiments to the orbiting laboratory. However, these payloads are not just from professional researchers—multiple student experiments will also launch to the ISS on this mission.

Since its inception, the ISS U.S. National Laboratory has sponsored numerous student experiments from around the world that have been conducted on station. A major initiative of the ISS National Lab is to engage and excite the next generation of explorers, and the ability for students to send experiments to the ISS provides a hands-on experience that will stay with young researchers forever. On Northrop Grumman CRS-14, several student experiments sponsored by the ISS National Lab will take advantage of the unique space-based environment provided by the ISS.

One payload launching on this mission is an investigation from a team of researchers and graduate students from the University of Adelaide in Australia. The team is working with two ISS National Lab commercial Implementation Partners to use facilities inside and outside the space station to study pharmaceutical stability. In two separate experiments, the team will examine how exposure to microgravity and space radiation may affect the stability of tablet formulations and their excipients (inactive ingredients). For the first experiment, which is launching on this mission, the research team will use Space Tango’s CubeLab hardware inside the ISS. The team will then conduct a second experiment using Alpha Space’s MISSE Flight Facility on the exterior of the space station. This investigation is the University of Adelaide team’s first step in working to develop micro-flow spacelabs for in-orbit pharmaceutical formulation and manufacturing.

Also on this mission, the University of Georgia will send its Spectral Ocean Color (SPOC) Satellite, a 3U CubeSat with an adjustable multispectral sensor used to create images with high spectral resolution that can detect a wide range of environmental phenomena. The resulting images can be used to monitor coastal wetlands and water quality. SPOC provides an opportunity to train students for potential careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by allowing them to optimize data transmission techniques and geo-reference imagery for mapping. Students will also process images acquired from SPOC for analysis, develop community outreach programs, and learn general aerospace manufacturing, testing, and designing skills. SPOC will be launched from the ISS using the Nanoracks deployer.

Additionally, two student-led payloads on this mission are from Higher Orbits, an educational nonprofit that uses space to promote STEM, leadership, teamwork, and communication through its Go For Launch! program. Through this program, Higher Orbits sends student experiments to the space station under the flight allocation of the ISS National Lab. One investigation on this mission from a group of students from Spring Grove, IL will examine microgravity’s effects on the pupating cabbage moth, Mamestra brassicae.  Another experiment from students in Kentucky and the Chicago area will measure the behavior and production of methane by southeastern drywood termites in microgravity. Both investigations are supported by commercial Implementation Partner Space Tango and received funding from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

“The ISS National Lab takes great pride in working with our education and implementation partners to enable student researchers to take their science, engineering, and technology questions to space far beyond their normal lab settings on Earth,” said Dr. Michael Roberts, interim chief scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), manager of the ISS National Lab. “By collaboration with educators to support education projects on the space station, we hope to instill in students a lifelong interest in science and inspire them to pursue exciting career opportunities available in STEM fields.”

To learn more about all of the ISS National Lab–sponsored payloads flying on this mission, please see the ISS National Lab Northrop Grumman CRS-14 mission overview.

About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the ISS as the nation’s newest national laboratory to optimize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by non-NASA U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The ISS National Lab manages access to the permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space is the nonprofit responsible for management of the ISS National Lab.

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