Satellite Software Contest on Space Station as Crew Tests Organ Printing

The International Space Station as it appears in 2018. Zarya is visible at the center of the complex, identifiable by its partially retracted solar arrays. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station is the setting today for a student competition to control tiny, free-floating satellites aboard the orbiting lab. Meanwhile, the Expedition 60 crewmembers conducted a variety of research operations and continued configuring a pair of spacesuits.

Middle school students are competing to design algorithms that autonomously control basketball-sized SPHERES satellites aboard the station. The student-written software tests rendezvous and docking maneuvers that simulate scenarios such as retrieving an inoperable satellite. Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Alexander Skvortsov were on hand monitoring the SPHERES contest inside the Kibo laboratory module.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is helping scientists learn how to print and grow human organs in space. She printed tissue samples using the BioFabrication Facility in the Columbus lab module. The samples are housed for several weeks inside a specialized incubator to promote cellular growth. Earth’s gravity inhibits 3-D bioprinters and incubators from recreating and growing complex organic structures.

Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Luca Parmitano continued working on U.S. spacesuits and spacewalking tools during the afternoon. Hague started the day configuring a fluorescence microscope that can observe cellular changes in microgravity. Parmitano serviced Europe’s Fluid Science Laboratory to continue researching the physics of fluids in microgravity.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin worked in the Russian segment of the space lab today readying obsolete gear for return to Earth aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. The veteran cosmonaut spent the rest of the afternoon servicing life support gear and inspecting biology research hardware.