New Technology Demonstration and Facility Installed on the Space Station to Enable Future Research

Cyngus resupply ship docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., May 7, 2021 (CASIS PR)  – During the early hours of Monday, February 22, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft berthed with the International Space Station (ISS), bringing with it dozens of research and technology development payloads. This launch, which was part of Northrop Grumman’s 15th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission funded by NASA, carried more than 10 payloads sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. Now that the payloads safely arrived onboard the orbiting laboratory, the ISS crew members of Expedition 64 and 65 have been hard at work supporting many of these investigations.

Included in the Northrop Grumman CRS-15 mission were several ISS National Lab-sponsored technology demonstration and facility validation payloads. The space station is an ever-evolving research platform, and over the years, dozens of new facilities have been validated for use on the orbiting laboratory. Many of these facilities are managed by Commercial Service Providers—private companies that own and operate their own facilities on the space station and leverage ISS National Lab flight allocation and crew time. One of these Commercial Service Providers, Redwire Space, launched its sixth facility to the ISS as part of Northrop Grumman CRS-15. Redwire’s Industrial Crystallization Facility (ICF) was installed and is currently operating on the space station. ICF is a commercial in-space manufacturing device designed to provide proof-of-principle for diffusion-based crystallization methods to produce high-quality optical crystals in microgravity relevant for terrestrial use, specifically laser optics products.

The ICF’s in-orbit operations could provide a valuable understanding of the diffusion process in microgravity and will open access channels to those within the materials and in-space production research communities. In-space production applications and advanced materials are areas of focus for the ISS National Lab and the nation, and space-based research and development within these fields may yield results that bring value back to our nation and drive a robust and sustainable market in low Earth orbit.

The space station is also a powerful platform for technology demonstration. Yesterday, Spaceborne Computer-2, from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), began operations onboard the ISS. Spaceborne Computer-2 is the next step following a previous technology demonstration from HPE focused on providing affordable commercial computing in space. To ensure successful installation of Spaceborne Computer-2, HPE worked in coordination with NASA to launch an additional spare part on the SpaceX Crew-2 mission in late April.

This second iteration of the Spaceborne Computer, which is comprised of the HPE Edgeline Converged Edge system and HPE ProLiant server, has twice the computational power of its predecessor and introduces artificial intelligence capabilities. NASA and ISS National Lab researchers will be able to use Spaceborne Computer-2 for in-space data processing and analysis to achieve quicker results and enable potential iteration of experiments on the ISS. Additionally, HPE has opened a call for solicitations on novel ways to leverage Spaceborne Computer-2 during its mission on the orbiting laboratory.

To learn more about all of the research sponsored by the ISS National Lab that launched on Northrop Grumman CRS-15, please visit our launch page

About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory

The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under cooperative agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit www.ISSNationalLab.org.