A Niche in Time: First Flight

Richard Branson addresses the crowd before SpaceShipTwo’s glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Part 5 of 5

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The morning of Dec. 3, 2016, began like so many others in Mojave. The first rays of dawn gave way to a brilliant sunrise that revealed a cloudless, clear blue sky over California’s High Desert.

This was hardly newsworthy. For most of the year, Mojave doesn’t really have weather, just temperatures and wind speeds. It had been literally freezing overnight; the mercury was at a nippy 28º F (-2.2º C) at 4 a.m. As for Mojave’s famous winds – an enemy of roofs, trees and big rigs, but the lifeblood of thousands of wind turbines that cover the landscape west of town – there really weren’t any. It was basically a flat calm.

In other words, it was a perfect day to fly.

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JPL Researchers Validate Technology Performance on Zero-G Parabolic Flights

Research team members evaluate the performance of the Biosleeve Gesture Control Interface for Telerobotics on a March 2017 parabolic flight. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — A series of parabolic flights from Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) in March 2017 enabled researchers to test and validate the performance of two technologies from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL):

  • Comet Sample Verification System (T0164-P): A tool that enables researchers to verify the quantity and volume of a sample from a comet surface before bringing it back to Earth for analysis
  • Biosleeve Gesture Control Interface for Telerobotics (T0161-P): A sleeve-based gesture-recognition interface that provides intuitive force and position control signals from natural arm, hand, and finger movements, with the potential to be embedded in clothing worn by astronauts working on the International Space Station (ISS) and other missions

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University Research Teams Validate Payload Performance on ZERO-G Parabolic Flights

University of Florida students work on revolutionary approach for efficient microgravity transfer line chilldown experiment. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Several payload proposals selected from NASA’s Research Announcement: Space Technology Research, Development, Demonstration, and Infusion (REDDI) 2016 solicitation flew as part of a Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) parabolic flight campaign during two weeks in March 2017.

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Dragon Returns to Earth With Cargo, Experiments

Dragon spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, Sept. 17, west of Baja California, with more than 3,800 pounds of NASA cargo, research experiments and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station.

The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to Long Beach, California, where some cargo will be removed immediately for return to NASA. Dragon then will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for final processing.

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Lucasfilm Creates Mission Patch Representing ISS U.S. National Laboratory Research

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., September 6, 2017 (CASIS PR) — The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced the unveiling of its latest mission patch, designed by Lucasfilm, featuring characters and space ships from the Star Wars™ franchise. The mission patch represents all payloads intended for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory in calendar year 2017. CASIS is the organization that oversees research on the ISS U.S. National Laboratory benefitting life on Earth.

“This collaboration connects the scientific promise of the International Space Station to the scientific inspiration of the iconic Star Wars TM franchise,” said CASIS President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson. Thus far in 2017, the ISS National Laboratory has seen well over 100 experiments launch to the space station ranging from life and physical sciences, Earth observation and remote sensing, to technology development and education payloads.

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International Space Station Cotton Sustainability Challenge Formally Opens

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. September 5, 2017 (CASIS PR) — The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today formally opened a cotton sustainability challenge, sponsored by Target Corporation, where researchers and innovators will have the ability to propose solutions to improve crop production on Earth by sending their concepts to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory.

The challenge will leverage a broad range of disciplines to find breakthrough solutions that can be implemented affordably and benefit the cotton production community. The challenge is slated to run from September 5th through November 1st, 2017. Selected proposals will receive grant funding through Target Corporation and ultimately manifested for flight to the ISS National Lab.

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NASA & U.S. National Lab Expand Commercial Research Opportunities in Space

Astronaut Jack Fischer working with the CASIS PCG 6 experiment in the Japanese Experiment Module. The U.S. National Lab enables space research and development access to a broad range of commercial, academic, and government users. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Designated a national laboratory, the U.S. segment of the International Space Station supports hundreds of ground-breaking government and commercial experiments in microgravity each year. NASA recently extended management of the lab to the Center for the Advancement of Science and Space (CASIS) until 2024.  In addition, NASA is announcing that it is providing a class patent waiver to third party users who privately fund their research so that these users can automatically gain title to their inventions made aboard the space station.

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NSF, CASIS Select 3 Combustion & Thermal Transport Experiments for ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., August 9, 2017 (CASIS PR) –  The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced three projects have been selected from a joint solicitation focused on leveraging the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory in the fields of combustion and thermal transport. In total, up to $900,000 will be awarded for these three investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Laboratory.

Through this partnership, CASIS and NASA will facilitate hardware implementation and on-orbit access to the ISS National Laboratory.  NSF will fund the selected projects to advance fundamental science and engineering knowledge. CASIS is the nonprofit organization responsible for managing and promoting research onboard the ISS National Laboratory. NSF supports transformative research to help drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security and maintain America’s position as a global leader in innovation.

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CASIS, Michael J. Fox Foundation Team for ISS Parkinson’s Research

NEW YORK (MJFF PR) — The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announce a partnership to send a key Parkinson’s protein to the International Space Station for growth under microgravity conditions. Microgravity may allow bigger, more regular LRRK2 protein crystals to grow, which helps solve the protein’s structure. That information could help scientists design optimized therapies against LRRK2, a key target in the pursuit of a Parkinson’s cure.

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Video Highlights JAXA-PeptiDream Research on ISS

The video highlights the protein crystallization experiment conducted by JAXA astronaut Takuya Onishi in the Kibo module on his last long-term International Space Station expedition.

JAXA’s strategic partnership with Japanese biopharma, PeptiDream Inc., has been crystallized into this innovative experiment under near zero gravity.

Latest Results from High-Quality Protein Crystal Growth Experiment on Kibo Module

A non-standard cyclic peptide
bound to a target protein. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — PeptiDream Inc. (PeptiDream), a Tokyo-based public biopharmaceutical company, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), a national research and development agency, has established a strategic partnership for the High-Quality Protein Crystal Growth (PCG) experiment on the Japanese Experimental Module (“Kibo”) of the International Space Station (ISS).

This strategic partnership agreement (this Agreement) is a renewal of the current fee-based contract and represents a further expansion of the relationship between PeptiDream and JAXA. Under this Agreement, the number of experimental protein samples to be investigated is increased six-fold over the original agreement, and the term is further extended from August 2017 to August 2020.

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From 2D to 3D, Space Station Microscope Gets an Upgrade

NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, conducts a session with the Preliminary Advanced Colloids Experiment at the Light Microscopy Module in the Fluids Integrated Rack aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — In science, it’s best to have a clean, sharp picture of what you’re studying. Microscopes afford us the opportunity to look at particles that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye, but these particles can sometimes be masked by gravity. That’s right, the same force that keeps your feet firmly planted to the ground also interferes with getting a good look at how things move and interact at the microscopic level.

The Light Microscopy Module (LMM) microscope aboard the International Space Station is an advanced microscope that gives researchers a look at what is happening on a fundamental level without the interference of gravity. NASA will be sending an upgrade to the LMM on the upcoming SpaceX cargo resupply mission that will enable 3D imaging of complex fluid structures and allow for modeling the movement of individual particles at the micron level.

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Techshot Selected for NASA Small Business Awards

Techshot will work on developing a rodent centrifuge for the International Space Station (ISS) and software for producing electronic circuits in microgravity with funding from NASA.

The space agency has selected the Indiana company for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards worth a maximum of $125,000 over six months to develop the technologies.

The rodent centrifuge would allow astronauts to conduct animal experiments in conditions of reduced gravity as future explorers will experience on the moon and Mars.

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Tianzhou-1 Cargo Ship Docks with Chinese Space Station

The Tianzhou-1 cargo ship successfully docked with the unoccupied Tiangong-2 space station on Saturday, Chinese media report.

Launched on Tuesday, the cargo vessel will dock twice more with the station to test different rendezvous and docking techniques. One will involve approaching Tiangong-2 from a different direction. Another will shrinking the docking time from two days to six hours.

Tianzhou-1 will later conduct China’s first refueling of a vehicle in orbit.

The success of the mission is a crucial step in China’s plan to launch a permanent space station. The core module is scheduled to launch next year, with additional modules to follow through the completion of construction in 2022.

Tianzhou-1 is carrying a number of scientific experiments during its five-month stay in orbit. The experiments include:

  • stem cell research to investigate human reproduction in space;
  • how bone cells are affected by microgravity;
  • germ cell differentiation research;
  • fluid evaporation and condensation; and,
  • high-precision electrostatic accelerometer research.

U.S. National Lab Research Payloads Headed for ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (CASIS PR) The Orbital ATK Cygnus vehicle launched on its seventh cargo resupply mission (CRS-7) to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 18 aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V vehicle, carrying more than 40 ISS U.S. National Laboratory sponsored investigations.

The ISS U.S. National Laboratory is chartered to facilitate research in the microgravity environment that benefits life on Earth. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is leading the effort in partnership with NASA, industry, other government organizations, and academia to manage and promote the best use of the ISS National Lab.

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