Featured Image Source: NASA
SpaceX is preparing an upgraded cargo Dragon capsule for NASA's next resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It will be SpaceX's 21st cargo mission under the agency's second Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) contract to deliver equipment and supplies needed to perform science research at the orbiting laboratory.
SpaceX has completed 20 cargo Dragon missions to and from the space station. The company has delivered over 95,000 pounds of supplies and returned 75,000 pounds. "Cargo resupply from U.S. companies ensures a national capability to deliver critical science research to the space station, significantly increasing NASA's ability to conduct new investigations at the only laboratory in space," the agency wrote in a press release. The CRS-21 mission will be the first resupply mission that will utilize SpaceX's upgraded version of the cargo Dragon capsule, which is capable of carrying 50% more payload mass. UPDATE: NASA targets to conduct the mission no earlier than December 5, 2020, 11:39 a.m. EST. A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Space Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Dragon capsule will carry a variety of equipment to ISS on the upcoming flight. The supplies that will be transported during the CRS-21 launch will be used to study how space conditions affect the interaction between microbes and minerals, a technology demonstration of a blood analysis tool in microgravity, also equipment to test a method of building habitats in space, among other scientific research. You can watch the video below to learn more about the important research Dragon will carry to the orbiting laboratory.
NASA is sending some microbes and meteorite samples aboard Dragon to investigate a process called biomining. "The BioAsteroid investigation looks at the ability of bacteria to break down rock. Future space explorers could use this process for extracting elements from planetary surfaces and refining regolith, the type of soil found on the moon, into usable compounds," NASA states. "Microbes could break down rocks into soils for plant growth, for example, or extract elements useful for life support systems and production of medicines," the agency wrote in a press release. This interesting research will be conducted by SpaceX's Crew-1 mission astronauts who launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and arrived at the space station on November 16. The astronauts are tasked with investigating how microbes are capable of 'digging' through the meteorite rocks in the space environment.
SpaceX's Dragon capsule will also be carrying equipment to analyze blood cells in space. "HemoCue tests the ability of a commercially available device to provide quick and accurate counts of total and differentiated white blood cells in microgravity. Doctors commonly use the total number of white blood cells and counts of the five different types of white blood cells to diagnose illnesses and monitor a variety of health conditions on Earth," NASA shared, "Verification of an autonomous capability for blood analysis on the space station is an important step toward meeting the health care needs of crew members on future missions."
The spacecraft will also carry equipment for the "SUBSA-BRAINS" investigation which "examines differences in capillary flow, interface reactions, and bubble formation during the solidification of brazing alloys in microgravity. Brazing is a type of soldering used to bond together similar materials, such as an aluminum alloy to aluminum, or dissimilar ones such as aluminum alloy to ceramics, at high temperatures," NASA explains, "The technology could serve as a tool for constructing human habitats and vehicles on future space missions as well as for repairing damage caused by micrometeoroids or space debris."
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.