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What’s aboard SpaceX’s Dragon?

What’s aboard SpaceX’s Dragon?

On Dec 5. 2019, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying a Dragon cargo capsule filled with dozens of scientific experiments. Those experiments look at everything from malting barley in microgravity to the spread of fire.

Not only are the experiments helping us better understand life in space, they also are giving us a better picture of our planet and benefiting humanity back on Earth. 

📸 A Better Picture of Earth 🌏

Every material on the Earth’s surface – soil, rocks, vegetation, snow, ice and human-made objects – reflects a unique spectrum of light. The Hyperspectral Imager Suite (HISUI) takes advantage of this to identify specific materials in an image. It could be useful for tasks such as resource exploration and applications in agriculture, forestry and other environmental areas.

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🌱 Malting Barley in Microgravity 🌱

Many studies of plants in space focus on how they grow in microgravity. The Malting ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity experiment is looking at a different aspect of plants in space: the malting process. Malting converts starches from grain into various sugars that can be used for brewing, distilling and food production. The study compares malt produced in space and on the ground for genetic and structural changes, and aims to identify ways to adapt it for nutritional use on spaceflights.

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🛰️ A First for Mexico 🛰️

AztechSat-1, the first satellite built by students in Mexico for launch from the space station, is smaller than a shoebox but represents a big step for its builders. Students from a multidisciplinary team at Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla in Puebla, Mexico, built the CubeSat. This investigation demonstrates communication within a satellite network in low-Earth orbit. Such communication could reduce the need for ground stations, lowering the cost and increasing the number of data downloads possible for satellite applications.

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🚀 Checking for Leaks 🚀

Nobody wants a spacecraft to spring a leak – but if it happens, the best thing you can do is locate and fix it, fast. That’s why we launched the first Robotic External Leak Locator (RELL) in 2015. Operators can use RELL to quickly detect leaks outside of station and help engineers formulate a plan to resolve an issue. On this latest commercial resupply mission, we launched the Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS), a docking station that allows the RELL units to be stored on the outside of space station, making it quicker and simpler to deploy the instruments.

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🔥 The Spread of Fire 🔥

Understanding how fire spreads in space is crucial for the safety of future astronauts and for controlling fire here on Earth. The Confined Combustion investigation examines the behavior of flame as it spreads in differently-shaped spaces in microgravity. Studying flames in microgravity gives researchers a chance to look at the underlying physics and basic principles of combustion by removing gravity from the equation.

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💪 Staying Strong 💪

Here on Earth you might be told to drink milk to grow up with strong bones, but in space, you need a bit more than that. Astronauts in space have to exercise for hours a day to prevent substantial bone and muscle loss. A new experiment, Rodent Research-19, is seeing if there is another way to prevent the loss by targeting signaling pathways in your body at the molecular level. The results could also support treatments for a wide range of conditions that cause muscle and bone loss back here on Earth.

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Want to learn about more investigations heading to the space station (or even ones currently under way)? Make sure to follow @ISS_Research on Twitter and Space Station Research and Technology News on Facebook. 

If you want to see the International Space Station with your own eyes, check out Spot the Station to see it pass over your town.

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