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NASA and SpaceX Launch a New Airlock and a Christmas Feast to the ISS


Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon resupply spacecraft on December 6, 2020.

Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon resupply spacecraft on December 6, 2020.
Picture: NASA Tv

Crew provides, a brand new airlock, some spare elements, and a bunch of science experiments are at present en path to the Worldwide Area Station, following yesterday’s profitable launch of an upgraded SpaceX Dragon resupply automobile.

The CRS-21 mission launch occurred yesterday at 11:27 a.m. EST, as a SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Area Middle in Florida (it marked the fourth flight for this explicit booster, which then landed efficiently on a droneship within the Atlantic Ocean). For SpaceX, this marks its 21st resupply mission for the area company, according to NASA. The spacecraft, with its 6,400 kilos (2,900 kg) of cargo, is about to reach on the ISS at 1:40 p.m. ET at the moment.

The docking (which you’ll be able to watch on NASA TV) will occur autonomously, in what will likely be a primary for a SpaceX resupply automobile. The Dragon getting used for this mission is an upgraded model of the spacecraft, known as the Dragon 2 Cargo Capsule, and it options 12 powered lockers as a substitute of the same old six. These powered cargo holds permit for the preservation of delicate samples throughout transport to the orbital outpost after which again to Earth. A complete of 4 powered lockers are getting used for the present mission.

Apparently, this marks the primary time that SpaceX has two Dragon capsules in orbit on the similar time, the Verge reports. A Dragon is at present docked to the ISS, and with the arrival of the brand new Dragon 2, that’ll make two.

Dragon spacecraft specifications.

Dragon spacecraft specs.
Picture: NASA

Among the many varied provides on board, the Dragon is a Christmas feast consisting of roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, shortbread cookies, and icing, the Related Press reports. It’s additionally delivering spacewalk tools, automobile {hardware}, pc sources, some Russian {hardware}, and tools to run science experiments.

Extra particularly, the crew will likely be receiving upgrades to the Water Processor Meeting, spare elements and consumables (e.g. disinfectant wipes) for the newly added $23 million bathroom (which will likely be wanted to accommodate the crew of seven), 40 mice, new {hardware} to accommodate stated rodents, and a one-handed tape dispenser designed by highschool college students as a part of NASA’s HUNCH problem.

Summary of the Dragon’s cargo manifest.

Abstract of the Dragon’s cargo manifest.
Picture: NASA

Excitingly, the ISS is getting a brand new toy within the type of the Nanorocks Bishop Airlock, together with an set up equipment for the crew. This would be the first commercially owned and operated airlock on the area station. As soon as put in, the crew will use the airlock to deploy small satellites (together with Cubesats) and tools meant for the ISS exterior, amongst different issues. The airlock will even be used to deploy and get well {hardware} used for spacewalks.

“Roughly 5 instances bigger than the airlock on the Japanese Experiment Module already in use on the station, the Bishop Airlock permits robotic motion of extra and bigger packages to the outside of the area station, together with {hardware} to assist spacewalks,” in response to NASA. “It additionally supplies capabilities comparable to energy and ethernet required for inner and exterior payloads.”

As if this received’t be sufficient to maintain the crew busy over the following six months, they’ll additionally must run a slew of science experiments. It will embrace biomining experiments to evaluate how nicely microorganisms, together with fungi, can harvest rare-earth parts from rocks and meteorite samples in microgravity circumstances. The crew will even check the consequences of microgravity on heart tissue, brain organoids (dwelling plenty of mind cells), and the counts of white blood cells, the latter of which is a vital biomarker of well being.

The crew will even run the SUBSA-BRAINS experiment, aka the BRazing of Aluminum alloys IN Area. Brazing (to not be confused with braising, that’s one thing else), is a kind of soldering used to bond supplies. As NASA factors out, the crew will check the method on aluminum alloys, in what’s deemed a possible resolution for the “restore of broken area automobiles/habitats, and for development within the microgravity of area or in human habitats.”

It will all make for some fascinating subsequent few months, and we’ll be watching all of those developments carefully. Hopefully circumstances aboard the ISS will likely be much less, uh, dramatic than they’ve been in current months.

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George Dvorsky