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Category Archives: Space Station

Virtual Reality Project Shows Life and Science on the Space Station – Space.com

Posted: November 9, 2019 at 8:41 am

People all over the world could get a chance to step on board the International Space Station thanks to a mind-blowing new virtual reality experience.

The project, called "Space Explorers: The ISS Experience," was created with the help of a 360-degree camera. That instrument was launched to the space station so the astronauts onboard could use it to show how science and life unfold 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the Earth's surface.

This virtual reality enterprise is not just an outreach project for NASA; it also provides a chance to demonstrate cutting-edge camera technology. The studio behind this project, Felix and Paul Studios, had a high-definition camera, but their typical camera was about the size of a 4-foot (1.2 meters) tall tree, according to a NASA statement, which is far too large for the space station.

Related: The International Space Station: Inside and Out (Infographic)

A more compact camera launched to space aboard SpaceX's 16th commercial-resupply services mission. in December 2018. The virtual reality project, which the crew on the station is still filming, has captured moments ranging from crew meals to science experiments. That includes growing vegetables in space and experimenting with floating robots called SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites).

"Our focus has been thinking about and finding science experiments that, when you see them, you're immersed in them," Flix Lajeunesse, co-founder and creative director of Felix and Paul Studios, said in the same NASA statement. "Your mind can start spinning, thinking about what technologies are going to come next and how that research leads to a future path."

Unlike most Hollywood movies, in this project, the astronauts are both the stars and the people behind the camera, since usually only up to six people are on the space station at one time. While the project has not been released, based on initial feedback from astronauts who have actually been onboard the space station, it manages to give the viewer an incredible, accurate experience and looks quite real.

"It was like I was back there in and on the International Space Station," astronaut Suni Williams said in the same statement. "You forget you have [a VR headset] on your head, and you just keep looking around. It gives [you] a huge appreciation to all that is inside the space station and how people live and work."

The next filming challenge for this project will be capturing a spacewalk. A release date for the project hasn't yet been announced.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Need more space? Subscribe to our sister title "All About Space" Magazine for the latest amazing news from the final frontier!

(Image credit: All About Space)

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A Journey to Mars Starts on the Space Station – Space.com

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NASA is looking for ways to make a visit to the International Space Station a little more like a voyage to Mars.

Of course, nothing can ever truly replicate the experience of a Mars mission before humans embark on that journey for real. But NASA can prepare by mimicking as many different aspects of the trip as possible. So the agency is strategizing ways the space station can host such practice sessions without interfering with the orbiting lab's other priorities.

"My job is to imagine what a Mars mission would look like: Where would we go, what would we do, and how would we do it?" Michelle Rucker, an engineer at NASA's Exploration Mission Planning Office, said during a panel held at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington last month. "Going to Mars would be difficult, but fortunately, we don't have to start from scratch, because we've already built these other platforms that we can use to practice some of the operations that we would use on a human Mars mission."

More: NASA Wants 10 More Yearlong Space Station Missions for Mars PrepRelated: International Space Station at 20: A Photo Tour

Spaceflight professionals call those practice scenarios analog missions. The most striking Mars-analog missions so far are those that isolate crewmembers on Earth, perhaps in an exotic destination. But those analogs can't replicate specific characteristics of spaceflight, and that's why NASA decided to investigate ways that the agency could explicitly use the International Space Station as an analog for Mars missions.

"Every analog has some advantages, and every analog has some disadvantages," Julie Robinson, chief scientist of NASA's International Space Station Program, told Space.com. "It's worth thinking about what does [the space station] match and not match across all the different hazards of human spaceflight."

So NASA asked scientists, engineers and astronauts to consider how they could use time on the space station to better prepare for the long journey to Mars, ignoring the traditional constraints that rule on the orbiting laboratory. A team has been evaluating those possibilities and considering how they could be implemented.

Some aren't very feasible. For example, the team concluded, there's no straightforward way to adjust modules on the space station to mimic the squeeze that would be necessary for a Mars mission. That's better done on Earth.

The space station is also a more dynamic environment than a spacecraft headed to Mars would be, making the orbiting laboratory a poor model for the sort of social constraints Mars-bound astronauts would experience.

"The ISS is huge," Robinson said. "Compared to what I think is a likely Mars transit vehicle, it's a palace, and it has lots of coming and going." Trying to redesign these aspects of the space station as an analog would interfere dramatically with everything else about the space station.

But the team found that other key aspects of the long journey could be replicated onboard the space station. One priority is increasing the number of astronauts who remain in space for longer than the typical six-month stay, since a round-trip voyage to Mars would likely last about three years.

"On ISS, we've done a couple of one-year missions, and those have given us some concern," Robinson said. "We need to have enough crewmembers that have been on ISS for a longer period of time so that we really feel like we understand the variability in human responses to being in microgravity for that period of time."

Two NASA astronauts currently in orbit, Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan, will be spending a little longer than usual in flight. But before the agency can study longer flights in earnest, it needs its commercial crew providers, SpaceX and Boeing, to begin ferrying astronauts to the space station next year.

Time on the space station can also give NASA personnel a better sense of just how accurately they can prepare for a voyage that would take them far out of reach of any resupply missions. Rucker imagines an exercise in which mission staff attempt to plan out everything astronauts need for a specific period of time, then check how well the planning matched real crew needs.

"Was there anything not on the list? Did we forget something that, halfway to Mars, you would've said, 'Oh, we ran out of wet wipes,' or whatever," Rucker said. "It's a very simple thing to do, but if you are halfway to Mars and you're out of a critical item, it's not going to be a good day."

A second category of analogs relying on the space station makes use of returning crewmembers as they reaccustom themselves to dealing with terrestrial gravity. This serves as a model for the amount and type of activity astronauts could perform in their first hours on Mars. "What you can and can't assume the crew can do in the first day is a huge driver of the mass of the mission," Robinson said. That's because more impaired astronauts need more equipment; more equipment increases mission costs.

Right now, returning astronauts touch down in Kazakhstan, where it's difficult to run the types of tests NASA would want. And crewed SpaceX capsules will land in the ocean, where waves will interfere with the transition back to gravity. So for this type of test, NASA will have to wait until Boeing Starliner capsules are making their returns, which will be on land.

A final type of analog scenario involving the ISS is easier to implement, thanks to a recent upgrade to the station's computer facilities. These scenarios tackle the challenges of communication during a Mars mission.

Two such types of challenges face would-be Mars visitors: the sheer amount of time needed to hear back from colleagues on Earth during a time-sensitive situation and the occasional communications blackout, which would last up to two weeks. The latter is trickier to mimic on the space station, but practices that NASA already uses to prepare for spacewalks could become the basis for Mars blackout procedures, Robinson said.

And a recent computer update means that NASA can now implement a virtual communications lag that will allow everyone involved in a mission to practice dealing with such a distance from Earth. Right now, Robinson said, NASA is ready for scientists to develop specific scenarios to use that technology. "We don't want to just use it for a day for fun."

Having fun isn't a good way to mimic a Mars mission anyway, she added. "Think of a crew boarding that vehicle and waving goodbye and then being just the four of them for the next possibly three years," Robinson said. "That first leg of it, that first year, is like the worst family vacation you've ever imagined, because there's nothing to do."

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Adidas is partnering with the International Space Station to test products in space – CNN

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Satellite built by students soars to space on mission to map heat in Phoenix, other cities – AZCentral

Posted: at 8:41 am

An Antares rocket blasts off from the launchpad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Nov. 2, 2019. The rocket sent the Cygnus spacecraft on a resupply journey to the International Space Station, carrying a payload that included seven small satellites made by students at U.S. universities.(Photo: Vivek Chacko/Arizona State University)

As the countdown began at NASAs Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, a crowd of engineers and scientists stood on bleachers in the sun, looking out across a grassy field and wetlands at a rocket on the launchpad.

Mission control announced: T-minus 10, 9, 8 The onlookers joined in, counting loudly: 3, 2, 1.

Smoke billowed from the launchpad and the rocket rose atop a column of white fire.

Liftoff of Antares, the voice from mission control said, and the crowd whooped and cheered.

On the bleachers, a group of nine young engineers and computer scientists watched the rocket until it disappeared into the blue sky. They hugged each other, elated at their achievement.

The group, all of them students or recent graduates of Arizona State University, built a miniature research satellite named Phoenix that launchedinto space aboard anAntares rocket headed for the International Space Station. The students creation weighs just 8.6 pounds and is about the size of a loaf of bread 12 inches long by 4 inches wide.

They designed the mini-satellite, known as a CubeSat, to study the urban heat islandeffect in Phoenix and six other cities across the country. They hope that by capturing infrared thermal images of the cities,the satellitewill generate block-by-block data on heat trends, which could help urban planners design cooler cityscapes to withstand the effects as the world continues to heat up due to the burning of fossil fuels.

Students Sarah Rogers, Vivek Chacko and Raj Biswas discuss testing an electrical interface board for the Phoenix CubeSat in a lab at Arizona State University.(Photo: Yegor Zenkov/Arizona State University)

Four years ago, the students wrote a proposal to build the satellite and obtained $200,000 in NASA funding. A total of about 80 undergraduate students took part in the project. Many of them spent long hours designing the spacecraft, piecing together the components, testing its systems, and writing code to make it all work.

For the core group who continued working on the CubeSat after graduating, the Nov. 2 launch was a milestone to celebrate.

It was probably the most memorable experience Ive ever had in my life, Sarah Rogers, the 22-year-old project manager, said.I shed a couple of tears of joy as I was watching it go up.

The rocket sent a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft soaring into orbit to resupply the space station. Along with the Phoenix satellite and other cargo, the spacecraft delivered six other CubeSats made by students at other universities.

The Phoenix CubeSat will remain aboard the space station until mid-January when its scheduled to deploy into orbit and begin using its infrared camera to capture thermal images of Phoenix and other cities.

Many other satellites are circling the Earth recording images, but almost all of them look at the visible spectrum of light or near-infrared, which helps scientists study vegetation. Thermal images arent as common.

From left to right, student Vivek Chacko, Assistant Professor Danny Jacobs, student Sarah Rogers, and Professor Judd Bowman pose with the Phoenix spacecraft at Arizona State University before the satellite was delivered to be launched into space.(Photo: Vivek Chacko/Arizona State University)

The idea for the satellitewas suggested to the students by Judd Bowman, a professor in the School Of Earth and Space Exploration who is the principal investigator and faculty sponsor of the project.When the students started working on the project, many of them were freshmen just starting to study engineering or computer science.

They began as a team with a lot of excitement but no experience, Danny Jacobs, an assistant professor and faculty adviser on the project, said.The most important thing to come out of this mission are the 80 students that worked on it.

Jacobs said the project is ambitious, and the delivery of the satellite in August was a major success.

Once the spacecraftis in orbit, it will produce heat maps that show trends at the neighborhood level and over time, providing valuable data that city planners will be able to put to use, Jacobs said.

In addition to focusing on Phoenix, the plan is for the satellite to gather thermal images of Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore and Minneapolis.

Alongside the rises in global temperatures unleashed byclimate change, urban heat islands add to hotter conditions in cities. The vast areas that are paved over with concrete and asphalt soak up the suns heat, and then radiate it at night, pushing temperatures higher.

Extreme summer heat has long been part of life in Phoenix, which is the countys hottest major city. But climate change and the heat island effect are combining to drive temperatures to new highs.

The number of record-hot summer days has risen dramatically in the past decade. Nights have also grown warmer. And heat-associated deaths in the Phoenix area are on the rise, reaching a record of 182 deaths reported in Maricopa County last year.

Long-term strategies for combatting heat in cities range from installing cool roofs that reflect more sunlight to planting trees to give neighborhoods more shade.

Rogers and other members of the ASU team hope that data collected by the satellite will help guide decisions about these sorts of remedies by capturing block-by-block images showing areas that are hotter or cooler.

RECORD HIGH: Heat deaths in Phoenix reached a record high in 2018

Working in a lab at Arizona State University, students discuss how satellite components will connect with each other.(Photo: Yegor Zenkov/Arizona State University)

The students worked on the satellite in a lab in the basement of ASUs Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4.

Rogers, who was born and raised in Tempe, majored in aerospace engineering and had joined the Sun Devil Satellite Laboratory during her freshman year in 2015. That fall, she and other students got word from Bowman that NASA was offering grants allowing undergraduates to take on projects such as building CubeSats.

Bowman recruited some students to work on the design and others to start analyzing the science side of the project. Rogers took on the job of project manager.

In April 2016, the team learned that they would receive NASA funding. They started selecting off-the-shelf components, buying two of each so they would have an engineering model and spare parts to draw from if needed.

The students designed and built the satellite's structure, as well as interface ports for data and power, Rogers said.

They encountered challenges in deciphering how to integrate the parts, and in staying on track with the timeline. They developed lab procedures for working with the hardware to make sure they werent damaging anything as they assembled the satellite.

Rogers graduated in May with her bachelors degree and stayed on this fall to start a masters degree program in aerospace engineering at ASU.

Student Sarah Rogers holds the miniature satellite Phoenix, which she and other students built at Arizona State University.(Photo: School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University)

Last summer, she and other students focused on the finishing touches, often working late into the night taking apart the pieces and putting them back together, and finishing the software. Rogers said she usually arrived at the lab at 7 a.m. and worked until midnight.

In August, Rogers and fellow teammate Vivek Chacko flew to Houston to hand-deliver the spacecraft.

The students are now preparing for the next phase, which will involve operating the satellite from a station on the ASU campus in Tempe.

Phoenixs infrared camera is equipped with a lens that will capture 68 meters per pixel, allowing the satellite to make thermal images down to a resolution showing city blocks.

Some of the students created detailed maps of each city dividing the landscape into 17 climate zones, ranging from compact low-rise to open mid-rise to scattered trees.

Once the team gets thermal images from space, they plan to overlay them on the climate-zone maps to analyze what theyre seeing. They also plan to check temperatures recorded in the thermal images against on-the-ground measurements.

What we plan to do is analyze how the makeup of our urban infrastructure itself is contributing to having warmer areas, Rogers said. She said the results should help show how we can either adjust building materials or adjust the layout of the urban infrastructure to make our cities a lot more sustainable for future generations.

Mission manager Jake Cornish of the company Nanoracks checks that the Phoenix CubeSat, which was built by students at Arizona State University, is sized correctly to be deployed from the International Space Station.(Photo: Vivek Chacko/Arizona State University)

They calculate that the satellitewill be in space for two years before it reenters the atmosphere and burns up. They hope itwill function for at least a year to study changes during the four seasons.

Once Rogers and her team analyze the data, they intend to present the information to city planners.

Our mission is novel, and the way that were studying the urban heat island effect itself is also still relatively new within the scientific community, Rogers said. So, were really excited to get data back and start analyzing it.

She said with the effects of climate change worsening in recent years, one of her teams main goals has been to build a piece of technology that will enable cities to pinpoint actions that can help combat heat.

COULD PHOENIX BE NEXT?: L.A. installs off-white streets to beat heat.

For now, Phoenix has been placed inside a deployer pod on the space station. Sometime in January, astronauts plan to deploy the CubeSatinto orbit. If all goes as planned, a door will pop open and a spring will eject the satelliteinto space.

Rogers and her colleagues are looking forward to watching a NASA livestream as the satellite tumbles off into space a motion that will slow and stop once the control system kicks in.

For now, the team has been sharing a video that Rogers classmate Trevor Bautista recorded of the rocket thundering into the sky in Virginia.

It feels so incredible to know that Phoenix is soon going to be able to do everything that weve designed it to do, and really make a difference, Rogers said. Honestly, I just feel over the moon.

In fact, Rogers said shes inspired by NASAs plans for returning to the moon with astronauts. And the Phoenix CubeSat mission has helped her prepare for the next phase of her space career.

She said her goal is to work as a systems engineer on other missions, building spacecraft to study planets and enable humans to learn more about the universe.

Reach reporter Ian James at ian.james@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8246. Follow him on Twitter: @ByIanJames

Support local journalism:Subscribe to azcentral.com today.

Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Follow The Republic environmental reporting team at environment.azcentral.com and at OurGrandAZ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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2 Mainers to be aboard International Space Station at same time – WMTW Portland

Posted: at 8:41 am

Next year, not one, but two Maine astronauts will be aboard the International Space Station.Remember, just a few people are on board the station at a time. Maine native Chris Cassidy will be mission commander for the next expedition to the ISS which is scheduled to launch in April 2020.Cassidy, of York, will be joined by two Russian flight engineers, Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin, who are going on their first mission to space.This will be Cassidys third trip into space, and his mission will overlap with another Maine astronaut, Jessica Meir, of Caribou.That's going to be pretty fun we'll overlap by 9 days I think right at the end before she comes home and right when I arrive and I hope we're able to set up some press conferences around the state with the two of us floating together it would be fun to share that excitement with the rest of the state.The mission is scheduled to end next October, just before the 20th anniversary of continuous habitation of the ISS.

Next year, not one, but two Maine astronauts will be aboard the International Space Station.

Remember, just a few people are on board the station at a time.

Maine native Chris Cassidy will be mission commander for the next expedition to the ISS which is scheduled to launch in April 2020.

Cassidy, of York, will be joined by two Russian flight engineers, Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin, who are going on their first mission to space.

This will be Cassidys third trip into space, and his mission will overlap with another Maine astronaut, Jessica Meir, of Caribou.

That's going to be pretty fun we'll overlap by 9 days I think right at the end before she comes home and right when I arrive and I hope we're able to set up some press conferences around the state with the two of us floating together it would be fun to share that excitement with the rest of the state.

The mission is scheduled to end next October, just before the 20th anniversary of continuous habitation of the ISS.

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A startup just launched red wine to the International Space Station to age for 12 months – TechCrunch

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Space-based businesses dont all have to be about communications or Earth observation European startup Space Cargo Unlimited, for instance, is focused on what operating in a microgravity environment can unlock for research and manufacturing. Accordingly, the company just launched an unusual payload to the International Space Station (ISS) 12 bottles of wine.

The wine is not leisure-time supplies for the astronauts on board the ISS; instead, its part of an experiment that will study how the aging process for wine is affected by a microgravity, space-based environment. Wine samples taken from the same batch will be aged simultaneously on Earth over the same 12-month period, and then the results will be compared when the ISS wine shipment returns on a future cargo craft trip back.

One of the wine samples in its protective container prior to launch

Both the Earth and the ISS wine samples will remain sealed in their glass bottle environments, and theyll be kept at a constant temperature of around 18 degrees celsius (or around 64 degrees Fahrenheit), undisturbed, to let the interior complex biological environment of the bottles do their work. Researchers predict there will be taste differences that result from the effect that microgravity and space-based radiation will have on physical and chemical reactions, but the only way to find out for sure is to give it a shot.

It sure sounds like this could set up a new line of literally space-aged wines that command a pretty premium, but Space Cargo Unlimited says that their work is more following in the footsteps of Louis Pasteur, who essentially developed pasteurization though experiments with wine fermentation. To that end, its hoping this experiment will produce results that could have broader applications across food preservation and the related technologies.

Space Cargo Unlimiteds wine samples launched aboard a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, loaded onto a Cygnus cargo spacecraft, which successfully docked with the ISS on Monday morning.

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Solar Cells from STAMI Members Reach the International Space Station for Testing – Georgia Tech News Center

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Science and Technology

November 6, 2019 Atlanta, GA

Click image to enlarge

This sample includes five small area organic photovoltaic devices that were fabricated in the Kippelen Research Group at Georgia Tech. Samples with similar geometry were sent to the ISS to investigate the effects of exposure to space environments. (Photo: Bernard Kippelen, Georgia Tech)

Adapted from Georgia Tech Research Horizons

Five different types of solar cells fabricated by research teams at the Georgia Institute of Technology have arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) to be tested for their power conversion rate and ability to operate in the harsh space environment as part of the MISSE-12 mission. One type of cell, made of low-cost organic materials, has not been extensively tested in space before.

Textured carbon nanotube-based photovoltaic cells designed to capture light from any angle will be evaluated for their ability to efficiently produce power regardless of their orientation toward the sun. Other cells made from perovskite materials and a low-cost copper-zinc-tin-sulfide (CZTS) material along with a control group of traditional silicon-based cells will be among the 20 photovoltaic (PV) devices placed on the Materials International Space Station Experiment Flight Facility on the exterior of the ISS for a six-month evaluation. For two of the cells, the launch marked their second trip into space.

The research questions are the same for all the photovoltaic cells: Can these photo-absorbers be used effectively in space? said Jud Ready, principal research engineer in the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), associate director of Georgia Techs Center for Space Technology and Research, and deputy director of Georgia Techs Institute for Materials. With this test, we will gain insights into the degradation mechanisms of these materials and be able to compare their power production under varying conditions.

Organic solar cells developed in the laboratory of Professor Bernard Kippelen at Georgia Tech are processed at low temperatures using solution-based processes over large areas to produce cells with an absorber that can be about 200 times thinner than the width of a human hair.

With a very low weight and power conversion efficiency values of up to 16%, organic solar cells could yield power values in the hundreds of thousands of watts per kilogram of active material, which is very attractive for space applications, said Kippelen, the Joseph M. Pettit Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. However, the effects of continuous exposure of these devices in a space environment have not been thoroughly explored. Our interest is in investigating the robustness of the interfaces formed in these devices in a space environment, as well as to improve our understanding of the mechanisms of degradation for organic solar cells in space.

Traditional flat solar cells are most efficient when the sunlight is directly overhead. Because the direction of the solar flux varies with the orbit, large space vehicles like the ISS use mechanical pointing mechanisms to keep the cells properly aimed. Those complex mechanisms create maintenance issues, however, and are too heavy for use on very small spacecraft such as CubeSats.

To overcome the pointing problem, Readys team developed 3D textured solar cells that can efficiently capture sunlight arriving at different angles. The cells use towers made from carbon nanotubes and covered with PV material to trap light that would bounce off standard cells when they are not angled toward the sun.

With our light-trapping structure, we are agnostic to the sun angle, said Ready. Our cells actually work better at glancing angles. On CubeSats, that will allow efficient capture regardless of the orientation of the sun.

Perovskite cells produced in the laboratory of Zhiqun Lin, professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, will also be tested. These materials have known failure mechanisms caused by moisture and oxygen absorption. These two failure mechanisms wont be present on the outside of the International Space Station, so this test will allow us to see the performance of these materials without those issues. We should be able to determine whether these known issues might be masking other degradation causes, Ready said.

CZTS materials are potentially next-generation solar cells made up of low-cost, Earth-abundant materials: copper, zinc, tin and sulfur. The materials have a high absorption coefficient and may be resistant to radiation useful for space applications and offer an attractive tradeoff between cost and performance, Ready said.

Silicon-based solar cells produced by the University Center of Excellence in Photovoltaic Research and Education at Georgia Tech will provide a way to compare the performance of the other cells. The laboratory, headed by Regents Professor Ajeet Rohatgi from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, provided boron-doped p-type cells with a phosphorus-doped n+ emitter and aluminum-doped p+ back surface field.

These silicon photo-absorber cells will serve as controls to compare the performance of other photo-absorber materials in space, said Rohatgi.

The 20 PV cells will briefly join three other cells fabricated by Georgia Tech researchers that are already on the ISS. Those three, and two on the newest mission, were part of a 2016 experiment that was unable to record data, though it did provide information about the effects of the space environment on the solar cells.

The Georgia Tech photovoltaic cells were launched to the ISS on Nov. 2 aboard the S.S. Alan Bean, a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft from NASAs Wallops Island Facility, as part of a routine resupply mission. For their testing, the cells were integrated into a test package by Alpha Space Test & Research Alliance of Houston.

In addition to those already mentioned, the project also included Canek Fuentes-Hernandez, Matthew Rager, Hunter Chan, Christopher Tran, Christopher Blancher, Zhitao Kang and Conner Awald and Brian Rounsaville, all from Georgia Tech.

Research NewsGeorgia Institute of Technology177 North AvenueAtlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu).

Writer: John Toon

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Space station receives spacewalking gear, new baking oven – Spaceflight Now

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Northrop Grummans Cygnus supply ship was captured by the space stations robotic arm at 4:10 a.m. EST (0910 GMT) Monday. Credit: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir took control of the International Space Stations Canadian-built robot arm Monday to capture a Northrop Grumman Cygnus supply ship carrying crew provisions, spacewalking gear to repair an aging particle physics experiment, tech demo satellites for the U.S. military, and an oven to bake the first cookies in space.

The automated cargo freighter arrived at the space station Monday, using GPS and laser-guided navigation to fine-tune its rendezvous along an approach corridor below the research complex. The Cygnus spacecraft held its position less than 40 feet, or about 12 meters, below the station for Meir to command the robotic arm to capture the supply ship at 4:10 a.m. EST (0910 GMT) Monday.

Engineers in mission control were expected to take over commanding of the robot arm to berth the Cygnus spacecraft to the stations Unity module a few hours later, setting the stage for astronauts to open hatches leading to the pressurized cargo carrier to begin unpacking the supplies inside.

The Cygnus spacecraft launched Saturday atop an Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia, with approximately 8,168 pounds (3,705 kilograms) of food, experiments, hardware, and small satellites set for deployment in orbit in the coming months.

Heres a breakdown of the cargo manifest provided by NASA:

The equipment inside the Cygnus cargo freighters Italian-made pressurized compartment include tools and replacement hardware for an upcoming repair of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA flight engineer Andrew Morgan will perform the spacewalks to repair the AMS instrument, which was not designed to be serviced in space. The complicated repairs are expected to require four or five spacewalks to complete, beginning in mid-November.

Mounted on the space stations truss on the final mission of the space shuttle Endeavour in 2011, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is effectively a powerful magnet that attracts cosmic rays, subatomic particles traveling through space at nearly the speed of light.

Three of the four coolant pumps on AMSs silicon tracker, which measures the trajectory and energy of the cosmic rays captured by the instrument, have failed, prompting NASA engineers to develop a plan to repair the coolant system. The work required the development of special tools to cut into the AMS instrument, install new hardware, and re-seal tiny coolant lines.

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer was never designed to be serviced in space. Read our earlier story for details on the repairs.

There were 15 small satellites riding aboard the Cygnus spacecraft for Saturdays launch.

The biggest of the group is a U.S. Air Force satellite named STPSat 4, which weighs roughly 220 pounds (100 kilograms) and will be transferred into the space stations Kibo module by astronauts the Cygnus hatch is opened. Sponsored by the militarys Space Test Program, STPSat 4 will be one of the largest satellites ever deployed from the space station.

STPSat 4 carries five experiments from the Air Force Research Laboratory, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Navy. The experiments will test radio frequency module tiles, help develop new solar array technology, collect data with a miniaturized space weather instrument, demonstrate the performance of an advanced U.S.-built star tracker, and assist in nanosatellite tracking.

Craig Technologies, based on Floridas Space Coast, is providing integration services for the STPSat 4 spacecraft, which will be released from the Space Station Integrated Kinetic Launcher for Orbital Payload Systems, or SSIKLOPS, deployer. The mechanism, which was first used in 2014, is designed to release small satellites with masses between 100 and 200 pounds.

The other CubeSats on-board the NG-12 mission are sponsored by NASA, the Air Force, and the National Reconnaissance Office. NanoRacks, a Houston-based space services company, arranged the launch of most of the CubeSats.

Some will be ejected from the space station after the Cygnus spacecrafts arrival, and others will be released from the Cygnus itself after the cargo vehicle departs the station in January.

Other payloads aboard the Cygnus supply ship include a rodent research experiment. Scientists loaded mice into the spacecraft to investigate how the animals respond to changes in their circatidal clock in microgravity.

The 12-hour circatidal clock, in which animals experience equal amounts of light and dark phases each day, is associated with maintaining stress responsive pathways. Scientists want to know if exposure to microgravity changes the animals circadian rhythm.

Recent research shows that genes associated with the 12-hour clock are linked with the most common form of human liver disease. The rodent research experiment on the space station could reveal new insights into liver disease, and give scientists ideas for new pharmaceutical treatments, according to NASA.

The Cygnus also carries an experimental garment that astronauts could use to protect themselves from harmful radiation on future deep space missions to the moon and Mars, outside the natural shielding of Earths magnetic field.

The Cygnus also delivered an oven to the space station designed to bake cookies in microgravity, demonstrating technology that will help future crews cook their own food on lengthy expeditions to the moon or Mars.

But an oven in microgravity doesnt work the same as one on Earth. The heating elements on the Zero-G Oven, developed by Zero G Kitchen and Nanoracks, are arranged around the oven to focus heat in the center, similar to the way a toaster oven works.

Currently, on the International Space Station, there is rally a limited ability to prepare foods in ways that were used to, said IanFichtenbaum, founder and co-chef of Zero G Kitchen.

Astronauts will load cookies into the oven on a special tray designed to keep the food from floating away in microgravity. Temperatures inside the oven will reach up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) during baking, according to NASA.

Baking in space is different because theres no gravity, Fichtenbaum said. On earth, that air is churning around in the oven, and thats convection. In space, that is not happening. Instead, we have to use conduction through the oven, conduction through the air, to warm it up.

The first cookie to be baked in space comes from DoubleTree by Hilton, which provided chocolate chip cookie dough for the baking experiment.

Science is awesome, food is awesome, and this is just going to be an amazing journey to see what comes out of this, said JordanaFichtenbaum, founder and co-chef of Zero G Kitchen.

The Cygnus spacecraft also delivered mice to the space stationto investigate how the animals respond to changes in their circatidal clock in microgravity.

The 12-hour circatidal clock, in which animals experience equal amounts of light and dark phases each day, is associated with maintaining stress responsive pathways. Scientists want to know if exposure to microgravity changes the animals circadian rhythm.

Recent research shows that genes associated with the 12-hour clock are linked with the most common form of human liver disease. The rodent research experiment on the space station could reveal new insights into liver disease, and give scientists ideas for new pharmaceutical treatments, according to NASA.

The Cygnus also carries an experimental garment that astronauts could use to protect themselves from harmful radiation on future deep space missions to the moon and Mars, outside the natural shielding of Earths magnetic field.

The AstroRad Vest could shield astronauts from radiation from unpredictable solar storms, which can deliver enough radiation in a few hours to cause serious health problems for space fliers, officials said.

Our innovation was selective shielding, so were selectively shielding those organs that are most prone to either acute radiation syndrome or a cancer down the road, saidOren Milstein, co-founder and chief scientific officer for StemRad, an Israeli company that originally developed the vest garment to protect first responders from radiation during a nuclear accident.

StemRad is partnering with Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for NASAs Orion crew capsule, to transfer the vest technology to space.

Astronauts on the International Space Station will wear the vest to check its comfort and function, according toKathleen Coderre, the AstroRad Vests principal investigator from Lockheed Martin.

The vest weighs nearly 50 pounds (about 22 kilograms). Milstein said the garment is made ofdense polyethylene embedded in a highly flexible textile mesh.

It is an ergonomic experiment, so the vest needs to protect the crew from the deep space radiation environment, but it also needs to be comfortable to wear, flexible enough for them to do their daily duties, Coderre said.

A similar vest will fly on the Orion crew module on the Artemis 1 mission, an unpiloted test flight into orbit around the moon that will verify the spacecrafts readiness to carry astronaut. That experiment will test the vests protective capability in the deep space radiation environment, which is more harsh than the radiation present at the International Space Station in low Earth orbit.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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Another Mainer to Join the International Space Station in April – NECN

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Maine is going to be well represented aboard the International Space Station.

Caribou native Jessica Meir is already aboard the ISS and took part in an all-women space walk. In April, she'll be joined by Chris Cassidy, who went to high school in York.

It'll be the first time two Mainers have been aboard the ISS.

Cassidy already has spent 182 days in space and will be blasting off in April 9. He'll overlap with Meir for about nine days before she and two others return to Earth. Then Cassidy will take over as commander of the space station.

Cassidy first traveled into space aboard the shuttle Endeavour in 2009. He returned to space aboard the International Space Station in 2013.

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New Bill Would Extend U.S. Operation of Space Station – Government Technology

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(TNS) A bipartisan group of senators proposed a bill Wednesday that would fund NASA for the next fiscal year and extend U.S. operations of the International Space Station through 2030.

The measure, called the NASA Authorization Act of 2019, is co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and directs Congress to provide the space agency with $22.8 billion for fiscal year 2020.

The bill would, among other things, extend authorization for the space station through 2030 and direct NASA to take steps to grow the space economy, said Cruz, a Texas Republican who chairs the aviation and space subcommittee.

U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, and Roger Wicker, a Republican, are co-sponsors.

The NASA authorization bill is one step in a long budget process. If passed, it would still require Congress to pass an appropriations bill to fund the items listed in the bill. The $22.8 billion proposal for NASAs budget marks a slight increase from last years $21.5 billion budget, which was $1.6 billion more than President Donald Trump's original 2019 proposal for the space agency.

Trumps 2020 budget proposal included $21 billion for NASA, a slight decrease from 2019. He later requested an additional $1.6 billion to expedite NASAs Artemis program to return humans to the Moon.

Federal funding for the 20-year-old space station currently is scheduled to end after 2024, but Congress can extend that date, and has in the past. Experts have said the space station can operate safely until at least 2030. The legislation calls for the U.S. maintaining a continuous human presence in low-Earth orbit through and beyond the useful life of the ISS.

Astronauts from the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe serve on the space station, from which crews conduct a range of experiments.

The measure would also make NASAs stated goal of returning to the Moon and a future journey to Mars a national goal.

Not only will this legislation help ensure Americans safely return to the moon, it will help ensure Americas dreams of taking the first step on the surface of Mars become a reality, Cruz said.

However, the bill identifies 2028 as the target date for a return to the lunar surface, a break from the Trump Administrations stated goal of getting humans back to the Moon by 2024.

NASA has been scrambling to meet the expedited timeline in the wake of March comments by Vice President Mike Pence directing the agency to accelerate that timeline to 2024 using any means necessary. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said the Artemis moon program could cost up to $30 billion, but the agency has not provided a budget plan to Congress.

The bill would also support the development of next-generation spacesuits, as well as life and physical science research, to ensure that humans can live in deep space safely. NASA engineers demonstrated the new Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit or xEMU spacesuits in Washington in October, which will allow astronauts to reach down and touch the lunar surface.

NASA has been working on new spacesuits for more than a decade an effort that has stumbled, in part, because of inadequate funding. The suits currently worn by astronauts during spacewalks outside the space station are 40 years old and reaching the end of their lifespan.

The legislation also bolsters NASAs efforts to detect asteroids that could threaten Earth in the near future. It directs NASA to develop a dedicated division to launch space-based infrared survey telescope to detect near-Earth objects.

2019 the Houston Chronicle.Distributed byTribune Content Agency, LLC.

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