A Cygnus cargo mission is set to lift off on Sunday (Nov. 6) at 5:50 a.m. ET.
Ovarian cells from cows are moo-ving to the space station, along with a set of other intriguing science experiments.
The latest International Space Station (ISS) shipment, coming courtesy of a Northrop Grumman robotic Cygnus cargo spacecraft, will blast off on the company’s Antares rocket no earlier than 5:50 a.m. EST (1050 GMT) on Sunday (Nov. 6) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. You can watch live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA Television. Coverage starts 20 minutes before launch.
After arriving at the ISS on Tuesday (Nov. 8) and getting installed, the bovine cell bonanza (OVOSPACE (opens in new tab)) will look at how microgravity affects the growth of cells. This could eventually have applications for human fertility treatments, experiment co-principal investigator Andrew Fuso told Space.com.
“This is really our first approach, and it is for the moment an observational study,” Fuso, who is also an associate professor at the Sapienza University of Rome, said during a livestreamed press conference on Oct. 25. After the results are in, the investigators will research possible drug interventions or edible (nutraceutical) additives to improve fertility outcomes in future studies, he added.
Also heading to the orbiting laboratory is a 3D printer known as the BioFabrication Facility (opens in new tab), which also reached space in 2019 to print some human knee cartilage (specifically, the meniscus), and a set of human heart cells.
“We brought [the printer] back to our lab in Indiana … to add a few new capabilities, such as the ability to finally control the temperature of each printhead, and now we’re excited to see it launch,” said Rich Boling, vice president of corporate advancement for in-space manufacturing and operations at the company Redwire Space, in the same conference.
After another space shipment, Redwire will print a new meniscus and study it in the lab to get ready for possible patient transplants in the future, Boling said. Blood vessels and cardiac tissues will be manufactured as well. Redwire also plans drug efficacy testing in space on “organoids,” or miniature versions of organs.
Boling hinted that such research would continue on Orbital Reef, a Redwire-supported commercial space station in development for flight in the 2030s. The project is led by Blue Origin and Sierra Space, and includes partners like Boeing and Amazon.
Some of the other experiments making their space debut include, in the words of NASA (opens in new tab):
Assessing how plants adapt to space: Plants exposed to spaceflight undergo changes that involve the addition of extra information to their DNA, which regulates how genes turn on or off but does not change the sequence of the DNA itself. This process is known as epigenetic change. Plant Habitat-03 (opens in new tab) assesses whether such adaptations in one generation of plants grown in space can transfer to the next generation.Mudflow mixtures: Climate change and global warming are contributing to increasing occurrence of wildfires. When a wildfire burns plants, combusted chemicals create a thin layer of soil that repels rainwater. Rain then erodes the soil and can turn into catastrophic mudflows that carry heavy boulders and debris downhill, causing significant damage to infrastructure, watersheds, and human life. Post-Wildfire Mudflow Micro-Structure (opens in new tab) evaluates the composition of these mudflows, which include sand, water, and trapped air.First satellites from Uganda and Zimbabwe: BIRDS-5 (opens in new tab) is a constellation of CubeSats: PEARLAFRICASAT-1, the first satellite developed by Uganda; ZIMSAT-1, Zimbabwe’s first satellite; and TAKA from Japan. BIRDS-5 performs multispectral observations of Earth using a commercial off-the-shelf camera and demonstrates a high-energy electronic measuring instrument. The data collected could help distinguish bare ground from forest and farmland and possibly indicate the quality of agricultural growth. Powering the space station: Hardware to be installed outside the station in preparation for the installation of Roll-Out Solar Arrays (opens in new tab).
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).