Science Payloads Headed to ISS

The Dragon spacecraft is carrying a wide variety of science investigations to the International Space Station on SpaceX CRS-5.

alzresearch-microscope466x248_0 SABOL, short for Self-Assembly in Biology and the Origin of Life: A Study into Alzheimer’s, could advance our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and similar conditions – and, scientists hope, ultimately help develop a way to stop them.

The Advanced Plant EXperiments on Orbit (APEX) 3 and Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) 20 are designed to help investigate how cells, plants and animals respond to changes in gravity. These experiments will help advance knowledge in the physical and biological sciences that in turn could benefit humans on Earth as well as astronauts on long-duration space missions.

acd14-0023-003-crop_0NASA’s Fruit Fly Lab is making its debut aboard the space station with Fruit Fly Lab-01. The fruit fly is a widely studied biological research model, and this study will help us better understand how spaceflight impairs the body’s ability to fight infections.

Student science is ready to fly after the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program worked quickly to prepare their investigations for a second chance at launch.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, is launching new science to the International Space Station:

CATS Payload to Study Atmospheric Aerosols and Clouds

CATS_on_ISS_printThe Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, or CATS, is a lidar remote-sensing instrument set to launch tomorrow on SpaceX CRS-5. The payload will extend profile measurements of atmospheric aerosols and clouds from the International Space Station.

CATS is designed to measure the location, composition and distribution of pollution, dust, smoke, aerosols and other particulates in Earth’s atmosphere. The findings will improve our understanding of aerosol and cloud properties and interactions and improve climate change models.

Learn more here.

Launch Forecast Improves; Televised Events on Tap for Today

The launch weather forecast has improved to 70 percent “go,” according to the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron. The possibility of thick clouds is the primary concern. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:20 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Three news conferences related to the CRS-5 mission are scheduled for today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first event is a Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) briefing at noon, followed at 1:30 p.m. by an ISS Research and Technology panel. Events conclude with the prelaunch news conference at 4 p.m. All will air live on NASA Television.

Favorable Weather Expected for Friday Launch

Meteorologists predict a 70 percent chance of favorable weather for the planned Dec. 19 launch of the fifth SpaceX cargo mission to the International Space Station. According to the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, a system developing along the western Gulf Coast tomorrow will bring mid- and upper-level clouds over Florida’s Space Coast. These clouds could linger through Friday, making the possibility of thick clouds the primary concern. In the event of a 24-hour delay, the 70 percent “go” forecast is expected to remain the same for Saturday.

Mission Managers Give ‘Go’ for SpaceX-3 Launch

International Space Station Program officials, the international partners and representatives of SpaceX agreed Sunday to proceed with Monday’s scheduled launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon cargo craft on the company’s third commercial resupply mission to the orbital laboratory.

After a series of meetings and reviews of procedures, flight controllers, engineers and managers concluded that the SpaceX-3 mission could be conducted as planned without violating any launch commit criteria despite the loss Friday of a backup computer command relay box called a multiplexer/demultiplexer (MDM) that resides in the station’s S0 truss. The problem with the box, which measures 10.5 x 14.9 x 16.4 inches and weighs 50.8 pounds, occurred during a routine health check of the device. The prime multiplexer continues to operate normally. This pair of MDMs provide commanding to the station’s external cooling system, Solar Alpha Rotary joints, Mobile Transporter rail car and insight into other truss systems.

The engineering teams reported to mission managers that the station possesses enough redundancy to allow the SpaceX mission to launch Monday at 4:58 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. In advance of launch, the station’s Mobile Transporter will be moved to the proper position on the truss later today and after Dragon’s launch, the station’s solar arrays will be oriented Monday to the correct angles for the scheduled capture of the U.S. cargo craft on Wednesday and its berthing to the Earth-facing port on the Harmony module. These are steps that would properly configure the station for the mission even if the prime MDM experiences a problem.

Additionally, preparations are underway for a contingency spacewalk by two of the Expedition 39 crewmembers no earlier than around April 22 to replace the failed MDM with a spare housed inside the station. Mission managers approved a plan for the preparation of two of the U.S. spacesuits on the station and the replacement of a fan pump separator on one of the suits prior to the spacewalk. That work will begin immediately. The move of the Mobile Transporter rail car to another worksite from its current location will clear the area on the S0 truss for the spacewalking astronauts to gain access to the failed MDM during the planned excursion. The station crew will also be readying the spare MDM for its staging in the Quest airlock prior to the spacewalk.