Update for 5 a.m. ET, November 7: Northrop Grumman is now counting down to launch the Antares rocket and Cygnus NG-18 cargo ship from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility today at 5:32 a.m. EST (10:32 GMT).
Cow ovary cells are heading to the space station, along with a host of other intriguing science experiments.
The last international space station (ISS), courtesy of a Northrop Grumman robot Cygnus cargo spacecraft, will blast off on the company’s Antares rocket no earlier than 5:50 a.m. EST (10:50 GMT) Sunday, Nov. 6, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops Island, Virginia. You can watch live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA Television. Coverage begins 20 minutes before launch.
After arriving at the ISS on Tuesday, November 8 and settling in, the boon of bovine cells (THIS SPACE (opens in a new tab)) will look how microgravity affects cell growth. It could eventually have applications for human fertility treatments, the experiment’s co-lead researcher Andrew Fuso told Space.com.
“It’s really our first approach, and it’s an observational study at the moment,” Fuso, who is also an associate professor at La Sapienza University in Rome, said during a live press conference. October 25. , investigators will look for possible drug interventions or edible (nutraceutical) additives to improve fertility outcomes in future studies, he added.
Related: NASA-funded spacesuit tech may help ease menopause
Also heading to the orbital lab is a 3D printer known as the Biomanufacturing facility (opens in a new tab)which also reached space in 2019 to print human knee cartilage (specifically, the meniscus) and a set of human heart cells.
“We bought [the printer] back to our lab in Indiana…to add a few new features, like 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 business advancement for manufacturing and space operations of the company Redwire Space, at the same conference.
Related: Bioprinter will 3D print human tissue on the space station
After another spaceflight, Redwire will print a new meniscus and study it in the lab to prepare for possible patient transplants in the future, Boling said. Blood vessels and heart tissue will also be made. Redwire also plans to test the effectiveness of drugs in space on “organoids” or miniature versions of organs.
Boling hinted that such research would continue orbital reefa commercial space station supported by Redwire in development for flight in the 2030s. The project is carried 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 NASA words (opens in a new tab):
- Evaluate the adaptation of plants to space: Plants exposed to spaceflight undergo changes that involve the addition of additional information to their DNA, which regulates how genes turn on or off but does not alter the sequence of the DNA itself. This process is known as epigenetic change. Plant habitat-03 (opens in a new tab) evaluates whether such adaptations in one generation of plants grown in space can be transferred to the next generation.
- Mudslide mixes: Climate change and global warming contribute to the increase in the frequency of forest fires. When a forest fire burns plants, the chemicals burned create a thin layer of soil that repels rainwater. The rain then erodes the ground and can turn into catastrophic mudslides that carry large boulders and debris downward, causing significant damage to infrastructure, watersheds and human life. Post-fire mudflow microstructure (opens in a new tab) assesses the composition of these mudslides, which include sand, water and trapped air.
- First satellites from Uganda and Zimbabwe: BIRDS-5 (opens in a 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 the Earth using a commercially available camera and demonstrates a high-energy electronic measuring instrument. The data collected could help distinguish bare soil from forest and farmland and potentially indicate the quality of agricultural growth.
- Powering the space station: Equipment to be installed outside the station for the installation of Deployment Solar Panels (opens in a new tab).
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of “Why am I taller (opens in a new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Where Facebook (opens in a new tab).