Cygnus spacecraft installed on ISS following successful Antares launch from Virginia

On Saturday, February 19, Northrop Grumman launched an Antares 230+ rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The rocket carried a Cygnus spacecraft, S.S. Piers Sellers, which has since joined up with the International Space Station.

The Cygnus spacecraft is Northrop Grumman’s expendable cargo spacecraft that has been ferrying supplies to the Space Station since 2013. The spacecraft is capable of carrying over 8,000 pounds of cargo, supplies, and science experiments up into orbit.

Roughly 40 hours after Saturday’s launch, S.S. Piers Sellers, named after the NASA astronaut, joined the International Space Station. Cygnus joins a number of other spacecraft to make for a rather packed station.

Cygnus 17 joins Progress 79 and Progress 80 as the cargo spacecraft currently docked with the station. MS-19’s Soyuz and Crew-3’s Dragon capsule are also currently docked.

Image credit: NASA

Many science experiments are also on board, to improve life both on Earth and in space. One study is examining the effects of a drug on breast and prostate cancer cells. The experiment is taking place on the International Space Station for its microgravity, as in microgravity, “the cells can grow in a three-dimensional model, which makes it easier to characterize their structure, gene expression, and cell signaling and response to the drug.”

The experiment could enhance drug-treatment for cancer back on Earth.

The spacecraft also brought up supplies for experiments to improve our understanding of space’s effect on human health at different systems used. A new flame lab on the ISS will continue to improve NASA’s ability to understand fire, off-gassing, and fluid compatibility. The test should continue to improve NASA’s fire risk mitigation in spacecraft.

Another experiment on board will study the deterioration of human skin, and how microgravity impacts the human body in a way similar to aging, allowing higher-paced development of intervention techniques.

It is difficult to study molecular changes associated with skin aging because the aging process on Earth develops over decades. With age, people develop other conditions as well that can often negatively reflect on skin functions, complicating research studies. However, it appears that microgravity accelerates changes in skin that mimic aging. Thus, exposure to microgravity aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is crucial for rapid identification of aging-related alterations in skin physiology and for prediction and mitigation of aging-associated skin problems.

These are just a few of the science experiments with supplies that went up during NG-17. You can learn more about all the ongoing experiments on the Internation Space Station with NASA’s Space Station Research Explorer.

As we continue to explore space and improve our capability to do so, we continue to develop new improvements to live back here on Earth.

Featured image: NASA, Joe Wakefield for SpaceExplored

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