Cygnus to Carry Multiple R&D Payloads Sponsored by the ISS National Lab

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), January 30, 2020 (ISS National Lab) – Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft will be packed with a wide variety of research investigations for its 13th commercial resupply services mission (contracted by NASA) to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch—which is slated for no earlier than Sunday, February 9 at 5:39 p.m. EST from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia—will carry a diverse set of research and technology development projects sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory. This launch represents the first commercial resupply services mission to the ISS in 2020.

Investigations on this mission sponsored by the ISS National Lab include several life sciences payloads, a new commercial hardware facility for researchers, CubeSats (small satellites) to deploy from the space station, and multiple student experiments intended to engage the next generation of scientists and engineers.

HNu Photonics, an engineering company based in Hawaii, has developed the Mobile SpaceLab facility, which offers investigators a quick-turnaround platform to perform sophisticated microgravity biology experiments. With a successful validation of this facility, the Mobile SpaceLab will provide investigators with another avenue to conduct life sciences and biomedical research onboard the orbiting laboratory.

Multiple life sciences investigations sponsored by the ISS National Lab are part of this mission, including two investigations making a return trip to station. In 2016, a team from the University of Minnesota sent a bone loss experiment to station focused on evaluating magnetic levitation to simulate the microgravity environment and assist in biomedical research to improve the recovery of patients with bone loss conditions back on Earth. Based on initial results from that investigation, the research team is launching a second experiment on this mission to further that research. Additionally, a team from the University of Alaska will send a return investigation to the ISS to examine genetically engineered E. coli bacteria in microgravity to increase the bacteria’s bioproduction rates of isobutene (a key precursor for several industrial products including plastics and rubber).

Several student experiments will launch on this mission in collaboration with Quest for Space, a program in which students design a custom experiment that fits in a miniaturized laboratory to be launched to the space station. Through Quest for Space, student projects can evaluate concepts such as plant health, bacterial growth, radiation effects, and many others. 

“The ISS National Lab is excited to build on the tremendous research successes of 2019 with this launch from our partners at Northrop Grumman,” said ISS National Lab Interim Chief Scientist Dr. Michael Roberts. “With this launch, a new year and the next decade of space station research is upon us, and we look forward to communicating the progress of ISS National Lab-sponsored investigations for the benefit of life on Earth.”

To learn about all ISS National Lab investigations flying on Northrop Grumman’s 13th commercial resupply services mission, please visit our Mission Overview.

About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory

In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the ISS as the nation’s newest national laboratory to optimize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by non-NASA U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The ISS National Lab manages access to the permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space.