From Treatment for Leukemia to Telescopic Lenses: Experiments Selected for Eytan Stibbe’s Mission to Space Station

Eytan Stibbe (Credit: Ramon Foundation)

TEL AVIV-JAFFA, Israel (Israel Space Agency PR) — Another step in Eytan Stibbe’s journey into space: the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ramon Foundation announced at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation the scientific experiments that the Israeli astronaut will perform in space as part of a Sky mission. The groundbreaking experiments were selected from technological, scientific and medical fields, and chosen on the basis of their research potential and expected economic impact. 

On Dec. 23, 2020, the Israel Space Agency and the Ramon Foundation announced a call for Israeli scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs, who in recent months have submitted their proposals for experiments to be carried out on the International Space Station as part of the Sky mission. 

The experiments were selected by a scientific and technological committee headed by Inbal Kreiss, a senior figure in the Israeli aerospace industry, and the director of innovation in the aerospace missile systems division. The experiment selection process included training seminars and counseling sessions to adapt the experiments to space conditions and the experimental teams were given access to the scientific and technological platforms at the International Space Station. This morning, the 44 trials selected by the professional committee were announced. 

The experiments will be launched subject to NASA and Axiom Space’s approval to the International Space Station as part of Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission with Stibbe aboard in early 2022.

From fast battery charging to telescopic lenses from viscous liquids

Among the selected experiments can be found, for example, an experiment by the Electric Company in collaboration with Storedot, in the field of energy. The experiment will test the performance of an innovative lithium-ion battery under micro-gravity conditions. Today, there is a restriction on the use of the product commercially and in space the conditions will allow the process to be perfected – hence its great value. The conclusions from the experiment may lead to the rapid charging of the batteries, which are found in most electrical and electronic devices including wristwatches, laptops, electric vehicles and energy storage facilities, which are at the core of the future of the electricity sector.

Another experiment is the work of the oncology department at the Schneider Center for Pediatrics of the Clalit Group. The aim of the study is to characterize the conditions of leukemia in conditions of microgravity in the presence and absence of chemotherapy. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is common in children undergoing chemotherapy — a treatment that may cause side effects. The findings of the study that will take place in space will be compared to the same experiment that will be conducted on Earth while monitoring the changes in the division of cancer cells and genetic expression. The results of the study can contribute to the development of more effective innovative treatments and with fewer side effects.

Ten of the selected experiments reflect Israeli cooperation with the international community. One of these experiments, FLUTE — Fluidic Telescope Experiment, was designed and built by researchers from the Technion’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, who are collaborating with NASA’s Ames Research Center. The success of the experiment at the space station will pave the way for the production of advanced optical components in space, including the creation of extra- large space telescopes , as the use of liquids will overcome the current limitation that the size of the telescope depends on the spacecraft.

Significant leap into space

The stay of the second Israeli astronaut Stibbe on the International Space Station is a national mission that will advance the local space industry, strengthen blue-and-white science and technology and inspire millions of Israelis. In early 2022, Stibbe will fly into space as part of Ax-1, a private mission of Axium Space to the International Space Station. The Israeli mission within Ax-1, which has been dubbed Sky, is being managed by the Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ramon Foundation. The second Israeli astronaut will spend about 200 hours on the space station, during which he will conduct a series of scientific experiments selected in recent months.

Due to the conditions of micro-gravity, outer space is considered a laboratory condition in which chemical and physical phenomena can be examined in a new research perspective. The range of areas that can benefit from space experiments is huge: technologies for air and water purification, renewable energies, agriculture, medical equipment, medicine, astrophysics, materials engineering, psychology, physiology, biology, quantum communication, remote sensing and more. This is exactly the rare opportunity that the Rakia program offers researchers and entrepreneurs. 

Inbal Kreiss, head of the Scientific and Technological Committee and Director of Innovation in the Aerospace Systems’ Missile and Space Systems Division, said that “in recent years the Israeli space industry has grown and today we mark a significant leap into space in Israel. Israeli entrepreneurs, researchers and scientists, and expresses international collaborations with the world’s leading academic and research institutions.”

Shi-Li Spiegelman, director general of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said, “The Ministry of Science and Technology is proud to be a partner in the ‘Sky’ mission, which is a unique and groundbreaking combination of science, technology, innovation and space. We, together with the Israel Space Agency, and as the leaders of the government ministries’ partnership in the project, are working to help fund some of the selected scientific experiments. In recent years, the global space industry has developed at a dizzying pace and Israel has enormous potential to become a major player in the arena.

“We believe that the Sky mission significantly reduces the barriers to the path of scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs, accelerates the development processes of the industry and brings with it new and significant opportunities. All this as part of a long-term strategy promoted by the Ministry of Science and Technology. 350 companies, which employ about 25,000 workers and raise more than half a billion dollars in private investment each year.

“Apart from the scientific opportunity, the Sky mission is also a first-rate national-educational mission that will connect not only today’s scientists but also all Israeli boys and girls, the future generation of research, science and the Israeli space industry. “

Stibbe, who will become the second Israeli in space, added, “Research in space is designed to push the boundaries of human knowledge, from trying to solve the unresolved, to decipher the hidden. A celestial mission has ignited the imagination of so many talented people sitting here today, including young scientists Across the country, who are behind various experiments and activities designed to fill my time in space. A whole fascinating world opens up to me, and every day I learn something new. “