Suborbital Flights Stopped Being So Humdrum in 2018

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.

The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)

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Aging Faster in Space to Age Better on Earth

David Saint-Jacques, of the Canadian Space Agency, completes the Bone Densitometer calibration in support of the Rodent Research-8 investigation. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A new investigation heading to the International Space Station will provide space-flown samples to scientists from academia, industry and government agencies, who have agreed to share their data and results in an online database that is open to the public. Rodent Research-8 (RR-8) examines the physiology of aging and the effect of age on disease progression using groups of young and old mice flown in space and kept on Earth.

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ISS Crew Studies Space-Caused Eye Pressure and Cultural Differences

The official Expedition crew portrait with (from left) NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency. (Credit: NASA)

January 17, 2018

The Expedition 58 crew focused again today on studying head and eye pressure changes astronauts experience while living in space. The crew then went on to more science hardware and life support maintenance aboard the International Space Station.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques worked throughout Thursday morning researching the upward flow of fluids that occurs inside astronauts’ bodies. The duo conducted eye scans with a variety of devices to measure eye pressure changes caused by these fluid shifts in microgravity.

McClain then spent the afternoon connecting cables and installing parts on the Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR) that houses small experiments in the Kibo lab module. Saint-Jacques replaced electronics gear in the Kubik incubator that enables research on seeds, cells and small animals in the Columbus lab module.

Commander Oleg Kononenko ensured the upkeep of life support gear and other station systems in the Russian segment of the orbital lab. The veteran cosmonaut of three previous Expeditions ended the day exploring how station crew members from around the world interact and learn to live together in space.

ISS U.S. National Laboratory 2018 Annual Report Showcases Demand Acceleration and Impact

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), January 10, 2019 – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory is proud to release its 2018 Annual Report. The report is intended to educate stakeholders and the general public on highlights and accomplishments from the 2018 fiscal year (October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018). The report includes an updated look at the ISS National Lab research and development portfolio, in-orbit activities onboard the space station, new and enhanced partnerships, success stories, and expanding engagement and outreach.

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12 Projects Selected from Space Station Rodent Research Reference Mission Solicitation

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), December 17, 2018 (CASIS PR) – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory today announced a series of selected concepts in association with its Request for Proposals (RFP) for investigators to access biological specimens from its Rodent Research Reference Mission-1, Applications for Spaceflight Biospecimens.

On SpaceX’s recent 16th commercial resupply mission, 40 mice of two different age groups were sent to the orbiting laboratory for comparison with age-matched ground controls as part of this reference mission. Awardees from this RFP will have the ability to evaluate spaceflight biospecimens once they are returned to Earth as well as ground controls.

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NASA-Supported Payloads to Get Lift from Blue Origin’s New Shepard

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Suborbital space is the perfect environment for researchers to test experiments, edging them closer to inclusion on future exploration and science missions. NASA’s Flight Opportunities program gives researchers this access, funding flights on Blue Origin and other commercial providers.

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NanoRacks Delivers Educational Research, CubeSats, and Novel Medical Science to the Space Station

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

Cape Canaveral, Fla. (NanoRacks PR) – Last weekend, Dragon, the spacecraft from the sixteenth SpaceX contracted resupply mission, berthed with the International Space Station carrying educational experiments, CubeSats, and industry science research from NanoRacks’ customers into orbit. Within this mission, the NanoRacks team delivered payloads for four of the Company’s commercial platforms on Space Station.

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SpaceX Dragon Arrives at Space Station

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three days after its launch from Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 10:36 a.m. EST.

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NASA Sends New Research, Hardware to Space Station on SpaceX Mission

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (NASA PR) — Experiments in forest observation, protein crystal growth and in-space fuel transfer demonstration are heading to the International Space Station following the launch Wednesday of SpaceX’s 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

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SpaceX Dragon to Transport More than 20 ISS National Lab Experiments to ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla, November 27, 2018 (SpaceX PR)– SpaceX is targeting no earlier than December 4 at 1:38 p.m. EST for its 16th commercial resupply mission (awarded by NASA) to the International Space Station  from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will bring approximately 300 kilograms of research and hardware facilities to the orbiting laboratory under the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory flight allocation. There are more than 20 payloads included on this mission sponsored by the ISS National Lab.

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UK Space Agency Funds New Experiments Aboard International Space Station

The International Space Station as it appears in 2018. Zarya is visible at the center of the complex, identifiable by its partially retracted solar arrays. (Credit: NASA)

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — UK science will be launched into space to help tackle the effects of ageing, thanks to funding from the UK Space Agency, the Science Minister Sam Gyimah has announced.

  • New funding for three UK-led experiments on the International Space Station
  • Research to improve our understanding of the ageing process and develop new materials as part of government’s Industrial Strategy.
  • Universities of Liverpool, Nottingham, Exeter and Strathclyde to benefit.

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Progress & Cygnus Supply Ships Arrive at Space Station

Cygnus berthed at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA & Roscomos PRs) — Traveling about 252 miles over Algeria, the unpiloted Russian Progress MS-10 cargo ship docked on Sunday at 2:28 p.m. EST to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module on the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

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Russia to Deliver Magnetic 3-D Bioprinter to Space Station

Russia plans to deliver a magnetic 3-D bioprinter capable of growing living tissues and eventually organs.to the International Space Station (ISS) next month, TASS reports.

The Organ-Avt bioprinter, built by 3D Bioprinting Solutions, is a copy of one that was lost in the abort of the Soyuz MS-10 mission on Oct. 11. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague parachuted to safety after a malfunction of their Soyuz-FG booster.

The bioprinter, which also can be used to used to study the effects on living organisms during long-duration spaceflights. will be carried to ISS aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. The spacecraft is set to lift off from the Baiknour Cosmodrome on Dec. 3 with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, American astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques aboard.