SpaceX CRS-23 Successfully Completes Mission, Returning Critical Science Back to Earth

Cargo Dragon CRS-23 atop a Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), October 1, 2021 (CASIS PR)  – On September 30, SpaceX completed its 23rd Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) when its Dragon spacecraft safely splashed into the water off the coast of Florida. SpaceX CRS-23, contracted by NASA, brought back more than 25 payloads representing science and technology demonstrations sponsored by the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. These investigations aim to leverage the unique space-based environment of the orbiting platform to bring value to our nation and drive a robust market in low Earth orbit.

Below highlights some of the ISS National Lab-sponsored investigations that returned on SpaceX CRS-23.

  • Genes in Space-8 is a student-led experiment focused on evaluating the gene expression of liver proteins in space. Results could help lead to the development of therapeutics both for  patients on Earth and for astronauts on deep space missions. Genes in Space—founded by Boeing and miniPCR bio and supported by the ISS National Lab and New England Biolabs—is an educational program in which students from around the country propose pioneering DNA experiments to be performed on the space station.
  • Researchers at Stanford University and the Palo Alto Veterans Research Institute are leveraging microgravity conditions to develop a tissue engineered model of sarcopenia  (muscle loss due to aging). The model could be used to study the progression of muscle deterioration and could serve as a valuable platform to test potential treatments for conditions that cause muscle wasting. This project was funded by the National Science Foundation.
  • Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (including researchers from the University of California San Diego) sent dual-headed swabs to the ISS on SpaceX CRS-21 to create a 3D map of bacteria and bacterial products within the space station. By swabbing 1,000 locations within the ISS, the team seeks to explore the spatial relationship between bacteria and their metabolites (chemicals produced by bacteria). Results could lead to the development of technologies that enhance pathogen detection capabilities onboard the ISS, as well as in hospitals, commercial airplanes, or other closed environments where pathogenic microorganisms may present elevated risks to humans.
  • Felix & Paul Studios launched virtual reality camera technology to the ISS in 2018 to capture footage for an immersive virtual reality series that allows viewers to experience what it is like for astronauts to live and work in space. Felix & Paul Studios has received multiple awards for the series, “Space Explorers: The ISS Experience,” including an Emmy for Outstanding Interactive Program and two Webby Awards. Hard drives of additional footage, including the first spacewalk captured in cinematic virtual reality, returned on SpaceX CRS-23 to be used in the production of the final episode in the series.

For more information about ISS National Lab-sponsored research that launched on SpaceX CRS-23, please visit our launch overview page.

About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under cooperative agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit