Station surveys: decades of results

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of July 25, including evaluating fiber optic cable production in space, demonstrating material conversion non-edible vegetable proteins into edible proteins and the testing of protein synthesis technology that does not involve living cells. for use in microgravity.

Here are details on some of the microgravity research currently being conducted at the orbital lab:

A transparent advantage

Space Fibers-3, sponsored by the National Laboratory of the International Space Station, continues its work evaluating methods of producing fiber optic cables in space. The experiments use a mixture called ZBLAN, which produces glass that is one hundred times more transparent than silica-based glass, making it exceptional for fiber optics. Previous studies have shown improved properties of fiber mined in microgravity compared to that made on land. Manufacturing specialized fibers in space provides high cost performance for sending materials to and returning products from orbit and increases commercial utilization of the space station. Producing a higher performance product that offers lower transmission losses could improve potential applications on Earth, including advanced imaging, remote sensing and optical communications. During the week, crew members set up equipment for the investigation.

image of equipment for research

Hardware for Space Fibers-3 research, which evaluates methods of producing fiber optic cables in space. These fibers are of higher quality than those fabricated on the ground and could improve applications on Earth, including imaging, remote sensing and next-generation optical communications.
Image credit: NASA

From waste to taste

Protein manufacturing demonstrates a technology to convert inedible plant matter and other debris into edible, high-protein fungal biomat in microgravity. The biomats are incubated in the station’s automated temperature-controlled Space Bioproducts Laboratory (SABL). A system for producing fresh food in space is an important goal for future missions, as it would reduce the amount of pre-packaged food that must be carried with them, thereby reducing launch mass and storage requirements. This technology is relatively simple, requires energy only for temperature control and requires little water. The resulting biomats are fast growing, nutritious and easy to harvest. This method also has potential applications on Earth, as it uses a fraction of the land, water and energy needed for traditional agriculture. In fact, thanks to a company called Nature’s Fynd, this research has already made it easier to deliver nutritious food to people on Earth. Crew members set up the Plate Habitat (PHAB) containing the fungal bioreactors during the week.

image of an astronaut with a research sample

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins holds a habitat plate before placing it in the space station’s SABL Protein Incubator, which demonstrates bioreactor technology for growing protein-rich foods in the space station. ‘space.
Image credit: NASA

Protein production and detection

Genes in space-9 is evaluating a protein synthesis technology, called BioBits®, which does not involve living cells, for use in microgravity. BioBits® are freeze-dried so they remain stable in space and simply rehydrate when needed. This research is also evaluating two biosensors that target a specific ribonucleic acid (RNA) sequence and chemical molecule, producing a fluorescent signal when targets are detected. The results could support the development of medical diagnostic tools, on-demand production of drugs and vaccines, and environmental monitoring on future space missions. The findings may also support the development of low-cost, widely accessible diagnostic devices and medical therapies for use in remote or extreme environments on Earth and could be used as hands-on classroom learning tools. Genes in Space, sponsored by the National Laboratory of the International Space Station, is one of many programs that provide opportunities for students to send research and technology to the space station. Crew members conducted trials of the Genes in Space-9 experiment during the week.

image of a search monitor

monitor fluorescence of Genes in Space floats in the dome of the space station. Genes in Space-9 evaluates low-cost cell-free technology and two biological sensors with potential application in medical diagnostics and therapeutics.
Image credit: NASA

Other investigations involving the crew:

  • PGTs investigates the effectiveness of stain-removing ingredients and whether these detergent formulations experience changes in physical appearance, stability, or performance in microgravity. The results could support the development of crew clothing washing systems on future missions to the Moon and Mars.
  • The investigation Immunosenescence uses tissue chips to study how microgravity affects immune function during flight and whether immune cells recover after flight. The results could support the development of treatments to protect astronauts on future long-duration spaceflights and lead to the development of more effective treatments for the aging immune system on Earth.
  • Fiber optic production-2 it builds on previous work done to develop technology for manufacturing commercial fiber optics in microgravity. These fibers are difficult to manufacture on Earth due to gravity-induced crystallization and other factors, and this research could help guide the manufacture of optical fibers aboard the space station for commercial purposes.
  • Butterfly IQ Ultrasound presents a portable ultrasound device intended for use in space. This technology could provide critical medical capabilities to crews on long duration missions where immediate ground support is not an option. The device also has potential applications for healthcare in remote and isolated environments on Earth.
  • NutriISS, a survey by the European Space Agency (ESA, for its acronym in English), assesses body composition and energy balance using wearable sensors. The findings could lead to improved physical health and quality of life for astronauts, and better clinical management of malnourished, obese or immobilized patients on Earth.
  • MISS-16 tests fabric with embedded sensors, 3D printed polymers, dried microbes, paraffin wax thermal protection, thin solar cells and other materials in the harsh environment of space. The samples could help improve equipment and systems for future space exploration.
image of cells from a research sample

This image shows a wound healing test tissue chip for immunosenescence, research that uses tissue chips to study how microgravity affects immune function, potentially affecting wound healing during spaceflight. The black area is equivalent to a wound and the green area contains cells that need to migrate to the wound.
Image Credit: Grigol Tediashvili/UCSF

A robust microgravity laboratory with a wealth of specialized research facilities and tools, the space station has supported many scientific breakthroughs from research spanning a wide variety of scientific disciplines. The International Space Station Benefits to Humanity 2022 publication details the expanding universe of results from more than 20 years of experiments conducted on the station. to access on line to the publication and related materials in English.

For more information in Spanish, follow @NASA and subscribe to the weekly newsletter here. For more information in English on the investigations on board the station, follow @ISS_Research there Space station research and technology news. Next ISS National Laboratory for information about your sponsored search. And, for the chance to see the International Space Station pass over your city, watch Locate the station.

By John Love
Johnson Center, Houston, TX

Spanish translation: National University of Mar del Plata Mar del Plata, Argentina

Read this story in English here.

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