In a bid to support a research in space to benefit the Earth, NASA's commercial partner Orbital ATK is all set to launch its Cygnus commercial cargo spacecraft packed with key science experiments into orbit on December 3.
Launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for its fourth contracted resupply mission, the flight will deliver samples and equipment to the International Space Station (ISS) for research investigations that will occur during current and future expeditions in the many science disciplines aboard the orbiting laboratory.
The research will include investigations in advanced and automated data collection and in the behaviour of gases, liquids and burning textiles in micro-gravity, the US space agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
Research equipment includes the Space Automated Bioproduct Lab (SABL), a single locker-sized facility that will enable a wide variety of fundamental, applied and commercial life sciences research.
CRS-4 will also carry the Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE).
This probe studies the behaviour of gases and liquids when they flow simultaneously through a column filled with fixed porous media.
Packed columns can serve as reactors, scrubbers, strippers, etc. in systems where efficient interphase contact is desired -- both on the Earth and in space.
The investigation is also of interest in many chemical and biological processing systems as well as many geophysical applications on the Earth.
Another hot investigation is the Burning and Suppression of Solids -- Milliken (BASS-M) investigation which examines the extinction characteristics of a variety of flame retardant textiles in micro-gravity when exposed to a controlled flame.
The flame retardant behaviour of treated cotton fabrics is very different than traditional flame retardant materials but little has been documented about its behaviour in micro-gravity.
Additionally, the launch cargo will include two satellites that will be deployed from the space station to demonstrate new network capabilities critical to the operation of swarms of spacecraft.
The cargo includes numerous experiments across an array of specialties along with some student-devised projects.
Crew supplies including food, water and clothing also will be unpacked and stowed.
Science payloads include a new life science facility that will support studies on cell cultures, bacteria and other micro-organisms.
"This is an exciting time. The Cygnus launch will resume regular US-based cargo missions to the station," said Randy Gordon, launch support project manager for NASA.
Station residents will load the empty spacecraft with equipment and unneeded items before it is released to burn up in the atmosphere, the statement added.