Wednesday, June 27, 2018

3 Tons of Science Flying to Space Station Aboard Recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 on NASA Resupply Mission Launching June 29

CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN)  involves the first test of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the ISS and is free flying mobile and autonomous assistance system designed to aid astronauts with their everyday tasks on the station.  Credit: DLR/NASA
Ken Kremer  --  --   27 June 2018

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  3 tons of science experiments covering a wide range of science disciplines  are flying to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft on a NASA contracted resupply mission launching later this week from the Florida Space Coast. 

Blastoff of the ‘used’ SpaceX Falcon 9 and ‘used’ Dragon CRS-15 commercial cargo freighter is now slated for dawn Friday, June 29 at 5:42 a.m. EDT (0942 GMT) from seaside Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Dragon CRS-15 is loaded with nearly 3 tons of science and supplies for the six person crew aboard the ISS.

The 20-foot high, 12-foot-diameter Dragon CRS-15 vessel is jam packed with more than 5,900 pounds (about 2,700 kilograms) of science experiments, research hardware, space parts, food water, clothing and more supplies for the six person Expedition 56 crew.

This is the 15th SpaceX resupply mission launched under the original commercial resupply contract (CRS) with NASA. 

The spacecraft will deliver almost 6000 pounds of supplies and science that studies the use of artificial intelligence, plant water use all over the planet, gut health in space, more efficient drug development and the formation of inorganic structures without the influence of Earth’s gravity, according to NASA.  

One of the key technology demonstration experiments involves artificial intelligence and is known as CIMON, which stands for Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN.  

CIMON is the size of a medicine ball sized and functions as a free flying mobile and autonomous assistance system designed to aid astronauts with their everyday tasks on the ISS by using Watson AI technology from the IBM cloud.

One of CIMON´s exercises on the International Space Station ISS will involve a Rubik´s Cube. Credit: DLR
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from Germany will work with CIMON to test its capabilities on the ISS. 

CIMON is significant in being the first form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the space station.  It was developed by prime contractor Airbus (Friedrichshafen/Bremen, Germany) in cooperation with DLR, the German Aerospace Center.

“AI-based technology is about constantly understanding, reasoning and learning, so CIMON is designed to assist and to create a feeling of talking to a crew mate”, says DLR.

CIMON has the ability to learn and offer solutions to problems. It it equipped with a face and voice uses artificial intelligence to becomes a genuine ‘colleague’ on board, says DLR. 

The chemical garden experiment will grow colorful inorganic chemical structures in microgravity.  

Chemical Gardens are structures that grow during the interaction of metal salt solutions with silicates, carbonates or other selected anions. Their growth characteristics and attractive final shapes form from a complex interplay between reaction-diffusion processes and self-organization.”
Classical chemical garden formed by the addition of cobalt, copper, iron, nickel, and zinc salts to a sodium silicate solution. Image courtesy of the Oliver Steinbock chemistry group at Florida State University.

Also as part of CRS-15 and under the CRS contract, the Dragon spacecraft “will haul approximately 300 kilograms of research and hardware facilities under the ISS U.S. National Laboratory flight allocation said the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) which manages the ISS National Lab for NASA.

Watch this short video for a description of the CASIS research flying aboard CRS-15:

Video Caption: ISS National Lab SpaceX CRS-15 Science Overview: The SpaceX CRS-15 commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station will send new research and hardware, sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory and managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), to our orbital laboratory. From cancer therapeutics to student research, learn more the science launching on this mission.   Credit: NASA/CASIS
“Among the many research investigations destined for the ISS National Lab, one experiment from the University of Florida is evaluating domesticated algae strains, which will be cultivated in space to explore beneficial genetic changes. The research team will sequence the algae’s genomes to identify growth-related genes – setting the foundation for the production of biomass feedstocks, recycling carbon dioxide, and improving plant-biology gene-editing technologies. There are also more than 35 student experiments as part of this mission, developed by partners such as the Student Spaceflights Experiment Program (in coordination with education partner DreamUp and hardware partner NanoRacks) and Go For Launch! (in coordination with hardware partner Space Tango). These student experiments span multiple scientific topics, ranging from the adaptation of bees on station to the evaluation of kidney stones in microgravity. Additionally, the Multiple User System for Earth Sensing platform (managed by Teledyne Brown), designed to enhance imaging capabilities from station, will host its first instrument on this mission.” 

“As part of this mission, there are multiple payloads funded through outside organizations that are destined for station. Through a joint CASIS and National Science Foundation partnership, researchers from University of California-Santa Barbara will evaluate forces between particles that cluster together such as sediments of quartz and clay particles, which could play an important role in technological efforts related to deep sea hydrocarbon drilling and sequestration. Additionally, startup company Angiex (funded in part by Boeing through the MassChallenge Startup Accelerator) has developed a cancer therapy that regresses tumor cells in model organisms. As part of this mission, Angiex will culture endothelial cells in microgravity, which could create an important model system for evaluating the action of any vascular-targeted drug. Use of this model may enable the development of a novel therapy with lower toxicity and the potential to be effective against most cancers.”

“This launch represents the incredible amount of diversity that resides within the ISS National Lab project portfolio,” said CASIS Interim Chief Operating Officer Warren Bates. “The breadth of experimentation on this mission showcases the capabilities of station and equally demonstrates the desire by outside funding entities and agencies to invest in research on this incredible learning platform.”

One of the last hurdles to launch was cleared this past Saturday, June 23 when the SpaceX team successfully ignited all nine Merlin 1D first stage engines for a brief firing lasting several seconds in duration of the recycled Falcon 9 vehicle at 5:30 p.m. EDT on pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL.

SpaceX conducts successful static fire test of reused Falcon 9 first stage at 5:30 p.m. EDT on June 23 at Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for CRS-15 resupply mission to the ISS targeted on launch June 29, 2018.  Credit: Ken Kremer/
Check out my exclusive Space UpClose photos capturing the test firing, water spout and wild weather this Saturday afternoon, June 23.
SpaceX confirmed the positive test outcome by tweet soon thereafter.
“Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete—targeting June 29 launch from Pad 40 in Florida for Dragon’s fifteenth mission to the @Space_Station” SpaceX tweeted.
Both the Falcon 9 and Dragon cargo ship are recycled from earlier missions. The Falcon 9 booster recently launched NASA’s TESS exoplanet hunter – barely 2 months ago - and the Dragon flew on the CRS-9 cargo delivery mission, 2 years ago.
“Rocket and spacecraft for CRS-15 are flight-proven,” said SpaceX.
“Falcon 9’s first stage previously launched @NASA_TESS two months ago, and Dragon flew to the @Space_Station in support of our ninth resupply mission in 2016.”
SpaceX will not attempt to recover this older Block 4 version of the Falcon 9 booster which is being discontinued in favor of the Block 5. The firm is rapidly switching over to the new Block 5 version first launched in May.  
The Block 5 Falcon 9 will be cheaper to produce and much easier to turnaround with minimal maintenance, says SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. His goal is to relaunch a recovered Block 5 a second time within 24 hours by sometime next year.
If all goes well Dragon will arrive at the orbiting outpost on July 2 for a month long stay.
The prior CRS-14 resupply flight successfully flew in April from pad 40. 

Blastoff of SpaceX ‘Flight-proven’ Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon CRS-14 cargo ship from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, on April 2 at 4:33 pm EDT to the ISS.  Credit: Ken Kremer/
CRS-15 marks the 12th flight overall for SpaceX in 2018 and the 2nd ISS resupply mission for NASA in 2018.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.

Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: – – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at
Ken’s upcoming outreach events:
Learn more about the upcoming upcoming/recent SpaceX Falcon 9/CRS-15 launch to ISS,  SES-12 comsat launch, Falcon Heavy, TESS, GOES-S, Bangabandhu-1, NASA missions, ULA Atlas & Delta launches, SpySats and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events at Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings:
Jun 28/29: “SpaceX Dragon CRS-15 resupply launch to ISS, SpaceX Falcon Heavy & Falcon 9 launches, SpaceX SES-12 comsat. ULA Atlas USAF SBIRS GEO 4 missile warning satellite, SpaceX GovSat-1, CRS-14 resupply launches to the ISS, NRO & USAF Spysats, SLS, Orion, Boeing and SpaceX Commercial crew capsules, OSIRIS-Rex, Juno at Jupiter, InSight Mars lander, Curiosity and Opportunity explore Mars, NH at Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings. Photos for sale

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