Suggested Searches

5 min read

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of August 8, 2022

image of Earth, small satellite deployer and station solar panels
This image shows the station’s JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) prior to launching three CubeSat investigations sponsored by JAXA.
Credits: NASA

Lee esta historia en español.

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Aug 8 that included launching three small satellite-based investigations, a ham radio session with students in New York, and a demonstration of wireless technology for monitoring crew health.

Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place aboard the orbiting lab:

Student satellites deployed

image of a small satellite
Flight model of FUTABA at Kyushu Institute of Technology. This JSSOD-22 CubeSat project observes whisker formation in lead-free solder.
Credits: Yuto Tome

The station’s JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) provides launch capability for CubeSats. These small satellites support scientific investigations and technology demonstrations and have humanitarian, environmental, and commercial applications. During the week, crew members installed J-SSOD-22 hardware and deployed three small satellites carrying investigations sponsored by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA):

  • FUTABA, a program crowdfunded by undergraduate students at the Kyushu Institute of Technology, observes whisker formation in lead-free solder. These tiny filaments produced during soldering can pose a threat to electronic circuits. The investigation could improve future consumer products and also inspires future engineers and scientists.
  • HSU-SAT1 demonstrates using infrared light emitted from a ground station as a command transmission link for satellites and evaluates new technologies for electrical power supply, on board computing, and other satellite components. New methods of communicating between vehicles and satellites in space could support future exploration missions. Results from this investigation also could improve functioning of small satellites in support of functions on Earth such as cell phones and GPS.
  • TUMnanoSAT, developed by The Technical University of Moldova, seeks to improve the quality of engineering studies in the Republic of Moldova and provide students with opportunities to develop and strengthen skills in scientific research and space exploration. This CubeSat tests structural components and communications networks that could be used for development and operation of future satellites deployed by the country.

Making contact

During the week, crew members conducted an ISS Ham Radio session with Kopernik Observatory & Science Center in New York. Before these events, students learn about radio waves, electricity, and space and prepare questions to ask the crew. While only a few students are able to ask questions due to the limited time available, hundreds of people typically listen to the event from classrooms or auditoriums or via livestream. By engaging students, teachers, parents, and other members of the community in direct communication with astronauts via ground-based ham radio units, this program helps inspire interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. Ham radio sessions, conducted since Expedition 1, now have provided a direct link to space between more than 250,000 participants on the ground and over 100 crew members.

image of an astronaut communicating with a ham radio
NASA astronaut Bob Hines answers questions from students on the ground during an ISS Ham session. This ham radio program inspires interest in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Credits: NASA

A shirt with heart

Wireless Compose-2, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), demonstrates an infrastructure for wireless transmission of data and includes the Ballistocardiography for Extraterrestrial Applications and long-Term missions (BEAT), which measures forces generated by the heart as it moves blood. The investigation uses SmartTex, a shirt with built-in sensors, to take these measurements. This technology could be used to help monitor the health of astronauts on future missions and this investigation also could improve the technology for use on the ground. During the week, crew members conducted a BEAT session with the shirt and filled out a questionnaire to provide feedback to researchers.

Other investigations involving the crew:

  • For Astrobee-Zero Robotics, students write software to control one of the space station’s Astrobee free-flying robots. The experience inspires the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers and promotes teamwork, computer literacy, and awareness of opportunities for space-related careers.
  • XROOTS uses hydroponic (liquid-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques to grow plants without traditional growth media, which could enable production of crops on a larger scale for future space exploration.
  • Immunosenescence studies how microgravity affects immune function during flight and whether immune cells recover post-flight. Results could support development of treatments to protect astronauts during future long-duration spaceflight, and lead to development of more effective treatments for immune system aging on Earth.
  • The JAXA Kibo Robot Programming Challenge (Kibo-RPC) provides students an opportunity to write software to control one of the space station’s Astrobee free-flying robots. The experience helps inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers in Japan.
  • Plasma Kristall-4 (PK-4), a collaboration between ESA and the Russian State Space Agency (Roscosmos), studies how plasma crystals form in microgravity. Results could shed light on these common phenomena in space and possibly lead to new research methods, better spacecraft designs, and improvements in industries that use plasmas on Earth.
  • Butterfly IQ Ultrasound demonstrates a portable ultrasound device 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 medical care in remote and isolated settings on Earth.
  • Ring Sheared Drop examines formation of amyloid fibrils, which create a waxy plaque in the brain and may be involved in development of some neurological diseases. Investigation results may contribute to a better understanding of these diseases and development of potential treatments.
image of an astronaut working with an experiment
NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins processes samples inside the Life Science Glovebox for the Immunosenescence investigation, which studies how microgravity affects immune function.
Credits: NASA

The space station, a robust microgravity laboratory with a multitude of specialized research facilities and tools, has supported many scientific breakthroughs from investigations spanning every major scientific discipline. The ISS Benefits for Humanity 2022 publication details the expanding universe of results realized from more than 20 years of experiments conducted on the station. Access the publication and related materials online.

For daily updates, follow @ISS_Research, Space Station Research and Technology News, or our Facebook. Follow ISS National Lab for information on its sponsored investigations. For opportunities to see the space station pass over your town, check out Spot the Station.

John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist

Expedition 67