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'White Stork' Delivers New Research and Technology Investigations to the International Space Station
The ISERV camera, once on the space station, will be positioned to look through Destiny's Earth-facing window. ISERV will receive commands from Earth and acquire image data of specific areas on the Earth the next time the station passes over the region. The ISERV camera will be positioned to look through Destiny's Earth-facing window. ISERV will receive commands from Earth and acquire image data of specific areas on the Earth the next time the station passes over the region. (NASA)
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International Space Station astronaut Ron Garan works with the Reentry Breakup Recorder. International Space Station astronaut Ron Garan works with the Reentry Breakup Recorder. (NASA)
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Collage of images showing the Aquatic Habitat This collage shows images relating to the Aquatic Habitat for the International Space Station. (NASA)
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A "white stork" is soon to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. But it's not the typical stork you associate with baby deliveries. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kounotori3 H-II Transfer Vehicle, or HTV-3, is a 16.5-ton cargo ship. Kounotori is Japanese for "white stork."

Following a weeklong journey since its launch July 20, the HTV-3 is scheduled to dock to the station July 27 packed with nearly four tons of supplies, including a mix of NASA and international partner research ranging from biology to education to technology demonstration.

A Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency investigation will study new sampling techniques and environmental microbiological methods for environmental analysis. Microbial Dynamics in the International Space Station - III (Microbe-III) will monitor the abundance and diversity of fungi and bacteria in Kibo, the Japanese Experiment module on the station. The results will be used to produce a microbiologically safe environment which is essential for a long-duration stay in space.

Another Japanese investigation, In-situ Observation of Growth Mechanisms of Protein Crystals and Their Perfection Under Microgravity (NanoStep), aims to clarify the relationship between crystal growth mechanism and the perfection of crystals. Crystallization of proteins in microgravity yields crystals with better perfection than crystallization on Earth. This study will look at the reason for this phenomenon, which has not been explained from a viewpoint of crystal growth mechanism.

NASA's ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) is an automated system designed to acquire images of the Earth's surface from the space station. It is primarily a means to gain experience and expertise in automated data acquisition from the station, although it is expected to provide useful images for use in disaster monitoring and assessment, and environmental decision making.

Five small mission payloads that perform science and technological demonstrations also are among the newest investigations arriving at the station. The Multi-mission Consolidated Equipment (MCE) includes two atmospheric observations that study lightning and resonant scattering from plasma and airglow. The other technology demonstrations include inflatable structure deployment, robotic tether movement and testing a high-definition television camera in the space environment.

Several educational activities are scheduled to begin after the supplies arrive at the station, including the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Education Payload Observation 5 (JAXA EPO5). These activities demonstrate artistic activities aboard the station to enlighten the public about microgravity research and human spaceflight.

Through an agreement with NASA, Space Adventures is sponsoring the YouTube Space Lab world-wide contest for students 14-to-18 years old. Over the past year, students submitted entries in the areas of physics or biology via a two-minute YouTube video. The top two experiments were selected in March 2012 through online voting and by an international panel of experts, including William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration Mission Directorate, and Leland Melvin, NASA’s associate administrator for the Office of Education. The winning experiments -- from Egypt and Michigan -- are being flown to the station to be conducted later this year. One experiment will study how bacteria grow in space to see if different nutrients can block the growth. The other winning entry looks at how a Zebra spider -- which jumps on its prey instead of catching them in a web on Earth -- will hunt its prey in microgravity.

Several human research activities will arrive with the cargo ship, including Sonographic Astronaut Vertebral Examination (Spinal Ultrasound). This investigation aims to use ground- and space-based studies to fully characterize and assign a mission health risk to microgravity-associated spinal changes for back pain and potential injury. This research will determine the accuracy of the ultrasound in characterizing the anatomy and composition of the vertebral unit and help to develop new training methods.

In the area of physical sciences, the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test - C1 (BCAT-C1) experiment will study nano-scale particles dispersed in liquid, known as a colloidal suspension, commonly found in such commercial commodities as paint, electronic polishing compounds and food products. These suspensions will have the unique property that the particles will separate -- like oil and water -- and the particles will self-assemble into crystals that interact strongly with light, like opal. Photographing these samples in microgravity will allow the measurement of these processes while avoiding the effects of particle sinking due to gravity. This study will allow the development of new insights into this important materials process.

A technology demonstration, called The Reentry Breakup Recorder (REBR), tests a cost-effective system that rides a space vehicle reentering Earth’s atmosphere, records data during the reentry and breakup of the vehicle, and returns the data for analysis. Understanding how vehicles behave during atmospheric reentry gives future spacecraft developers unique information that can enhance design efficiencies and safety.

One of the new facilities for the station is the Aquatic Habitat. This habitat is capable of accommodating small fish, such as medaka or zebrafish, which have many advantages as vertebrate models. The Aquatic Habitat will be used for experiments investigating how microgravity and the space radiation environment affect living things including human beings, particularly over the long term.

by Lori Meggs
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center