What’s in the OA-9 Cygnus?

Resupply mission OA-9, scheduled originally for May 20th, will carry a mix of cargo weighing 3,350 Kg (7,385 lbs.) plus an array of Cube SATS.  This version of the Cygnus is the Enhanced Cygnus Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) with an empty weight of 3,375 Kg, standing 639 cm tall (20 ft) and controlled with 32 thrusters.  After delivering supplies it will be reloaded with approximately 3,200 Kg of disposal cargo before departing the ISS.  The typical resupply mission carries crew provisions, food, scientific experiments, EVA supplies and vehicle hardware.  So what’s in the OA-9 Cygnus?

Science in Space

Over 50 Science and technology demonstrations, including 20 originated by students will be on board this mission. NASA is sending an experiment to identify unknown microbial organism on the space station, and understand how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living on the station.  The Cold Atom Laboratory is sending an experiment more than 5 years in the making which will study molecular motion at extremely low temperatures.  As a result of this study, JPL, is continuing it’s experimentation and study of Bose-Einstein condensation and they have already determined ways to miniaturize much of the equipment useful in these studies.  The experiment is expected to last a year, and resolution will be as small as 6 microns per pixel, or better. 

Kamal Oudrhiri and Eric Cornell, Cold Atom Lab
Kamal Oudrhiri, Cold Atom Lab Deputy Program Manager and Eric Cornell, Principal Investigator for “Zero-G Studies of Few-Body and Many-Body Physics” display hardware used to study atoms at extremely low temperatures.

Another process study is provided by Zaiput Technologies.  The plan is to validate a unique liquid separation system that relies on surface forces, not tension, rather than gravity.  An earth based model will conduct identical experiments to determine the effects of microgravity.  One of the benefits of this process will be material recovery, and the possible manufacture of complex substances from simple materials carried on long duration missions.

Andrea Adamo, founder and CEO for Zaiput Flow Technologies.

Penn State researchers are sending samples of concrete and water to be mixed in space to observe how solidification and crystallization are affected by microgravity.  Part of the experiment will be to allow specific amounts of “set time” to elapse and then quench the process by inserting alcohol in the mix.  This experiment will be conducted using various mixes, and varying set times and the samples will be returned to earth for final analysis.

Juliana Neves, Graduate Researcher
Juliana Neves, Graduate Researcher on the Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification demonstrating the self-contained experiment pack to create, and arrest concrete formation on orbit.

Cube Sat Roundup

Also on board Cygnus on an exterior launch system called NANO Rack will be multiple Cube SATS.  In the CUBE SAT array are several to study Micro-wave emissions from earth.  Naturally occurring microwave radiation is useful but there is an increasing amount of man made radiation that is distorting some experiments.  Ohio State University is sending three cubes to study various parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and test a processor and technology to distinguish between natural and man made signals. 

Joel Johnson, Principal Investigator, CubeRRT
Joel Johnson, Principal Investigator, CubeRRT (The Ohio State University)

Another set of Cube Sats will be deployed to test observations by a series of multiple satellites while observing weather phenomena.  Currently observations are handled by single, larger satellites.  The third set of Cube Sats will be a demonstration of miniaturizing weather satellites, and the power demands, to search for clouds and precipitation.  The new radar antenna will probably not be able to detect individual cloud particles but it will be able to resolve rain droplets.  It is hoped this will demonstrate the usefulness of a host of smaller satellites rather than depending on a few, bigger, and more expensive units.

RainCube train tracking cloud formations.
A train of RainCube satellites can track cloud formation and development in real time.

The Cube SATS will not be released until after all supplies are removed from the Cygnus module and the disposal cargo loaded aboard.  When the module is released it will spend several days near the ISS.  As part of the departure process the CUBE Sats will be deployed according to the plans of the individual research projects.  Once the cubes are deployed and away the Cygnus module will then be sent to a destructive reentry over the Pacific ocean.