NASA’s SpaceX Mission Delivers New Solar Arrays and Scientific Investigations to the International Space Station

On June 5, NASA’s SpaceX successfully launched its 28th commercial resupply services mission, carrying crucial cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). With more than 7,000 pounds of supplies, including new solar arrays and scientific investigations, the uncrewed SpaceX Dragon spacecraft embarked on its journey from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking another milestone in space exploration.

One of the highlights of this resupply mission is delivering a pair of International Space Station Roll Out Solar Arrays (IROSAs). These state-of-the-art solar arrays, once installed, will significantly enhance the energy-production capabilities of the ISS. By expanding the renewable energy sources on the microgravity complex, these solar arrays contribute to the sustainability and operational capabilities of the space station.

An intriguing investigation called “What Happens Above Thunderstorms” by the European Space Agency (ESA) aims to observe thunderstorms from the unique vantage point of the ISS. By studying electrical activity, particularly the inception, frequency, and altitude of blue discharges, researchers hope to estimate their energy and better understand their impact on Earth’s atmosphere. This research could improve atmospheric models and provide insights into Earth’s climate and weather patterns.

The Plant Habitat-03 (PH-03) experiment will assess whether plants exposed to environmental stress, including spaceflight, can transfer adaptive changes to subsequent generations. By creating a second generation of plants using seeds previously produced in space, scientists aim to determine if changes continue through subsequent generations or stabilize. The results of this investigation could shed light on growing multiple generations of plants for long-duration space missions and also offer valuable insights for adapting crops to marginal and reclaimed habitats on Earth.

Genes in Space-10 will test a technique for measuring telomere length in microgravity, where traditional Earth-based methods face challenges due to gravity. Telomeres, which protect our chromosomes, have been observed to lengthen in space. The experiment will explore whether this lengthening is caused by the proliferation of stem cells, offering insights into the mechanisms behind telomere lengthening and potential effects on astronaut health during long-duration missions. The findings may also have broader implications for human health on Earth.

Mission 26 for the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) includes the ESSENCE experiment, which monitors thawing ice and permafrost in the Canadian Arctic using a wide-angle camera. This data will contribute to a better understanding of climate change and support local infrastructure planning. The satellite also carries a solar energetic proton detector, gathering information on solar activity that emits highly energized radioactive protons. Understanding these effects can help improve the radiation resistance of future CubeSats. Additionally, the investigation demonstrates a novel method to recover a satellite’s attitude in case of control mechanism failures.

The Iris project, developed by graduate, undergraduate, and middle school students in Canada, observes weathering of geological samples exposed to solar and cosmic radiation. This investigation aims to determine visually detectable changes and demonstrates experimental sun sensors, torque rods, and a battery heater.

Iris promotes interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies and careers by involving students in hands-on scientific research. The results could provide insights into weathering processes on planetary bodies and improve understanding of asteroid origins when combined with data from asteroid sampling missions.