NASA has sent some new scientific experiments to the International Space Station (ISS), including Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) and the Optical Fiber Production in Microgravity (OFPIM).
On Friday, SpaceX successfully launched its Dragon spacecraft using a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft carried with it more than 4,800 pounds of cargo and crew supplies, hardware, and new research equipment to the ISS. This was SpaceX’s 17th launch in 2017 and 13th cargo mission to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, according to Bloomberg. The launch was made using a previously used rocket.
The mission, dubbed CRS-13, was also the first to be launched in more than a year from Space Launch Complex 40 that suffered huge damage in September 2016 following an explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket.
The Dragon spacecraft will arrive at the ISS on Sunday, December 17, where it will be captured by NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei using the robotic arm of the orbiting space station.
According to NASA, it sent a research kit to the ISS to study the commercial and scientific merits of producing optical fibers in a microgravity environment. This investigation—dubbed OFPIM—has been developed by the company Made in Space (MIS), based in Moffett Field, CA. The material selected for this experiment is ZBLAN, a heavy metal fluoride glass generally used to build fiber optic glass. Previous studies suggested that this material can provide better optical qualities in fiber optic cables compared to silica.
NASA astronauts currently on board the ISS will try to create optical fiber wires from ZBLAN. Desired results would allow large-scale manufacturing of higher-quality optical fiber in space. According to NASA, the material produced by this experiment will have many potential applications on Earth.
Another experiment sent by NASA to the space station is a TSIS-1 sensor that will be used to probe the sun’s natural influence on Earth’s atmospheric circulation, ozone, clouds, and ecosystems. The sun is the principal source of energy input to Earth, which ensures the sustenance of plant and animal life on the planet. NASA says TSIS-1 will provide three times more accurate measurements of sun’s energy input to Earth (solar irradiance) compared to previous sensors. The TSIS-1 experiment kit weighs 800 pounds (363 kg) and measures 8 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet.
NASA has also sent the Space Debris Sensor to the space station that will allow scientists to probe the orbital junk environment around the ISS in a more precise way.