All the science that’s launching to the space station today

Today, Saturday November 26, an uncrewed SpaceX Dragon craft will be launching to the International Space Station. Packed inside the Dragon, which will be launched by a Falcon 9 rocket, will be a pair of new solar arrays for the space station, called International Space Station Roll Out Solar Arrays or iROSAs, as well as a wide range of science experiments and technology demonstrations.

Also included in the delivery will be an experiment to grow a crop of dwarf tomatoes. Growing food on the space station has been a topic of research because it will be necessary to grow food for longer crewed space missions, such as those planned to visit Mars, so that astronauts can eat something fresh. There is also a psychological component to growing and eating your own food that is beneficial for astronauts. Many of the foods grown on the ISS to date have been leafy greens (though there have also been experiments into growing chiles, radishes, and more), so the new experiment, called VEG-05, will test out growing tomatoes, including investigating how light and fertilizer affect their growth.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the company’s Dragon cargo spacecraft atop, is raised to a vertical position at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Nov. 21, 2022, in preparation for the 26th commercial resupply services launch to the International Space Station.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the company’s Dragon cargo spacecraft atop, is raised to a vertical position at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on November 21, 2022, in preparation for the 26th commercial resupply services launch to the International Space Station. NASA

Another experiment being delivered will look into bacteria found in the human gut, called Bacillus subtilis, which helps prevent foodborne diseases and protects gut health. The experiment will see how the DNA of this bacterium is affected by spaceflight, in order to understand more about microbiology in space and to help keep astronauts healthy.

There are also experiments involving looking at the structure of glass and metal spheres produced in zero gravity, testing a type of bone adhesive that could help osteoporosis patients recover from broken bones more quickly, and working on an implant that can automatically dispense drugs to patients as needed, even varying the dose as required.

There will also be a number of experiments on board designed by students, including one from California that seeks to see how carrot seeds germinate in space, and an experiment designed by students in Michigan to see how blueberries decompose, which could be helpful for efficiently disposing of food waste.

All of these experiments will launch on the SpaceX CRS-26 mission, set to launch today. To watch the launch from home, you can check out our viewing guide.

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