October 2, 2020

What’s Flying? A Look at NG-14 Payloads

Scheduled to launch no earlier than September 29th at 10:26 p.m. EST from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops, Virginia; Space Tango partner payloads will be making their departure for the International Space Station for the Northrop Grumman 14th Commercial Resupply Service Mission (NG-14). As we get closer to the final countdown, we invite you to take a look at the amazing science our partners are exploring with us.


Pharmaceutical Excipient Ingredient Stability in Microgravity

University of Adelaide  | Principal Investigator: Volker Hessel

Space Tango is partnering with Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance, LLC (Alpha Space) to conduct an international companion study with the University of Adelaide on the International Space Station (ISS). Both Space Tango’s CubeLab hardware inside the ISS and Alpha Space’s Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) platform installed outside the ISS will be used by researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia to study how exposure to microgravity and space radiation may affect the stability of tablet formulations and their excipient ingredients.

This investigation is the first step for researchers from the University of Adelaide who are working to develop micro-flow spacelabs for on-orbit formulation and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Evaluation of Long-Term Stability of Pharmaceutical Ingredients in an Excipient Matrix for Use in Potential Future On-Orbit Manufacturing (Pharmaceutical Excipient Ingredient Stability in Microgravity) evaluates the effects of microgravity and radiation on the long-term stability of medicines in their excipient matrix, the non-active ingredients in medicines, made from materials abundant in the lunar surface such as silica, magnesium and calcium phosphate. This study could provide information helpful for developing the capability to formulate medicines in space with dual benefit to people on Earth and future explorers.

The first payload of this companion study will be launched on Northrop Grumman’s 14th Commercial Resupply Service (NG-14) mission and remain inside the ISS National Laboratory for 6 months. The second half of the companion study will be launched on a future flight and will remain outside the ISS National Laboratory on the MISSE platform.

Moth Chrysalis and Termites in Space

Higher Orbits | Principal Investigator: Michelle Lucas

For this investigation, Incisitermes snyderi Kinaesthetic and Gas Synthesis Phenomena Under Conditions of Microgravity and Mamestra brassicae Chrysalis Formation in Microgravity (Moth Chrysalis and Termites in Space), one team examines the effects of microgravity on southeastern drywood termites and the other examines its effects on chrysalis formation and lifecycle development in the cabbage moth. Both insect species are expected to experience a period of stress while transitioning to the microgravity environment, but with time could adapt and exhibit normal behavior, including chrysalis formation and pupation by the moths.

Both student-developed experiments are housed in a Space Tango CubeLab that ascends in the visiting vehicle in soft stowage. Once on the space station, a crew member transfers the payload to the on-orbit Space Tango TangoLab facility to run operations prior to being removed from the facility and stowed for return. Automated operations include imagery of the termites, methane sensors to monitor concentrations, and imagery of larvae/pupae/adult moths.

  1. Team V Atlas (the Higher Orbits Go For Launch! 2019 Series winning team from Lexington, KY) is taking a close look at southeastern drywood termites (Incisitermes snyderi). Termites are known to be methane emitters. This student experiment flies worker termites to the International Space Station to see if methane production is affected by a microgravity environment. The team hypothesizes that termites experience a period of stress while transitioning to the microgravity environment. With time exposure, termites are expected to adapt to the space environment and demonstrate normalized behavior. Methane readings are expected to be proportional to stress levels through the duration of the experiment.
  2. Team Flammenwerfer Axolotls (the Higher Orbits Go For Launch! AIAA Series winning team from Spring Grove, IL) examines the effects of microgravity on chrysalis formation and lifecycle development of the cabbage moth (Mamestra brassicae). Possible chrysalis formations as a result of microgravity exposure include: an unusable or deranged chrysalis, no chrysalis formation, or normal chrysalis formation. The speed at which the chrysalis develops is also documented. Chrysalis formation and pupation involve radical morphological changes (flightless larva into winged moth). The effects that microgravity may have on this process are unknown. Observing the growth and development of these organisms under microgravity conditions may potentially uncover information relating to complex biological systems responsible for cellular organization and tissue development.


Protein Stability Study

LambdaVision | Principal Investigator: Nicole Wagner, Ph.D.

LambdaVision will utilize this mission to further study the light-activated protein, bacteriorhodopsin, in a microgravity environment. This work will allow LambdaVision to evaluate the effects of microgravity on protein function and stability, which is critical for the quality and performance of the artificial retina. Importantly, the outcomes of this experiment will provide a foundation for future ISS-based production trials. The company also continues to refine and evaluate the production process for the protein-based artificial retina in its laboratories on Earth. Over the next three years, the LambdaVision-Space Tango partnership will serve to evaluate and improve on-orbit production processes, and to produce artificial retinas that will then be evaluated on Earth. Learn more about their NG-14 study and continued work here.