SpaceX is sending another cargo-loaded rocket to space — and the mission could lead to advances in medicine, agriculture, and construction
The company just launched another Falcon 9, which is traveling to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA. The rocket is carrying 5,800 pounds of supplies and systems that will study Earth's thunderstorms, potential pathogens in space, new ways to treat wounds and diseases, and more.
The rocket — which is using a SpaceX capsule called "Dragon" to hold the cargo — lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Monday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET.
About 12 minutes later, the Dragon capsule detached from the Falcon 9 rocket in order to make its way to the International Space Station. It will arrive on the morning of Wednesday, April 4.
You can see the Dragon capsule floating away in the image from NASA's live feed.
According to NASA, the mission's goal is to get the supplies to space and conduct a series of science experiments at the space station, located 250 miles above Earth.
What NASA seeks to study
At the International Space Station, NASA will conduct experiments that could offer data on possible innovations in a variety of fields, including medicine, agriculture, and construction. These include experiments on severe thunderstorms in Earth’s atmosphere, how particular materials and pathogens react in space, new ways to develop drugs, and ideal environments for growing crops in space.
One experiment will explore how plants respond to microgravity so that NASA can potentially grow food for future long-term missions. The experiment, called the Veggie Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (Veggie PONDS), will test a machine that gives nutrients to lettuce and mizuna greens for harvest and consumption in orbit. According to NASA, the PONDS design can accommodate a variety of plant types.
Additionally, the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) experiment will study severe thunderstorms in Earth's atmosphere as well as upper-atmospheric lightning.
These events include sprites (faint flashes that occur high above thunderstorms); blue jets (lightning discharges from cloud tops near the stratosphere); and ELVES (concentric rings of light emissions that typically lasts for one millisecond). The research will help scientists understand why and how these phenomena happen.
The Metabolic Tracking investigation could help develop cheaper and more effective pharmaceuticals. That's because microgravity affects how drug compounds interact with each other, which may lead to improvements on Earth.
Decades of past microgravity studies have helped lead to new medicines that treat cancer. Using a new method, NASA will test the metabolic impacts of drug compounds at the International Space Station.
T he MARROW study will also look at the effect of microgravity on bone marrow, blood cells produced in marrow, recovery after space missions, and the application of this research to astronauts in future missions as well as healthcare providers on Earth.
You can read more about each of these upcoming experiments on NASA's blog.
Image credit: NASA