What’s On-Board and Launch/Landing Viewing Locations For CRS-18 Commercial Resupply Services Mission

UPDATE: SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon-9 this evening on a glorious day at the Rocket Riviera.

The Dragon capsule will arrive at the International Space Station on Saturday, July 27th. Grappling is scheduled for 10:00 am and installation to the Harmony Node 2 Nadir and is is scheduled for 12 pm EDT.

CRS 18 Docking Harmony Module

Image: NASA

The CRS-18 Dragon capsule is on its 3rd mission to the ISS and will be packed with approximately 5,000 lbs of science, materials, food, and hardware. Nicely adorned with the Apollo 11 50th anniversary logo and two space station insignias representing the 2 previous flights of this particular capsule. Dragon will be berthed to the Harmony Module, Node 2 Nadir.


Image: SpaceX

What’s On Board

International Docking Adapter 3: Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA) is in a position located on the Harmony Module of the International Space Station. The crew aboard the ISS has completed work ahead of the IDA-3 arrival on CRS-18 (SPX-18).  Planned for Extravehicular Activity (EVA) installation, IDA 3 is required to support future American Crewed Vehicles (Dragon and Starliner) and will be connected to the PMA-3 located on the Harmony Module for upcoming crew mission aboard the Starliner and Dragon crew capsules. The IDA-3 will be stowed in the ‘trunk’ attached to the Dragon during the docking period. It will be jettisoned from the Dragon soon after ISS departure.

This is the third (3rd) IDA and the second to reach the space station. Many will recall that IDA-1 was lost in the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap June 28th, 2015.

Perfect Crystals:  Growth of Large, Perfect Protein Crystals for Neutron Crystallography (Perfect Crystals) crystallizes human manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD or SOD2) to analyze its shape. This sheds light on how the antioxidant protein helps protect the human body from oxidizing radiation and oxides created as a byproduct of metabolism. A crewmember removed one of two Perfect Crystal sample units and packed it for return on SpX-16 Dragon. The remaining unit will stay onboard the ISS and return on SpX-18.

Bio-mining: Finding natural resources in space that sustains life and advances industrialization on other planets and moons is critical to continued exploration and sustaining life in space. Sourcing usable resources in space are critical to reducing launch and payload mass, saving Earth’s precious resources, or perhaps, increase and improve some of those resources here on Earth. Microbes growing on the surface and inside of rocks can gradually break down those rocks and extract minerals. BioRock tests how altered states of gravity affect biofilm formation while in testing reactors on the International Space Station. This natural process enables bio-mining. “For the investigation, we are using basalt rock that is naturally very vesicular, or contains lots of spaces, to see how the bacteria interact within these cavities in microgravity,”1 said Dr. Rosa Santomartino, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Microbial Astrobiology Scientist at the University of Edinburgh, School of Physics and Astronomy.


Basalt Rock Image: Dr. Rosa Santomartino

Below: Sphingomonas desiccabilis, one of three microbes chosen for the BioRock experiment, seen growing on basalt.


Image: Dr. Rosa Santomartino


A bioreactor in the BioRock investigation within its experimental container  Image: ESA.


Close up view of the two culture chambers of a single experimental unit in the BioRock investigation. Image: ESA.

Back on Earth, investigators plan to examine how the microbes grew across and into the rock and to compare the three types of microbes. Common on Earth, bio-mining could eventually help explorers on the Moon or Mars acquire needed materials, lessening the need to use precious resources from Earth and reducing the number of supplies that explorers must take with them. Microgravity affects the interaction between microbes and rocks, though, and may restrict bacterial growth. The Biorock investigation examines these interactions as well as physical and genetic changes in the microbes. This project is managed by the European Space Agency and headed up by Principal Investigator, Dr. Charles S. Cockell, Ph.D., professor at the UK Centre for Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh.


Charles Cockell, Ph.D. Principle Investigator Image: NASA TV

Answering questions from NASASocial attendees and on live NASA TV, Dr. Cockell informed the audience that this is the first “multiple microbial” experiment on the ISS. Three (3) microbes in space at one time. Additionally, the prototype mini-bioreactors, like the one in his hand in the photos and the other photos above (six in total), will be the first of their kind to be sent to space on the International Space Station.

“Microbes are everywhere – in our food, our homes, and our industrial processes – and they do hugely important things in our everyday life,” Cockell said. “As we move into space, we can harness microbes to make our lives easier and improve the success of space settlements. BioRock is about forming a new space-faring alliance with the microbial world – using microbes to advance a permanent human presence in space.”(2)


Launch site preparation is performed as close as possible to launch T-0. The investigation is handed over as late-load. From handover, all samples are maintained at conditioned temperature (TBD) during ascent and pre-ops phase.

The investigation is installed in the incubator on-orbit to start the mining process, then removed to take pictures before being re-installed in the incubator. After the culturing period and the fixation, the investigation is removed from the incubator, photographed, and then inserted into cold storage 4°C until return.

The investigation is returned to Earth at +4°C and handed over to the Principal Investigator’s team at the Long Beach, CA airport to perform post-landing fixation of the samples. Two ground reference experiments are required:
a) near simultaneously to flight.
b) a postflight replicating actual in-flight temperature conditions and experiment steps.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is onboard the Dragon with 53.1 kg, over 55 items.

3D Tissue Printing: Scientists and medical professionals have long dreamed of using three-dimensional (3D) biological printers, manufactured by TechShot, Inc., to produce usable human organs. But printing the tiny, complex structures found inside human organs, such as capillary structures, has proven difficult in Earth’s gravity. Microgravity eliminates the need for scaffolding structures to support complex tissue shapes, and the BioFabrication Facility (BFF) provides a platform to attempt printing of biological tissues on the space station. This investigation could serve as a first step toward achieving the ability to fabricate entire human organs in space.

Below, Gene Boland PH.d. Chief Scientist, Techshot and Ken Church CEO, nScript explain the process for bio-printing tissue that one day may create human organs and other tissue in space. Pictured is the BioFabrication Facility where the tissue will be analyzed and processed then sent to the 3-D printer, all while onboard the International Space Station as part of the National Laboratory.


Image: NASA TV



Tire Testing: Goodyear Tire investigation evaluates the creation of silica fillers using traditional techniques but in microgravity, potentially yielding results not possible on Earth. A better understanding of silica morphology and the relationship between silica structure and its properties could improve the silica design process, silica rubber formulation, and tire manufacturing and performance on the ground. Such improvements could include increased fuel efficiency, which would reduce transportation costs and help to protect Earth’s environment.

Space Moss: Mosses, tiny plants without roots, need only a small area for growth. These plants show changes in biomass and photosynthesis rate in response to changes in gravity. These traits could prove an advantage for the potential use of mosses as a source of food and oxygen in space and future bases on the Moon or Mars. Space Moss compares mosses grown aboard the space station with those grown on Earth to determine how microgravity affects growth, development, gene expression, photosynthesis, and other features. The investigation also provides a better understanding of the mechanisms of moss response to microgravity, with potential applications for engineering plants to grow better on Earth.

Launch and Landing Viewing Locations

Day launches can be viewed from the beach at Playalinda Beach, an excellent location, at the Canaveral National Seashore Park. Usually, few restrictions exist for Launch Complex 40 launches at Lot #1.  The Falcon-9 booster is set to return to the Cape at Landing Zone-1.

Check here for hours of operation and access/restrictions at the park.

Click here for more launch viewing detail at SpaceX Launch Complex 40.

Launch Landing LC 40

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Enjoy The Mission!

(1) At Harnessing the power of microbes for mining in space. July 18, 2019
(2) At Harnessing the power of microbes for mining in space. July 18, 2019
(3) At Space Station Research Explorer/Biorocks



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