A stork will soon make a special delivery to the International Space Station — new research samples and equipment for research investigations that will occur during current and future expeditions in the many science disciplines aboard the space laboratory.
The fifth Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-II Transfer Vehicle, or HTV-5, is planned to launch Wednesday, Aug. 19, with the space shipment. The HTV was dubbed Kounotori, “white stork” in Japanese, because it conveys the delivery of important cargo and expresses the HTV’s mission to transport crucial materials to the space station. Indeed it will. The delivery will include materials to support the crewmembers’ research off the Earth to benefit the Earth.
The research this supply will support includes the CALorimetric Electron Telescope (CALET) investigation, an astrophysics mission that will search for signatures of dark matter and provide the highest energy direct measurements of the cosmic ray electron spectrum. (Cosmic rays are high-energy radiation particles that impact the Earth’s atmosphere.) Investigators will measure these particles using a high-resolution telescope.
The investigation addresses many unresolved high-energy astrophysics questions that have puzzled scientists for decades, such as the origin of cosmic rays, how cosmic rays accelerate and travel across the galaxy, and whether dark matter and nearby cosmic ray sources exist. The investigation also may help characterize the radiation environment and the risks it may pose to humans in space. Additionally, CALET’s long exposure in space may yield evidence of rare interactions between “normal” matter and dark matter.
Birds of a feather flock together as Kounotori5, or HTV-5, will also deliver a flock of fourteen Dove satellites to support the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer investigation. These small satellites will capture imagery of Earth for use in humanitarian, environmental and commercial applications. They are part of a class of miniature satellites often called CubeSats. The CubeSat deployer meets the growing demand to deploy CubeSat format satellites from the space station.
Other satellites being launched on HTV-5 include the GomSpace GOMX-3, a three-unit CubeSat mission to demonstrate aircraft Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast signal reception and geostationary telecommunication satellite spot beam signal quality, both of which are used for global aircraft tracking. The primary mission for the Aalborg University (AAU) student satellite AAUSAT5 is to receive Automatic Identification System (AIS) beacons from ships. The beacons are used to identify and locate vessels to support collision avoidance and search and rescue efforts.
The latest tool to promote commercialization in microgravity, the NanoRacks External Platform (NREP), will also take flight aboard HTV-5. Like the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer, this facility, which is capable of housing multiple, diverse investigations, will mount to the JAXA Japanese External Facility (JEM-EF). It will be a plug-and-play resource for users who wish to send their investigations into the microgravity environment.
NREP will supply power to investigations, along with the capability to cycle commands and data to/from users on the ground. These studies also will have access to the vacuum of space, including extreme temperatures and radiation. Hosted items may include materials science, biology experiments, sensors, electronic components, and more.
Additional research supported by the HTV-5 cargo includes the Twins Study, a compilation of 10 investigations that will include, among other topics, integrated human -omic analyses. The analyses will help scientists better understand biomolecular responses to the physical, physiological, and environmental stressors associated with spaceflight. Key to these analyses is the collection of biological specimens like urine and blood from one twin in orbit on the space station and the collection of corresponding samples and data from his twin on Earth. Investigators will use the BD Vacutainer® CPT™ Cell Preparation Tubes arriving on the HTV5 for the collection of whole blood and the separation of mononuclear (or single nucleus) cells. Isolation of mononuclear cells from whole blood is a first step for obtaining the data necessary achieve the research objectives for three of the study’s investigations.
This fifth HTV mission certainly provides a bird’s-eye view of the research making an impact off the Earth for the Earth.