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By GCN Staff

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Space Station to offer same-day delivery of experiments to home labs

Space Station to offer same-day delivery of experiments to home labs

Managers of the International Space Station (ISS) are developing what amounts to an express delivery service to rapidly ferry small packages of critical research back to Earth in order to maintain scientific momentum on the projects.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the ISS research lab, has picked Houston-based Intuitive Machines to work with NASA to design a terrestrial return vehicle (TRV), the capsule that will deliver the scientific perishables safely back to Earth.

Today, retrieval and return of experiment results from the ISS are conducted only a couple of times per year and require a long planning process. In contrast, Intuitive Machines said the TRV will enable frequent and same-day delivery of samples from ISS to the researcher's laboratory.

“The timely delivery of critical or perishable samples is essential in enabling new and exciting research aboard the ISS National Laboratory,” the partners said in announcing the service. The first flight of the TRV from the ISS is planned for 2016.

Intuitive Machines will open the TRV service to scientific, academic, commercial as well as government researchers.

"The International Space Station, with its unique microgravity laboratories and crew, enables research over a wide range of disciplines from physics through biology,” said David Wolf, a research scientist and former astronaut.

“This small payload return capability will provide controlled conditions and flexible choices for timely sample analysis,” Wolf added. “The scientific team will be able to much more efficiently adjust experimental parameters in response to results, exploit unique results, and correct problems encountered.

Intuitive Machines will be responsible for the design and certification of the return vehicle, as well as managing the payload return services for its customers. CASIS will manage the integration of the service onto a commercial launch vehicle to access the ISS, as well as flight operations services.

The TRV contains subsystems for protecting the payload during the return trip and delivering it accurately to a landing location such as a dry lakebed, where it can be easily retrieved. Once recovered, the payload would be removed from the TRV and delivered to the customer.

The vehicle is equipped with propulsion and flight control systems, which perform maneuvers for the entry and descent through the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Posted by GCN Staff on Oct 22, 2014 at 10:42 AM


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