Resupply ship heads to space station to aid research missions

Humans have entered their 20th year with a continuous living presence in space at the International Space Station.

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To celebrate the 19th anniversary of the arrival of the first crew to live aboard the International Space Station, NASA has sent a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft to the outer space outpost to aid in research for long-term space missions, the agency reported in a press release on Saturday.

The spacecraft launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Saturday morning carrying nearly 8,200 pounds of science investigations and cargo and is scheduled to arrive at the space station around 4:10 a.m. Monday, with coverage of its approach and arrival to be streamed live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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Among some of the scientific investigations being carried to the ISS are entitled ‘More Probing of Mysteries of the Universe,’ where astronauts will make repairs on an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, ‘Testing Personal Protective Equipment for Astronauts,’ where astronauts will wear an AstroRad Vest to test unpredictable solar particle events, ‘Food Fresh from the Oven’ which examines food cooked in microgravity, and ‘3D Printing with Recycled Materials,’ which will “test systems needed to reprocess plastic into 3D printing filament that can then be transferred for use to the Made in Space Manufacturing Device,” which is a 3D printer that has been used on the orbiting laboratory since 2016, in the space agency’s own words.

The exterior of the International Space Station.

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Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will be intercepting the spacecraft’s cargo from the International Space Station with the station’s robotic arm, while NASA’s Andrew Morgan will monitor telemetry during the interstellar cargo transfer.

This delivery marks the 12th cargo flight to the ISS by the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spaceship and the first under its current “Commercial Resupply Services 2” contract with NASA, which will support dozens of new and existing scientific investigations, according to the space agency.

The ISS is a microgravity laboratory in earth's orbit that has hosted 239 people from 19 different countries and has conducted over 2,600 experiments from 3,900 researchers in 107 countries. NASA has spent an estimated $100 billion overall on the International Space Station, with $3 to $4 billion per year being spent on maintainance alone, NASA revealed in a July 2018 report.

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The giant laboratory has been travelling around the globe at five miles per second since the first part of it was launched into orbit back in 1998 and was manned by its first crew in Nov. 2000, the three of which stayed a total of 136 days.