Washington: A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft loaded with about 2,600 kgs of research and supplies, including experiments investigating cellular biology, Earth science and Artificial Intelligence (AI), lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket on Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is SpaceX’s 15th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, NASA said in a statement. The spacecraft’s occupant also included a robot named Cimon, short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion.
The pilot study with Cimon is a technology demonstration project, and an observational study, that aims to obtain the first insights into the effects on crew support by AI, in terms of efficiency and acceptance during long-term missions in space. Research materials flying inside Dragon’s pressurised cargo area also included a cellular biology investigation (Micro-12) to understand how microgravity affects the growth, gene expression and ability of a model bacterium to transfer electrons through its cell membrane along the bacterial nanowires it produces.
Such bacteria could be used in microbial fuel cells to make electricity from waste organic material. An Earth science instrument called the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) will provide a new space-based measurement of how plants respond to changes in water availability. This data can help society better manage agricultural water use, the US space agency added. Dragon is scheduled to depart the station in August and return to Earth with more than 1,724 kgs of research, hardware and crew supplies, NASA said.