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SpaceX CRS-14 Carrying Two Important Payloads

There are two payloads on CRS-14 that caught my eye as very important to the future in space.

Multi-use Variable-gravity Platform

First up, Leonard David tells us about an (admittedly small) artificial gravity platform that will be installed permanently on ISS:

Developed by Techshot of Greenville, Indiana, the MVP is a permanent, commercially operated facility onboard the ISS capable of producing artificial gravity in space.

This new research tool in space, spinning at varying gravity levels, can involve a wide variety of sample types – such as tissue chips, plants, fish, cells, protein crystals, worms and flies.

Roughly, the size of a microwave oven, MVP hosts six separate “experiment modules” on each of two internal carousels.

This new research platform is equipped with temperature, light cycle, and humidity control, video feed from inside the hardware, and the two identical and independently-controlled centrifuges that can generate artificial gravity from .1 to 2g.

The first experiment launching on the upcoming SpaceX CRS-14 will focus on Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies). Known as MVP-Fly-01, this first campaign using the system will be conducted for a research team at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

So far, we know a lot about living in 1g and 0g. If we have any intentions to live anywhere else in the Solar System for any period of time, partial gravity is the most important thing to research. It’s a shame it took so long to get something like this installed permanently on ISS, but I’m glad to see it. (Update: Chris Wolverton corrected me on the state of centrifuges on ISS.)


The second payload—which has been a long time coming—that caught my eye is RemoveDebris, built by SSTL, which will be testing a variety of systems that could be used for debris removal in the future. Stephen Clark of Spaceflight Now wrote a nice article about it:

RemoveDebris accounts around 220 pounds, or 100 kilograms, of the Dragon’s cargo load.

But the small spacecraft, developed by SSTL in the United Kingdom, punches above its weight. The RemoveDebris mothership contains two CubeSats, a net and a harpoon, a laser ranging instrument, and a “dragsail” designed to unfurl behind the main satellite and hasten its fall back into Earth’s atmosphere using aerodynamic resistance.

Surrey Space Centre had a great video made to show off the mission as a whole that’s really worth watching. It shows each of the tests, and even shows the NanoRacks small satellite deployment process, which is cool to see if you’ve ever wondered what that looks like from start to finish: