Minimize ISS: SpaceX CRS-17

SpaceX CRS-17 Dragon Flight to the ISS

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The Dragon spacecraft will deliver about 2500 kg of NASA cargo, supplies and critical materials to support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 59 and 60. The spacecraft's unpressurized trunk will transport NASA's OCO-3 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3) and STP-H6 (Space Test Program-Houston 6).

Launch: The SpaceX CRS-17 (Commercial Resupply Service-17) with a Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket was launched on 04 May 2019 (02:48 EST, or 06:48 UTC) from the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 1) 2)

Orbit: Near circular orbit, altitude of ~ 400 km, inclination = 51.6º.


Figure 1: The SpaceX Dragon lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 4, 2019, on its way to the International Space Station (image credit: NASA)

The spacecraft will take two days to reach the space station before installation on May 6. When it arrives, astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will grapple Dragon, with NASA astronaut Nick Hague serving as backup. NASA astronaut Christina Koch will assist by monitoring telemetry during Dragon's approach. After Dragon capture, mission control in Houston will send commands to the station's arm to rotate and install the spacecraft on the bottom of the station's Harmony module.

The Dragon spacecraft will spend about four weeks attached to the space station, returning to Earth with more than 1900 kg of research, hardware and crew supplies.



Some payload short descriptions manifested on SpaceX CRS-17

OCO-3 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3). OCO-3 of NASA/JPL will be installed on the JEM-EF (Japanese Experiment Module-Exposed Facility) to observe the complex dynamics of the Earth's atmospheric carbon cycle. The OCO-3 payload is designed to collect the spaceborne measurements needed to quantify variations in the column-averaged atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) dry-air mole fraction, XCO2, with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to improve the understanding of surface CO2 sources and sinks (fluxes) on regional scales (≥1000 km), and the processes controlling their variability over the seasonal cycle.

OCO-3 will be installed robotically on the exterior of the space station's Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility Unit, where it will measure and map carbon dioxide from space to increase our understanding of the relationship between carbon and climate.

Note: The OCO-3 instrument is described in a separate file (ISS-OCO3) on the eoPortal.


Figure 2: OCO-3 sits on the large vibration table (known as the "shaker") in the Environmental Test Lab at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The exposed wires lead to sensors used during dynamics and thermal-vacuum testing. Thermal blankets will be added to the instrument at Kennedy Space Center, where a Space-X Dragon capsule carrying OCO-3 will launch in on a Falcon 9 rocket to the space station on May 1, 2019 (image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) 3)

STP-H6-XCOM (Space Test Program-Houston 6-X-ray Communication) demonstrates a space communication and tracking system using a beam of modulated X-rays rather than radiowave frequencies traditionally used for communication. The demonstration includes a novel technique for generating X-rays that can be switched on and off at rates much faster than traditional X-ray sources. It uses as a receiver the NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer), already mounted on the space station. 4)

Note: The STP-H6-XCOM is described in a separate file (ISS-XCOM) on the eoPortal.

PBR (Photobioreactor): Today the life support systems that sustain astronauts in space are based on physicochemical processes. The Photobioreactor investigation aims at demonstrating that microalgae (i.e. biological processes) can be used together with existing systems to improve recycling of resources, creating a hybrid life support system. This hybrid approach could be helpful in future long-duration exploration missions, as it could reduce the amount of consumables required from Earth, and will first be tested in space on the ISS.

Photobioreactor is an investigation installed in the U.S. Destiny Lab, located in the vicinity of the ESA payload Life Support Rack on the International Space Station.

Space applications: The Photobioreactor expands current Life Support System technology to include a biotechnological component, which can work in tandem with existing physio-chemical systems to close the life support system loop, a step necessary for long-duration human missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The algae used, Chlorella vulgaris, can also be used in the future as a nutrition source for crews.

Earth applications: Algae biomass is used on ground as food, food supplements, pharmaceuticals, animal food, biofuels, and carbon dioxide capture and storage. Algae grow faster and require less space and area compared to higher plants. Closed photobioreactors offer higher controllability and less contamination by side organisms compared to open ponds. A potential spin-off of PBR@LSR is an increased level of automation and efficiency of the cultivation process even for greater plants (artificial terrestrial areas of algae cultures).

Note: The PBR is described in a separate file (ISS-PBR@LSR) on the eoPortal.

Hermes Facility (Multi-Use Microgravity Experiment Platform) : The Hermes Facility is an experiment station that can communicate with scientists on the ground and give them the ability to control their studies almost as if they were in space themselves. Hermes will be carried to the space station aboard the SpaceX CRS-17 ferry flight. 5)

Hermes is the creation of Dr. Kristen John, a researcher with the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) division at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC). John and her research team developed Hermes as a way to study how samples of simulated asteroid particles behave in microgravity and the vacuum of space.


Figure 3: Hermes Principal Investigator, Kristen John, stands in front of the Hermes hardware. On the right is the Hermes Facility, and on the the left is Cassette-1, the first set of science experiments to be installed in the Facilit (image credit: NASA)

Hermes is a research facility on the ISS aimed at regolith and granular material investigations with applications to asteroids, planetary science, and exploration. Hermes is a reconfigurable on-orbit facility capable of accommodating up to four user-configurable experiment volumes at a time. The facility provides long duration exposure to microgravity, vacuum (at least 10-3 Torr), power, lighting, cameras, customizable experiment tools, downlink of data, access to data storage, autonomous monitoring, acceleration measurements, and ground commanding of the lighting, cameras, and experiments tools. The facility is open to small experiments that can fit within the Hermes volume and interface requirements. 6)

Once installed by astronauts on the space station, scientists will be able to take over the experiment from Earth to study how regolith particles behave in response to long-duration exposure to microgravity, including changes to pressure, temperate and shocks from impacts and other forces. The investigations will provide insight into the formation and behavior of asteroids, comets, impact dynamics and planetary evolution.

Organs on Chips Advance Human Health Research: Scientists are using a new technology called tissue chips, which could help predict the effectiveness of potential medicines in humans. Fluid that mimics blood can be passed through the chip to simulate blood flow, and can include drugs or toxins. In microgravity, changes occur in human health and human cells that resemble accelerated aging and disease processes. This investigation allows scientists to make observations over the course of a few weeks in microgravity rather than the months it would take in a laboratory on Earth.


Figure 4: Made of flexible plastic, tissue chips have ports and channels to provide nutrients and oxygen to the cells inside them (image credit: NASA)

Figure 5: Living 3D versions of human organs called Tissue Chips are being sent to the International Space Station to be studied in microgravity (video credit: Science@NASA, Published on 18 April 2019)

Nano Antioxidants experiment: This ESA experiment looks for novel ways to stimulate cells in the battle against muscle loss, heart failure, diabetes or Parkinson's disease. Going down to the genetic level, scientists hope to find a tailored solution that will stop the detrimental effects of long stays in Earth orbit and in deep space. 7)


Figure 6: Nanoceria. Down to the microscopic level, nanoparticles show promising properties. A team of experts in Italy has spent years tailoring tiny inorganic materials and analyzing their behavior. Some have magnetic properties, others are able to give electrical stimuli. In this picture, a peculiar type of nanoparticle is mimicking the biological activity of enzymes in living organisms. These ceramic particles, called nanoceria, are chemically designed in a laboratory and can display a powerful antioxidant activity. The nanoparticles are highlighted in fluorescent green, while the nucleus of each cell is shown in blue. The skeleton of the cell, or cytoskeleton, appears in red. These tiny, smart particles could hold a key to fight chronic disease, as they are able to protect organisms from the damage caused by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell damage. Oxidative stress occurs naturally and plays a role in the ageing process, but also in several pathological conditions, such as heart failure, muscle atrophy and Parkinson's disease. One way to fight this natural wear is through the intake of antioxidants – cells that can prevent or slow damage to other cells caused by free radicals (image credit: Gianni Ciofani)



Mission status

• May 7, 2019: Six spaceships are now parked at the International Space Station and the Expedition 59 crew is working on the newest science delivered Monday. Astronauts will continue to live and work in space longer and scientists want to know how humans and a variety of other organisms adapt to support these missions. 8)

- Six spaceships are now parked at the International Space Station and the Expedition 59 crew is working on the newest science delivered Monday. Astronauts will continue to live and work in space longer and scientists want to know how humans and a variety of other organisms adapt to support these missions.

- NASA astronaut Anne McClain tended to several dozen mice delivered to the orbital lab Monday on the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. The rodents' immune systems are similar to humans and scientists are monitoring them to detect any changes caused by microgravity.

- NASA astronaut Christina Koch set up the MSG (Microgravity Science Glovebox) today to begin operations with the new Micro-14 pathogen study. Microgravity can increase the virulence of pathogens and doctors are seeking to understand the process to keep space crews safe and healthy.

- Koch and McClain both started Tuesday (7 May) unpacking frozen biological samples from Dragon. The duo stowed the samples into different science freezers aboard the station for later analysis and experimental work.

- McClain, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Nick Hague also explored head and eye pressure caused by upward fluid shifts due to the effects of microgravity. The long-running human research experiment seeks to reverse the upward flow and alleviate the symptoms reported by astronauts.


Figure 7: The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is installed to the Harmony module's Earth-facing port a few hours after it was captured by astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Nick Hague with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on May 6, 2019 (image credit: NASA)

• May 6, 2019: Two days after its launch from Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station's Harmony module at 9:32 a.m. EDT. 9)

- While the ISS was traveling over the north Atlantic Ocean, astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA grappled Dragon at 7:01 a.m. EDT using the space station's robotic arm Canadarm2.


Figure 8: May 6, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Six spaceships are docked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon, Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter and Russia's Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships (image credit: NASA)


1) "SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space Station with NASA Science, Cargo," NASA Release 19-035, 04 May 2019, URL:

2) Stephen Clark, "Launch Schedule," Spaceflight Now, 29 April 2019, URL:

3) "Testing OCO-3," NASA/JPL, 29 April 2019, URL:

4) "Space Test Program-Houston 6-X-Ray Communication," NASA, URL:

5) "Hermes to Bring Asteroid Research to the ISS," NASA, 24 April 2019, URL:

6) "Hermes Facility," NASA, URL:

7) "Stop ageing in space," ESA, 04 May 2019, URL:

8) Mark Garcia, "New Science Being Unpacked and Worked Aboard Orbital Lab," NASA, 7 May 2019, URL:

9) Norah Moran, "SpaceX Cargo Craft Attached to Station," NASA, 6 May 2019, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (

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