A Japanese cargo spacecraft loaded with experiment hardware, supplies and spare parts is scheduled to launch from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan to the International Space Station at 17:30 UTC Wednesday, May 20 (2:30 a.m. May 21 in Japan). The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) unpiloted H-II Transport Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) carries investigations testing a new livestreaming educational tool, microscope and telescope.
Here are details about some of the scientific investigations and facilities heading to the orbiting lab on HTV-9.
Coming to you live and interactive from space
A broadcasting studio is opening up in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), also known as Kibo. The JAXA-sponsored education-focused experiment known as THE SPACE FRONTIER STUDIO – KIBO enables new livestreaming capabilities on station. Terminals set up next to a window overlooking Earth in the JEM module are to be used for communication. The first round of demonstrations of the technology are set to occur this summer, testing out two-way livestreaming that allows people on the ground to communicate with the astronauts.
Looking back at Earth
Rather than looking out at the stars, this telescope points at our planet. The integrated Standard Imager for Microsatellites (iSIM), a very high-resolution optical binocular telescope developed by Spanish company SATLANTIS MICROSATS S.L., takes images of Earth at less than one meter of resolution. A combination of technologies including optics, mechanics, electronics and artificial intelligence algorithms achieves a high spatial resolution at significantly lower cost compared with traditional imaging systems of similar performance. This experiment demonstrates the technology and its functionality in the low-Earth orbit environment. The prototype is mounted to the JAXA External Facility platform on the space station, which provides sample environment and operational conditions for testing the device.
A clearer picture of biology in microgravity
The Confocal Space Microscope (Confocal Microscope) is a JAXA facility launching on HTV-9 that enables fluorescence live imaging of biological samples aboard the station. Confocal microscopy eliminates out-of-focus light or glare in specimens whose thickness is greater than the immediate plane of focus. The microscope can produce data on the fundamental nature of cellular and tissue structure and functions in real-time. When combined with the heating chamber system, the microscope enables long term 3D observation of living cells. While biological experiments are the first area of concentration, the microscope could be used for chemical studies as well.
Other investigations aboard the space station also have been exploring new types of microscopy in microgravity, including FLUMIAS-DEA, which observed samples of fixed cells and live cells using a miniaturized fluorescence microscope.
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