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Orbital CRS-5 launching hot and bright science to space
by Staff Writers
Houston TX (SPX) Oct 06, 2016

A burning heptane droplet during the Flame Extinguishing Experiments investigation on the International Space Station. Image courtesy NASA. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Orbital ATK is scheduled to send new science experiments to the International Space Station in early October on its sixth Commercial Resupply Services (CSR) mission. The Cygnus spacecraft will blast off from Wallops Island, Virginia atop an Antares rocket, carrying supplies for the crew along with dozens of experiments, including studies on fire in space, the effect of lighting on sleep and daily rhythms, collection of health-related data, and a new way to measure neutrons.

Low-temperature fires with no visible flames are known as cool flames. In previous combustion experiments aboard the space station, researchers observed cool flame burning behaviors not predicted by models or earlier investigations. Cool Flames examines low-temperature combustion of droplets of a variety of fuels and additives in low gravity.

This investigation employs the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR), a general purpose system for combustion experiments aboard the space station with combustion chambers, fuel and oxidizer controls and cameras. The payload launching for Cool Flames includes enhancements to the CIR: a new camera system with filters designed to look at these invisible flames, upgraded hardware for image processing and storage, and a new radiometer package for measuring radiation produced by combustion.

Data from this investigation could help scientists develop more efficient advanced engines and new fuels for use in space and on Earth.

Light plays a powerful role in our daily, or circadian, rhythms. Astronauts aboard the space station experience multiple cycles of light and dark every 24 hours, which, along with night shifts and the stresses of spaceflight, can affect their sleep quality and quantity. Poor sleep impairs alertness, reaction time, and cognition and can increase risk of accidents.

The Lighting Effects investigation tests a new lighting system aboard the station designed to enhance crew health and keep their body clocks in proper sync with a more regular working and resting schedule. The system uses adjustable light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and a Dynamic Lighting Schedule (DLS) that varies intensity and spectrum of the LEDs in tune with sleep and wake schedules. Research has shown that enhancing certain types of light can improve alertness and performance while other types can promote better sleep.

Lighting manipulation has potential as a safe, non-pharmacological way to optimize sleep and circadian regulation on space missions. People on Earth, especially those who work night shifts, could also improve alertness and sleep by adjusting lighting for intensity and wavelength.

A user-friendly tablet app provides astronauts with a new and faster way to collect a wide variety of personal data. The EveryWear investigation tests use of this French-designed technology to record and transmit data on nutrition, sleep, exercise and medications.

Astronauts use the app to complete questionnaires and keep medical and clinical logs. They wear a Smartshirt during exercise that records heart activity and body position and transmits these data to the app, while a fingertip device records and transmits pulse and blood pressure. A sensor patch placed on the forearm records and transmits real-time skin temperature and activity level to assess sleep quality. Finally, rather than manually recording everything that they eat, crew members scan barcodes on food packets to collect real-time nutritional data.

EveryWear has potential for use in science experiments, biomedical support and technology demonstrations.

Outside the Earth's magnetic field, astronauts are exposed to space radiation that can reduce immune response, increase cancer risk, and interfere with electronics. The Fast Neutron Spectrometer (FNS) investigation will help scientists understand high-energy neutrons, part of the radiation exposure experienced by crews during spaceflight, by studying a new technique to measure electrically neutral neutron particles.

These particular particles pass through most measuring systems undetected, but the FNS uses a "gate and capture technique" that slows down neutrons and captures them in special glass fibers loaded with lithium.

That process produces a unique flash of light, which custom electronics in the FNS recognize and analyze to determine radiation level. This technology is less susceptible to false triggers from other forms of radiation and can significantly improve reliable identification of neutrons in the mixed radiation field found in deep space. This improved measurement will help protect crews on future exploration missions.

Because it experiences radiation from a variety of sources, the space station provides an ideal environment for evaluating the FNS.

The space station serves as an orbiting lab for a wide range of science investigations such as these, designed to benefit future space exploration as well as life on Earth.

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Related Links
Cool Flames at NASA
Station at NASA
Station and More at Roscosmos
S.P. Korolev RSC Energia
Watch NASA TV via Space.TV
Space Station News at Space-Travel.Com

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