The fifth series of payloads sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) onboard Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s (SpaceX) Dragon capsule. CASIS is tasked with managing and promoting research onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory.  

Research onboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule includes a range of experiments sponsored by CASIS from the commercial and academic communities. Below is an overview of the major payloads sponsored by CASIS:

Osteo-4 (NIH Transitioned Payload)

PI: Paola Divieti Pajevic, MD, Ph.D., Boston, MA, United States

Osteocytes and Mechanomechano-transduction (Osteo-4) studies the effects of microgravity on the function of osteocytes, which are the most common cells in bone. These cells reside within the mineralized bone and can sense mechanical forces, or the lack of them, but researchers do not know how. Osteo-4 allows scientists to analyze changes in the physical appearance and genetic expression of mouse bone cells in microgravity.                            

PCG-3 (Merck)

PI: Paul Reichert

Microgravity Growth of Crystalline Monoclonal Antibodies for Pharmaceutical Applications focuses on the protein crystal growth (PCG) of two human monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are specialized types of proteins made by immune cells that can bind to target cells or other proteins to perform a specific task. The monoclonal antibodies in this investigation have been developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck Research Laboratories and are being used in drugs designed for the treatment of a variety of human diseases. Merck plans to grow high quality crystals in microgravity to improve drug delivery and purification methods and to determine protein structure.

Rodent Research-2 (Novartis)

PI: Dr. Samuel Cadena 

The primary objective of this research is to monitor the effects of the space environment on the musculoskeletal and neurological systems of mice as model organisms of human health and disease. Living in microgravity results in significant and rapid effects on the physiology of mice that mimic the process of aging and some diseases in humans on Earth, including muscle atrophy and the loss of bone mineral density. This project will help Novartis scientists to discover new molecular targets that can facilitate the development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of muscle and bone related diseases. 

Synthetic Muscle (Ras Labs)

PI: Lenore Rasmussen, Ph.D.

This investigation will test radiation resistance of an electroactive polymer called Synthetic Muscle™, developed by Ras Labs, which can contract like real muscle and can also expand. Improvement of durability and function of radiation-hardened and radiation-resistant synthetic muscle will advance robotics, realistic prosthetics, and human-like robotics on Earth. This investigation stems from a partnership associated with the MassChallenege Startup Accelerator. 

“Our team at CASIS congratulates SpaceX on another successful mission carrying a variety of investigations destined for the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory,” said CASIS Director of Operations and Education Initiatives Ken Shields. “This mission combines commercial investigators who are repeat users of the National Laboratory, academic inquiry and materials science research, all of which translates to improving life on Earth. We look forward to many more diverse sets of research flying to station through our launch partners.” 

For additional information on the research sent to the ISS National Laboratory on the SpaceX Dragon capsule, please visit this video link: