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NASA sends a surgical robot and a metal 3D printer to the space station

NASA sends a surgical robot and a metal 3D printer to the space station

The International Space Station resupply mission and its effects on Earth

The International Space Station (ISS) is a unique platform for scientific research and technology development, and resupply missions are essential to support activities on board. The latest ISS resupply mission includes innovative studies in the areas of metal 3D printing, semiconductor production, thermal protection for reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, robotic surgery, and cartilage tissue regeneration. This research not only aims to improve the sustainability of space missions, but also has important implications for technologies and health care here on Earth.

3D printing in space

One study conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA) concerns the 3D printing of small metal parts in microgravity. “This research gives us a first understanding of how a 3D printer behaves in space,” said Rob Postema of the European Space Agency. “A 3D printer can create many shapes, and we plan to print samples to understand how printing in space differs from 'printing on Earth' and to see what types of shapes we can print using this technology. Additionally, this activity helps show how crew members can work Safely and efficiently print metal parts in space. The results could lead to improved understanding of the functions, performance and processes of metal 3D printing in space, as well as the quality, strength and properties of printed parts. 3D printing can be used to create parts for equipment maintenance during future long-duration space missions and to Moon or Mars, reducing the need to pack spare parts or plan for every tool or item that might be needed, saving time and money at launch.Advancements in metal 3D printing technology could also benefit potential applications on Earth, including production Engines ⁤ for the automotive, aviation and marine industries, and the construction of shelters after natural disasters. A team led by Airbus Defense and Space SAS under contract with the European Space Agency developed the survey.

Production of semiconductors in microgravity

Semiconductor Fabrication and Thin Film Integrated Coatings (MSTIC) studies how microgravity affects thin films that have a wide range of uses. “The potential to produce films with superior surface structures and a wide range of applications, from renewable energy to advanced sensor technology, is particularly revolutionary,” said Alex Hayes of Redwire Space, which developed the technology. “This represents a major leap forward in space manufacturing and could represent a new era of technological advancement with far-reaching implications for both space exploration and terrestrial applications.” This technology could enable autonomous manufacturing to replace many of the machines and processes currently used to produce a wide range of semiconductors.

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Launching the mission and its objectives

Northrop Grumman's commercial resupply mission, the 20th of its kind, will launch a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Space Force's Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida by the end of January. This mission will transport important scientific experiments to the International Space Station, helping to improve our understanding of how microgravity affects different processes and materials.

Thermal protection for re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere

One of the experiments conducted on board the aircraft concerns thermal protection systems for re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. These studies are extremely important to ensure the safety of astronauts and their equipment during their return to Earth. Research in this area could lead to major advances in spacecraft design and thermal protection, with direct benefits for future space missions and potential terrestrial applications.

Robotic surgery and cartilage tissue regeneration

Other studies include robotic surgery and cartilage tissue regeneration, which has the potential to revolutionize the medical field both in space and on Earth. Robotic surgery could allow for more precise and less invasive interventions, while regeneration of cartilage tissue could lead to new treatments for joint diseases and trauma. This research shows how space exploration can have a direct impact on the quality of life and health of people here on Earth.

In conclusion, the ISS resupply mission⁢ not only supports activities on board the space station, but also contributes to improving our understanding of various processes and materials in microgravity conditions. Studies conducted during this mission have the potential to lead to major advances in many fields, from industrial production to medicine, demonstrating once again how space exploration can have tangible benefits for humanity.

Space research and its applications on Earth

Scientific research conducted in space has led to discoveries and innovations that have had a significant impact on daily life here on Earth. From satellite communications to hydroponic farming techniques, advances made possible by microgravity experiments have opened new frontiers in many fields. In this article, we'll explore some of the latest ongoing research on the International Space Station (ISS) and how this could lead to technological advances and improvements in the quality of life on Earth.

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Production of semiconductors in microgravity

Improve efficiency and performance

Microgravity provides a unique environment for the production of semiconductor devices, which may lead to the development of more efficient, high-performance electrical devices. It is also possible that manufacturing semiconductor devices in microgravity can improve their quality and reduce the materials, equipment, and labor needed. In future long-duration missions, this technology could provide the ability to produce components and devices in space, reducing the need for resupply missions from Earth. The technology also has applications for devices that harvest energy and provide energy to the Earth.

Long term goals

“Although this initial pilot program is designed to compare thin films produced on Earth and in space, the ultimate goal is to expand to produce a variety of production areas in the semiconductor field,” Hayes said.

Modeling return to atmosphere

Bring experiments back to Earth

Scientists conducting research on the International Space Station often return their experiments to Earth for further analysis and study. However, the conditions spacecraft experience during re-entry, including extreme heat, can have unintended effects on their contents. Thermal protection systems used to protect spacecraft and their contents are based on digital models that often lack validation from real flights, which can lead to an overestimation of the required system size, taking up valuable space and mass. The Kentucky Reentry Probe Experiment-2 (KREPE-2), part of an effort to improve thermal protection systems technology, uses three capsules equipped with different thermal shield materials⁢ and a variety of sensors to obtain⁤ data on real conditions of reentry.

Testing new materials

“Building on the success of KREPE-1, we improved the sensors to collect more measurements and improved the communications system to transmit more data,” said lead researcher Alexander Martin of the University of Kentucky. “We have the opportunity to test several NASA-provided heat shields that have never been tested before, and one that was produced entirely at the University of Kentucky, which is also a first.” The capsules could be equipped for other atmospheric reentry experiments, and support improvements in heat shields for applications on Earth, such as protecting people and structures from wildfires.

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Remote robotic surgery

Surgical robot performance testing

The Robotic Surgery Technical Demonstration tests the performance of a small robot that can be controlled remotely from the ground to perform surgical procedures. The researchers plan to compare procedures in microgravity and on Earth, to evaluate the effects of microgravity and the time delay between space and Earth.

Medical and rural applications

The robot uses “two hands” to grip and cut simulated surgical tissue and provide tension that is used to determine where and how to cut, according to Shane Faritor, chief technology officer of Virtual Incision Corporation, the developer of the investigation with the University of Nebraska. ‍ Longer space missions increase the likelihood that crew members will require surgical procedures, whether simple stitches or emergency appendectomy. The results of this research can support the development of robotic systems to perform these procedures. Furthermore, surgeon availability in rural areas of the country declined by nearly a third between 2001 and 2019. Miniaturization and the ability to control the robot remotely can help make surgery available anywhere, anytime, anytime.

Growth of cartilage tissue in space

Two innovative technologies

The cartilage tissue construction in the cabin demonstrates two technologies, Janus Base Nano-Matrix (JBNm) and Janus Base Nanopiece (JBNp). JBNm is an injectable material that provides a scaffold for chondrogenesis in microgravity, which can serve as a model for studying cartilage diseases. JBNp provides an RNA-based treatment to combat diseases that cause cartilage degeneration.

Health benefits on earth

Cartilage has a limited capacity for self-repair, and osteoarthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in elderly patients on Earth. Microgravity can lead to cartilage degeneration that mimics the progression of age-related osteoarthritis but occurs more quickly, so research into microgravity could lead to faster development of effective treatments. The results of this research could advance cartilage regeneration as a treatment for joint damage and disease on Earth, and help develop ways to maintain healthy cartilage on future missions to the Moon and Mars.