Feb. 12, 2015

Image Credit: NASA

On February 10, SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean about 7:44 p.m. EST 259 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, with nearly 3,700 pounds of NASA cargo, science and 3D printed samples from the International Space Station.

The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to Long Beach, where sensitive cargo will be removed and shipped back to NASA. Dragon will then make a return trip to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas by truck, for processing. The Dragon capsule is the only vehicle capable of returning significant amounts of payload from the ISS.

Among the returned cargo were the first ever 3D printed objects created using a 3D printer developed by Made In Space. These parts were created using relatively low-temperature plastic feedstock on the space station. Included in the samples is a small 3D printed ratchet made with a design file transmitted from Earth to the printer.

"Experiments like 3-D printing in space demonstrate important capabilities that allow NASA and humanity to proceed farther on the journey to Mars," Costello said. "Other investigations such as those focused on protein crystal growth take advantage of the unique microgravity environment and offer us new avenues to investigate troubling diseases back on Earth."

In addition to the 3D printed samples, the capsule returned samples hardware and data from several biology and biotechnology studies performed on the station.

NASA will now test the samples and evaluate future use of 3D printing technology on the station. They will also analyze returned plant samples to determine the molecular and genetic mechanisms that control plant development in microgravity. With this knowledge, scientists may be able to improve agricultural and bioenergy research on Earth, leading to crops that use resources more efficiently.

One of the experiments on board explored the production of high-quality crystals of the cystic fibrosis protein and other related proteins. Because many medically relevant proteins are difficult to crystalize on Earth, researchers attempt to grow them in space to help determine their shape and structure with the hope of improving drug therapies for cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system.

This Dragon capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Jan. 10, carrying over 5,000 pounds (2,267 kg) of food, spare parts and scientific hardware. It arrived at the space station two days later on January 12th.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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