First ICE Cubes experiments for International Space University (ISU)
launched on SpaceX
The newly installed International Commercial Experiments Cubes – ICE Cubes for short – facility will soon receive the first experiment cubes after today’s successful SpaceX Dragon resupply launch.
Setup as a partnership between Space Applications Services and ESA, the ICE Cubes service provides commercial access to space for research, technology and education and extends access to weightlessness to ensure humans live better, work smarter, and explore farther.
The first experiment cubes are from the International Space University (ISU) and will demonstrate the versatility of the experiments that can be carried on through the ICE Cubes service. Once on board the Space Station, the plug-and-play cubes need only to be installed into the facility by an astronaut. And the data collection can begin.
One of the cubes will study the microgravity’s effect on microbes with the purpose to evaluate the feasibility of using them on asteroids to produce methane. Eventually, this methane could be used as a propellant, one of the most important resources a visiting spacecraft needs.
Another cube from the ISU contains a more artistic and inspiring demonstrator that will be used to have people interact in real time with this project in microgravity. Having a kaleidoscope inside the cube, it will be actuated from the ground based on people’s heartbeats. Live interaction is the goal through an installation of a portable ground station at specific events and venues.
ISU researchers can access the data at any time. ICE Cubes offers unique 24-hour access to experiments via a dedicated mission control centre at Space Applications Services’ premises in Sint-Stevens-Woluwe (Brussels area), Belgium. Customers can connect at any time to their experiment from their own location over internet to read the data and even send commands directly.
An ICE Cubes experiment’s content depends on the user’s domain of interest which can have wide variety; experiments in the areas of fluids, materials, microbiology, radiation exposure, etc or applied R&D activities in biotechnology, pharmaceutical or novel materials, etc. Users can expect an experiment upload batch every 4 months. Experiment cubes can even be returned after their time on board for ground evaluation.
Next ICE Cubes customers launches are planned for the 16th SpaceX resupply mission coming up in November.