3. April 2018
Falcon 9 launcher makes first in a series of deliveries for Alexander Gerst's mission

hori­zons mis­sion – first ex­per­i­ments on their way to the ISS

Lift-off of the Falcon 9 launcher with Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral
Lift-off of the Fal­con 9 launch­er with Drag­on cap­sule from Cape Canaver­al
Image 1/5, Credit: NASA

Lift-off of the Falcon 9 launcher with Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral

At 22:30 CEST on 2 April 2018 (16:30 lo­cal time), a Fal­con 9 launch­er with a US Drag­on cap­sule lift­ed off from the Cape Canaver­al space­port in Flori­da, bound for the ISS. To­geth­er with sup­plies for the as­tro­nauts, the cap­sule is al­so car­ry­ing ma­te­ri­als for re­search pur­pos­es, such as the My­otones, Metabol­ic­Space, SPACE­TEX-2 and ASIM ex­per­i­ments, as well as DLR’s time cap­sule for the hori­zons mis­sion.
Alexander Gerst training with MetabolicSpace and SPACETEX-2
Alexan­der Gerst train­ing with Metabol­ic­Space and SPACE­TEX-2
Image 2/5, Credit: ESA/DLR

Alexander Gerst training with MetabolicSpace and SPACETEX-2

The Ger­man ESA as­tro­naut Alexan­der Gerst us­es the Metabol­ic­Space and SPACE­TEX-2 ex­per­i­ments in pre­lim­i­nary tests for the hori­zons mis­sion. Metabol­ic­Space is a wear­able an­a­lyt­ics sys­tem for bod­i­ly and metabol­ic func­tions, aimed at fa­cil­i­tat­ing the mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion of as­tro­naut train­ing pro­cess­es on board the ISS. De­signed es­pe­cial­ly for use on board the ISS, the func­tion­al cloth­ing used for the SPACE­TEX-2 ex­per­i­ment is in­tend­ed to op­ti­mise heat ex­change on the body’s sur­face.
Artist’s impression of ASIM on the ISS Columbus Module
Artist’s im­pres­sion of ASIM on the ISS Colum­bus Mod­ule
Image 3/5, Credit: ESA/David Ducros

Artist’s impression of ASIM on the ISS Columbus Module

The ASIM ex­per­i­ment is set to ob­serve the in­ter­play be­tween gam­ma ra­di­a­tion, light­ning and elec­tri­cal dis­charges in Earth’s up­per at­mo­sphere for at least two years. This im­age shows the de­vice in­stalled on the ISS Colum­bus Mod­ule (low­er ap­pa­ra­tus).
Ground tests for the Myotones experiment
Ground tests for the My­otones ex­per­i­ment
Image 4/5, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Ground tests for the Myotones experiment

Sci­en­tists are con­duct­ing the My­otones ex­per­i­ment to in­ves­ti­gate the biome­chan­i­cal prop­er­ties of hu­man mus­cle. In the run-up to the hori­zons mis­sion, ground tests were con­duct­ed at the Eu­ro­pean As­tro­naut Cen­tre with Ger­man ESA as­tro­naut Alexan­der Gerst.
Time capsule for the future
Time cap­sule for the fu­ture
Image 5/5, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Time capsule for the future

Filled with pho­tographs, mes­sages and ob­jects re­lat­ing to DLR’s ar­eas of re­search, this time cap­sule will trav­el to the ISS and back. It will on­ly be re­opened 50 years lat­er, at the Haus der Geschichte (House of His­to­ry) in Bonn.
  • At 22:30 CEST on 2 April 2018, a Falcon 9 launcher with a US Dragon capsule lifted off from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in Florida, bound for the ISS.
  • Together with supplies for the astronauts, the capsule also carries equipment to be used in research, such as the Myotones, MetabolicSpace, SPACETEX-2 and ASIM experiments, as well as DLR’s time capsule.
  • Some of the experiments will be carried out by the ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst himself during his horizons mission.
  • Focus: spaceflight

The first experiments to be conducted as part of the horizons mission with German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst are on their way to the International Space Station (ISS). At 22:30 CEST on 2 April 2018 (16:30 local time), a Falcon 9 launcher with a US Dragon capsule lifted off from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in Florida, bound for the ISS. The supply craft will dock there on 4 April. Together with supplies such as food and clothing for the astronauts, the capsule also contains equipment to be used in research, including the Myotones, MetabolicSpace, SPACETEX-2 and ASIM experiments, and a time capsule created by the German Aerospace Centre (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). Gerst is due to lift off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on 6 June 2018, on board a Soyuz spacecraft bound for the ISS, where he will live and work for 187 days, until 10 December. On this, his second long-term mission, he will not only conduct an array of experiments, but from August will also serve as the first German commander of the space station.

The Myotones experiment investigates tired muscles in space

Myotones is one of the medical experiments in which Alexander Gerst will participate. Scientists from the Charité clinic in Berlin and the University of Southampton are looking to examine the biomechanical properties of resting human muscle. In order to prevent muscle and bone atrophy in space, astronauts train for at least one and a half hours every day. But how effective is this training, and how does it affect the biomechanical characteristics of an individual's musculature? To address this question, the astronauts involved in the horizons mission will use MyotonPRO, a device that already exists on Earth and has now been optimised for use in space. During the experiment, the roughly smartphone-sized device delivers a short pressure pulse to the body and calculates information about the elasticity, stiffness and residual stress (tone) of the resting muscle based on the reaction of the tissue to this pulse. The results of the experiment will be used not only for astronauts during space travel, but will also be used for rehabilitation following bone fractures.

MetabolicSpace – health checks without messy cables

The MetabolicSpace experiment, created by the Institute of Aerospace Engineering at TU Dresden, centres around a wearable analytical system for bodily and metabolic functions. It is aimed at significantly facilitating and improving the monitoring and evaluation of astronaut training on the ISS. Previous measuring systems could not be worn on the individual’s body, so the cables and tubes would hamper the astronauts while they were trying to train. Moreover, they could only be used for a short space of time. MetabolicSpace, on the other hand, comes in the form of a belt equipped with electronic measurement functions and sensors, and can be worn under clothing while training. The data are then sent to a laptop, where they can be evaluated. Along with the respiratory gases, the sensors also capture the wearer's respiratory rate, heartbeat and body temperature. MetabolicSpace is suited to monitoring the health and physical fitness of astronauts, but in future it could also be used for space tourism or to diagnose patients and athletes.

A better way to break a sweat – SPACETEX-2 aids training

The SPACETEX-2 experiment is also aimed at improving the comfort of astronauts during training. This functional clothing, designed specifically for use on board the ISS, has been developed by a research alliance made up of the Hohenstein Institute, the Charité clinic in Berlin and DLR. When an astronaut carries out his or her training routines, the heat exchange process on his or her body's surface is altered by microgravity. Heat builds up very quickly, and the astronaut's body temperature rises to over 39 degrees Celsius. In order to prevent damage to health, it is therefore vital to optimise heat exchange through the use of clothing made of new, high-tech materials. The predecessor model to this experiment, SPACETEX, was already successfully used as part of the Blue Dot mission in 2014. The textiles used in SPACETEX-2 were improved on the basis of the results from the previous model, and now have to undergo testing under space conditions.

Thunderstorms in Earth's upper atmosphere

For many years, scientists have been observing the phenomenon of thunderstorms that take place in Earth's upper atmosphere. The electrical discharges in the uppermost layers, in particular, are difficult to research from the ground. The European Space Agency's Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) experiment, mounted on the lower external platform of the Columbus laboratory, is intended to help with this. From there, ASIM is set to observe the interplay between gamma radiation, lightning and electrical discharges in the upper atmosphere for at least two years. The long-term objective is to gain new insights into the impact of these events on Earth’s atmosphere and climate.

From the present into the future – the time capsule

Together with the experiment supplies, the Dragon capsule also has the ESA/DLR PR package on board. Among other things, this contains a time capsule, in the form of an aluminium sphere made by trainees at DLR and containing the wishes and visions of the future sent by schoolchildren from all over Germany. They submitted their suggestions to the DLR as part of the 'Project_4D' campaign run by the DLR_next youth portal and the Stiftung Lesen (German Reading Foundation). The storage media inside the capsule also include 'Slices of Life' – photographs sent in by DLR's social media followers and reflecting their daily lives. Alexander Gerst will seal the time capsule on the ISS and hand it over to the Haus der Geschichte (House of History) Foundation in Bonn on his return, where it will be kept for 50 years before being reopened in 2068.

The launch of the Falcon 9 marks the start of a series of deliveries of experimental equipment and materials for the horizons mission. A Cygnus spacecraft will lift off on 20 May 2018 from Wallops Island, bound for the ISS. Its cargo will include the Cold Atoms Lab (CAL), MarconISSta and MFX-2 experiments, together with an EML high-speed camera. The launch of another Falcon 9 rocket carrying new supplies and experimental equipment is planned for 28 June from Cape Canaveral.

Contact
  • Diana Gonzalez
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion
    Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: +49 228 447-388
    Königswinterer Straße 522-524
    53227 Bonn
    Contact
  • Volker Schmid
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion
    Hu­man Space­flight, ISS and Ex­plo­ration
    Telephone: +49 228 447-305
    Fax: +49 228 447-737
    Königswinterer Straße 522-524
    53227 Bonn
    Contact
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