CU-Boulder hardware to fly on first-ever NASA-contracted resupply mission to space station

Oct 06, 2012
Space hardware developed at CU-Boulder is flying on the first ever NASA-contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

A University of Colorado Boulder space center is providing hardware and technical support for scientific experiments aboard the first-ever NASA-contracted resupply flight to the International Space Station, slated for launch Oct. 7 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

, a NASA-funded center in CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department, has provided an automated, suitcase-sized incubator carrying fluid-processing devices for use by Montana State University researchers to test how a pathogenic responds to the of . The experiments will fly on the unmanned Dragon cargo spacecraft developed by Space Exploration Technologies X, or , which made history during a May 2012 by becoming the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the , or ISS.

BioServe's incubator, known as a Commercial Generic Apparatus, or CGBA, will provide space support for nearly 130 fluid-processing devices headed for ISS and loaded up with a common pathogen known as Canada albacans, said BioServe Business Development Manager Stefanie Countryman. The pathogen is under study by MSU faculty and students because it can cause localized infections in healthy people but can trigger potentially lethal infections in immune-compromised people.

Previous ground-based studies at MSU and elsewhere have shown C. albicans may become more pathogenic in near-weightless environments, a concern for astronauts whose immune systems can be compromised by working and living in the low gravity of space. The MSU studies are led by Sheila Nielson-Preiss, a former faculty member at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Several BioServe researchers are now at Cape Canaveral helping to integrate the MSU experiments into the space flight hardware that will be loaded onto the Dragon spacecraft in preparation for the Oct. 7 flight. BioServe, which has trained current and former ISS astronauts on how to use its flight hardware, will be available throughout the mission to provide remote support for the experiment as it is conducted on ISS, said Countryman. There currently are two CGBAs built by BioServe flying on ISS.

BioServe is a nonprofit center founded at CU-Boulder in 1987 to develop new or improved products through space life science research in partnership with industry, academia and government, said BioServe Director Louis Stodieck. Since 1991 BioServe has flown more than 50 payloads in space, including 40 on NASA space shuttles before the fleet was retired in 2011.

In addition to space shuttles and ISS, BioServe hardware and experiments have flown on Russia's Mir space station (which operated from 1986 to 2001) two Russian spacecraft, Soyuz and Progress, and the Japanese spacecraft HTV-3. BioServe also has payloads and instruments manifested on a number of space missions launching from around the world in the next several years.

"Just because NASA's space shuttle fleet was retired does not mean we are cutting back on our work here at BioServe," said Countryman. "Our hardware and payloads will continue to fly as we collaborate with NASA, private companies, universities and other institutions, and we expect to play a significant role in the commercialization of space as the private sector ramps up spaceflight activities."

In September, two student space experiments selected as winners of an international science contest sponsored by YouTube, Lenovo and Space Adventures were made "flight-ready" by BioServe researchers and conducted on the ISS under the direction of NASA astronaut Sunita Williams. The experiments were live-streamed back to classrooms around the world.

"We would be unable to carry out all of our research without the help of CU-Boulder students," Stodieck said. "Both undergraduate and graduate students play an important role in designing, building and testing spaceflight payloads, activities that can give them a significant advantage when they move on to careers in the aerospace industry."

Founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk, SpaceX is modifying the current unmanned Dragon spacecraft into a manned craft that the company hopes to use to shuttle astronauts to and from ISS within the next five years. In August, NASA announced up to $900 million in funding for three aerospace companies partnering with the space agency to developed manned spacecraft – SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp., based in Sparks, Nev., and which is developing a spacecraft called the Dream Chaser at its Louisville, Colo., facility.

Explore further: Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

More information: For more information on BioServe visit

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Global student space experiments transformed

Sep 11, 2012

(—Space experiments dreamed up by three teenage winners of an international contest that will be streamed live on YouTube from the International Space Station Sept. 13 were made flight-ready by ...

Butterfly payload to launch Nov. 16 on space shuttle

Nov 10, 2009

When NASA's space shuttle Atlantis launches for the International Space Station on Nov. 16 it will carry a University of Colorado at Boulder butterfly experiment that will be monitored by thousands of K-12 ...

Recommended for you

Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

17 hours ago

Kazakhstan's first-ever Earth observation satellite is to be fired into orbit next week from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana, launch company Arianespace said.

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

20 hours ago

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

Apr 23, 2014

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

Professional and amateur astronomers join forces

( —Long before the term "citizen science" was coined, the field of astronomy has benefited from countless men and women who study the sky in their spare time. These amateur astronomers devote hours ...

Google+ boss leaving the company

The executive credited with bringing the Google+ social network to life is leaving the Internet colossus after playing a key role there for nearly eight years.

Facebook woos journalists with 'FB Newswire'

Facebook launched Thursday FB Newswire, billed as an online trove of real-time information for journalists and newsrooms to mine while reporting on events or crafting stories.