Return of BioScience-4 from International Space Station

The ARA Project (BioScience-4) from kiwi with Space Technology and Advanced Research Systems Inc. (STaARS) and the principle investigator Dr. Araceli Espinosa, a neurobiologist from the University of Los Angeles California (UCLA), was an experiment on the ISS (CRS-16) to investigate the impact of real microgravity on the proliferation of human neural stem cells and derived- oligodendrocytes.

SpaceX’s Falcon-9 launched on December 5th 2018 at 13:15 EST from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral. Installation into STaARS-1 experiment facility on-board the ISS was performed 88 hours after launch (Dec 9th at 10:23 GMT) successfully by the crew.

Dr. Espinosa selected two different cell-culturing ScienceShells by kiwi. One design, the „Type-IV“ InnerShell was utilized for active cell culturing – providing nutrients and handling waste during the course of the experiment. The second type of hardware, passive „8-Chamber Petri Dish“ InnerShell,  was used for simple cell culturing with a provision for gas exchange. Dr. Espinosa utilized six „Type-IV“ active units and four passive „8-chamber“ ScienceShells, yielding a total of 10 experiment containers for the on-orbit investigation.

The kiwi ScienceShell hardware was integrated into the micro-gravity environment on the ISS via the host STaARS-1 experiment facility. This facility resides in an express rack locker in the US National Lab module of the ISS and is designed to host the kiwi catalog of modular ScienceShells, which are installed/removed by ISS crew. The STaARS-1 EF supplies power and communication interfaces to the kiwi ScienceShells and once the experiment hardware is installed, STaARS operations personnel (or via automatic pre-programmed timelines) are able to remotely command and control the experiment per mission requirements.

After successful activation, processing and storing of the 10 ECs on the ISS, the active and passive ScienceShells were removed from STaARS-1 EF on Jan 13th and packed into the Dragon capsule approximately 15 hours before unberth – everything under temperature control.

Splash down took place 6 hours later on Jan 14th at 05:10 GMT in the pacific ocean. The 4 passive „8-chamber“ ScienceShells were moved to 37°C stowage on the recovery ship while the 6 active „Type-IV“ ScienceShells were stowed for descent in a 4°C Double Cold-Bag (DCB).

STaARS and Dr. Espinosa performed the de-integration at Dr. Espinosa’s lab at UCLA on Jan 15th.

Looking only on the successfully and in accordance to the respective scientific requirements executed experiment units, 9 of 10 units were processed with 100% and 1 unit with 50%. 

Dr. Espinosa is writing a scientific report with the results of the experiment right now.