Imagery from Data Downlinks Provides Insight on Fluids in Microgravity

 The official Space Tango OA-9 mission patch.

The official Space Tango OA-9 mission patch.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 13, 2018) – Space Tango today shared data downlinks and images from experiments being conducted on the International Space Station for a variety of commercial and educational payloads. NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Scott Tingle successfully installed Space Tango research payloads onboard the International Space Station (ISS) on May 25th at approximately 5:00 AM EST after the successful docking of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Commercial Resupply Services-9 (OA-9) cargo spacecraft. 

One of the payloads launched on OA-9 seeks to test a new liquid separation system developed by Zaiput Flow Technologies. Liquid separation is a critical step in chemical synthesis, and Zaiput’s new system could lead to significant improvements in drug development and production.  While common methods to separate liquids rely on liquid sedimentation, Zaiput’s system relies on surface forces to accomplish liquid-liquid extraction. 

“We designed and engineered flight hardware that allows Zaiput to evaluate separation based on surface tension, a method thought to be independent of gravity but never tested before,” explained TangoLab program manager Gentry Barnett. “The CubeLab system maintains separation of liquids and accommodates the unpredictable ways liquid moves when gravity is removed as a variable so that the physics of the process can be better understood.” 

A video of the data from research in microgravity is provided below:

The top line features a white oil and orange-dyed water mixture before entering the Zaiput liquid separation system. Once entering the system, the water and oil will separate. This can be seen in the bottom two lines where the liquids are now flowing independently and have been successfully separated in microgravity. 

“Zaiput proprietary technology enables one of the critical steps for chemical synthesis and this investigation may pave the way for additional complex chemistry projects in microgravity,” added Space Tango CEO Twyman Clements recently selected as #25 on Fast Company’s list of 100 Most Creative People in Business.  “We are pleased to lend our expertise in working in microgravity to the testing and validating of tools that allow this team and others to further the exploration of chemistry in space. We are also pleased to be supporting a number of educational STEM payloads on this mission that continues to inspire the next generation through research on the ISS.” 
Space Tango works alongside principal investigators and student teams, conducting a variety of research in microgravity, from design to implementation to develop CubeLabs that are internally unique to the research being conducted in microgravity.
During the remainder of the approximate month-long stay aboard the ISS, Space Tango will continue to monitor the progression of research payloads and collect data from their autonomous TangoLab facilities. 
Space Tango payloads recently delivered and installed for the OA-9 mission, along with images from data downlinks include:

PI: Andrea Adamo
The Continuous Liquid-Liquid Separation in Microgravity investigation will use a unique liquid separation system of relying on surface forces to accomplish liquid-liquid extraction.  While common separation methods rely on liquid sedimentation, the Zaiput Liquid-Liquid Separation system has the unique characteristic of relying on surface forces to accomplish liquid-liquid extraction. Besides having significant scientific value, the information gained from this work will be critical to define in detail the physics of the process and it would empower a scale-up of the systems to flow rates suitable for chemical production.

PI: Michelle Lucas

The Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Microgravity via Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis (Biological Nitrogen Fixation) experiment led by the Higher Orbits Go For Launch!program examines how the low gravity conditions of space affect the nitrogen fixation process during growth of a well-known legume –microclover. Automated laboratory modules maintain germination and growth conditions while atmospheric nitrogen is measured throughout the mission. Gaining a better understanding of the BNF process in a microgravity environment could be valuable in advancing technology which aims to progress the field of commercial BNF soil nutrition.

PI: Michael Fultz

The Contractile Properties of Smooth Muscle in Microgravity project is a research/educational venture led by the Craft Academy in collaboration with its partner - Morehead St. University (Morehead, KY). This project is the second of a two-part experiment with the purpose of evaluating the involuntary cell contractions of aortic
smooth muscle cells in a microgravity environment.  This research could produce new understanding of the contractile mechanism that operates within these cells to control blood pressure, and, in turn, could lead to novel hypertension treatment options.

This payload will also be the first payload to fly with power inside the MERLIN refrigerator facility. Successful demonstration of this capability could significantly improve how cell culture research is maintained until reaching the ISS.  

PI: Julie Keeble

The International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET) Multi-Experimental Module is a set of educational experiments to be performed and evaluated in a microgravity environment. Students are investigating the effects of the space environment on both life science and physical science experiments. The ISSET Multi-Experimental Module will contain three independent investigations: 

  1. The Immiscible Liquid Separation experiment will observe the mixing and unmixing of oil and water in microgravity. 
  2. The Effect of Hydropriming on the Growth of Basil experiment will examine the growth rates of microbasil seeds that have been hydroprimed prior to launch and those that have not .
  3. The Movement of Polar Liquids Across Electric Fields experiment will observe the effects of microgravity on the movement of a polar liquid in the presence of an electric field. 

PI’s: Howell Ivy and Dan Saldana

Quest Institute Multi-Experiment, Educational Investigation #2 is a multi-experimental payload that encompasses 14 independent life science and physical science mission objectives: 

  1. Maranatha rice decomposition in microgravity
  2. Copper crystal growth in microgravity
  3. Characterizing copper and bronze electroplating in microgravity
  4. Lactococcus fermentation in space
  5. The effect of microgravity on the magnetic qualities of magnetorheological fluids over time
  6. Slime mold (Physarum polycephalum) growth in patterned structure under microgravity
  7. Observation of slime mold inside 3D maze in microgravity
  8. Characterizing magnetorheological fluid in space
  9. Prevention of biofilm formation in microgravity using an antimicrobial copper paint
  10. Effects of microgravity on the electrochemical characteristics of a microbial fuel cell
  11. Efficacy of sharklet material in preventing growth of E. coli in microgravity
  12. Ferrofluid, light pressure, and radiation measurements in microgravity
  13. The effects of BAM-FX nutrient solution on plants in microgravity
  14. The effects of BAM-FX nutrient solution on plants (with endophyte) in microgravity

PI: Gentry Barnett

The Space Tango Microgravity Thermal Investigation will examine the thermal effects of heating and cooling methods in microgravity in the absence of convection. The payload will include thermal imaging and a grid of temperature sensors to map how active temperature disturbances are transferred within a sealed container.

Space Tango designs, develops, and operates systems for bioengineering and manufacturing in the microgravity environment. Founded in 2014, Space Tango established their first operational TangoLab facility on the International Space Station in 2016 and a second facility in 2017. To date, Space Tango has flown nearly 50 diverse commercial, academic, and STEM payloads. As a recognized leader in the development of fully automated, remote-controlled systems for research and manufacturing in orbit, Space Tango continues to provide expertise in technology and scientific consulting related to working in microgravity for industry and academic partners.  Space Tango envisions a future where the next important breakthroughs in both technology and healthcare will occur off the planet creating a new global market 250 miles up in low Earth orbit. For more information, visit