Virgin Galactic Launched Galactic 07 Mission To Carry Experiments In Microgravity

6th Jun 2024
Virgin Galactic Launched Galactic 07 Mission To Carry Experiments In Microgravity

On Saturday, 8th June, Virgin Galactic will launch its “Galactic 07” Mission to deliver payloads for NASA and carry out several human-tended experiments in conditions of microgravity. This launch will mark the company’s seventh spaceflight carrying microgravity research and third since it entered commercial operations last year.

VSS Unity Is Launched On Its Final Commercial Flight

Updated on 9th June

Virgin Galactic launched its spaceship Unity on Saturday, 8th June, at Spaceport America, New Mexico. The spacecraft lifted off at 10:31 a.m. EDT (1431 GMT).

Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity space plane
Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity space plane. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Over the next hour, Unity ascended to an altitude of 44,562 feet (13,582 meters), where it was released and activated its rocket engine. This brought two pilots and four passengers into space and back. The mission, named Galactic 07, achieved a peak altitude of 54.4 miles (87.5 km).

As reported, it was the final journey of the VSS Unity space plane.

Galactic 07 Mission Details

According to Virgin Galactic’s research overview, the spaceship will turn into a suborbital science laboratory. It will carry an Axiom Space affiliated researcher astronaut Tuva Atasever to fly with three wearable payloads. Also, Tuva will take part in several valuable human-tended experiments physiological experiments. Additionally, Purdue University and UC Berkeley will have autonomous payloads on board, with backing from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.

Galactic 07 Mission Crew

The mission crew will include VSS Unity Commander Nicola Pecile, pilot Jameel Janjua, VMS Eve Commander Andy Edgell, and pilot C.J. Sturckow.

Experiments On Human Physiology For Galactic 07 Mission

Tuva Atasever’s flight is arranged through Axiom Space, the Houston-based firm developing the world’s first commercial space station.

Tuva Atasever
Tuva Atasever. Credit Virgin Galactic

The astronaut will carry three human-tended experiments from Türkiye and the U.S. Additionally, Tuva will participate in four Turkish physiological research studies, three of which were also part of the Ax-3 mission.

Effects Of Spaceflights On Astronauts’ Health

Scientists will use a physiological monitoring system to study various aspects of human performance and physiology throughout all phases of suborbital spaceflight. They will also test a smart personal dosimeter, developed by two Turkish universities and adapted for spaceflight, to monitor radiation exposure. 

One of the experiments will examine the precision of insulin pen dosage administration in microgravity.

“This experiment serves as a stepping stone to support astronauts with insulin-dependent diabetes and demonstrates a capability necessary for maintenance therapy and hyperglycemic states in insulin-dependent people with diabetes,” explained Dr John Marshall and Mr Alex Rubin from Axiom Space and TUA. “During the flight, Tuva will retain the insulin pens in his flight suit, dial an insulin dose, and dispense insulin from each pen into a collection container to study the accuracy of dose dispensation in microgravity.”

Cancer Investigation

Researchers will also study the effects of suborbital spaceflight on gene expression and its impact on the immune system’s response to cancer. 

“As the next step of the investigation, researchers aim to apply space-travel-induced EVs to healthy human cells to demonstrate that cellular adaptations occurring during space travel can be transferred to healthy cells. This approach could potentially be used to prepare astronauts for space missions long before they reach space conditions,” told Dr. Fatih İnci from Bilkent University National Nanotechnology Research Center (UNAM) – YUVA.

Impact Of Spaceflights On Immunity

Further analysis will look at how microgravity and radiation affect the number of specific immune cells in the blood. For this experiment, the researcher will collect astronauts’ blood samples. This will allow them to identify the genes affected by microgravity and observe whether their activity increases or decreases. After discovering these genes, the research team aims to understand how changes in their expression impact immune system cells, particularly in terms of anti-cancer activity.

Treatment In Conditions Of Microgravity

In another experiment, researchers will isolate and study tiny particles from cells, called extracellular vesicles, after suborbital spaceflight to see if they could be used in treatments for future astronauts.

“Myeloid-derived suppressor Cells (MDSCs) form when bone marrow releases immature cells into the bloodstream in response to chronic or acute inflammation, and these cells gain the ability to suppress the immune system. This investigation will determine the distribution and concentration of MDSC sub-populations in peripheral blood using pre-flight and post-flight blood samples from TUA’s astronaut,” said Prof. Dr. Güneş Esendağlı from Hacettepe University.

Researchers will also analyze the effects of radiation exposure from suborbital spaceflight. This marks the first time MDSCs in the blood of a suborbital spaceflight participant will be studied after radiation exposure. By understanding the characteristics and functions of MDSCs after spaceflight, investigators hope to develop therapeutic interventions for use both on Earth and in space.

Metabolic Changes In Astronauts

Finally, researchers will identify the metabolic and transcriptomic changes caused by suborbital spaceflight.

“The investigators will look at the physiological and biochemical changes in gene expression and metabolism of the astronaut under the influence of space environment conditions, namely the exposure to hypergravity, microgravity, and increased radiation,” highlighted Prof. Dr Emel Emregül from Ankara University.

This study will provide valuable data for future research in areas such as gravitational physiology, aviation, and space medicine. Additionally, it will contribute to the development of new treatments and preventive measures for diseases on Earth.

NASA’s Experiments For Galactic 07 Mission

NASA-funded experiments during the Galactic 07 Mission will include investigating how liquid moves in spacecraft propellant tanks after manoeuvres and testing new 3D printing techniques that could significantly reduce printing time.

Propellant Slosh In Fuel Tanks Of Maneuvering Spacecraft

When spacecraft accelerate in space, such as during manoeuvres for pointing, docking, or trajectory changes, the liquid in propellant tanks moves. Once the thruster firing stops, the liquid motion gradually decreases in the zero-gravity environment. This experiment will examine how quickly the liquid motion dampens after a rotational manoeuvre. The findings will help improve spacecraft pointing and mission operations by better understanding low-gravity propellant slosh.

3D Printing In Space

Computed Axial Lithography
Computed Axial Lithography (CAL). Credit: NASA

This experiment involves a new type of additive manufacturing called Computed Axial Lithography (CAL). Unlike traditional 3D printing, which builds objects layer by layer, CAL creates objects all at once by rotating a vial of photopolymer while exposing it to projected images, similar to a CT scan. This process allows for faster printing times, with parts typically forming in minutes or less. The experiment aims to demonstrate the capabilities of CAL in space by conducting printing tests during Virgin Galactic’s Galactic 07 mission.

Leave a Reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Related Articles

Explore Orbital Today