When the SpaceX-3 cargo resupply mission launched to the International Space Station April 14, an experiment designed by Merck Research Laboratories of Kenilworth, N.J., was among the cargo headed to space.
The experiment, located inside the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, arrived at the orbiting outpost yesterday morning at 10:06 a.m. EDT.
The experiment, Microgravity Growth of Antibody Crystals in the Hand Held High Density Protein Crystal Growth Hardware (HDPCG), focuses on the crystallization of a human monoclonal antibody, a specialized type of protein made by immune cells that can bind to target cells or other proteins to perform a specific task. The monoclonal antibody in this investigation is under investigation for the treatment of human diseases, and crystallizing it may help the pharmaceutical industry determine its physical structure, which could lead to new drugs.
SpaceX-3 is NASA's third contracted resupply mission to the space station by U.S. company SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif. SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft launched atop the company's Falcon rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 4:58 p.m. EDT.
SpaceX developed its Dragon capsule, the only cargo spacecraft currently servicing the space station with the capability to return cargo back to Earth, with NASA and now successfully has completed three missions to the orbiting outpost. Expedition 39 crew members captured the SpaceX-3 Dragon using the station's robotic arm at 7 a.m. Wednesday, April 16. The capsule is scheduled to remain attached to the station unit May 18. It then will return to Earth and splash down in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast California. It will return samples from scientific investigations currently underway aboard the space station.
The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and makes research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. The space station has had continuous human occupation since November 2000. In that time it has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The space station remains the springboard to NASA's next great leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.
Date: Apr 21, 2014