NASA, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, spends billions of dollars every year to maintain the International Space Station or ISS. In this program, it coordinates with several other nations. Have you ever wondered how does NASA send cargo to the space station for the astronauts there? Let’s find out!
NASA sends unmanned spacecraft to carry the required cargo to the ISS. These spacecrafts are specially designed to carry cargo and not fit for human transportation. There are many options available from Russia, including the very popular Russian Progress spacecrafts. There is also the European Automated Transfer Vehicles, other than the Japanese Kounotori vehicles. Americans have their own versions of these carriers, like the American Dragon, popularly known as the SpaceX Dragon and the Cygnus. This year till July 2017, most of the cargo from NASA to the ISS has been carried by the Progress spacecrafts designed by the Russians.
Now, we come to the question, what is the kind of cargo that NASA sends over to the ISS? For starters, there are supplies that every human being needs to sustain. These are sent to the scientists and other space professionals working at the ISS. But that’s just a fraction of what a supply spacecraft carries. It is a question of a lot of money, so there is every effort made to make the most of this opportunity.
Scientific equipments required to maintain the ISS is definitely on the list. Scientists working there need these equipments and because these supplies are sent after months, care is taken to offer all that they might require during the months leading to the next supply cargo spacecraft. Other than essential supplies and equipments, NASA also sends experiments that need to be conducted in space. For example, during the cargo send-off this year on February 19, an experiment dealing with antibodies and immunological systems was sent for further tests. This experiment did not work out effectively on Earth, so gravity-free conditions will be ideal for the antibody crystals that keep collapsing due to gravitational forces.
Hardware is also part of the cargo lift from NASA to ISS. The idea of these missions is to provide opportunities for experiments that will not work on Earth and to explore scientific knowledge.