Atlas V rocket will carry UCF experiment to International Space Station tonight


  • Photo via ULA website
Tonight, NASA will be breaching the final frontier once again with the launch of an Atlas V rocket on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. 

At approximately 11:05 p.m., the United Launch Alliance will send a 188-foot-long rocket carrying Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft, which will be loaded with four tons of cargo for astronauts currently living in space. 

The cargo, according to the Orlando Sentinel, includes supplies, spare equipment and five science experiments, including one experiment by UCF professor Joshua Colwell. 

Strata-1, the UCF experiment done in a partnership with Texas A&M University, aims to investigate "the properties and behavior of regolith, the impact-shattered “soil” found on asteroids, comets, the Moon and other airless worlds," according to a NASA release

The device that will conduct the experiment was supplied to the mission by UCF's Center for Microgravity Research
  • Photo via ULA website

It's an important experiment because it could give scientists clues as to how the soil interacts with spacecrafts and spacesuits, which could predict and prevent risks to astronauts who visit these places.

The other experiments onboard the rocket include Saffire-I, which will research fire safety in space and the Gecko Gripper investigation, which will test adhesive devices based off the synthetic hairs found on the feet of lizards. 

Although it doesn't have the pizzazz of some of the other experiments, Colwell says in a press release that the experiment could help with a manned mission to Mars, according to the Orlando Sentinel

“Compared to some of the other experiments this time around, ours doesn’t sound incredibly sexy,” Colwell says in the release. “But it is important, especially as we get ready to send spacecraft and people to asteroids and eventually Mars.”

This will be ULA's first launch of 2016 and it's 62nd of the Atlas V. 

So far, the launch is on schedule and ULA has provided a live stream on its website for those who can't see the launch in person. 

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