NASA’s Mobile SpaceLab, incorporating technology developed by Maui-based HNu Photonics, will be used in biological experiments conducted on the International Space Station (ISS).
The lab is a fully automated, microfluidic and imaging platform which includes a tissue and cell culturing facility created by SCORPIO-V, the biological sciences division of HNu Photonics in Kahului. The facility can perform biology experiments in space without the need for crew operations for as long as a month. SCORPIO-V’s team of scientists will design and execute experiments to test the effects of microgravity on neurons and will control and monitor the experiments from Earth.
The Mobile SpaceLab was carried to the ISS on Sunday as part of Northrop Grumman’s 13th commercial resupply mission for NASA, using a Cygnus spacecraft on an Antares rocket launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
“As the U.S. and other nations and organizations around the world expand space exploration, it has become imperative to better understand what life in space does to the human body in order to mitigate potential health risks,” SCORPIO-V Principal Investigator Caitlin O’Connell said in a statement. “Furthermore, the neuron studies performed on the ISS with the Mobile SpaceLab hope to lend additional insights into our understanding of earth-bound age-related cognition and decline.”
Prior to the launch, O’Connell and SCORPIO-V Chief Biologist Devin Ridgley discussed the Mobile SpaceLab and mission in a NASA media teleconference.
In 2019, HNu Photonics was the first instrument builder to successfully be awarded a grant from NASA’s Space Biology Program to use the Mobile SpaceLab for its own biological experimentation during a roundtrip mission to the ISS. HNu Photonics was also previously awarded a grant from NASA to include its instrument on a Blue Origin launch and have a Space Act agreement with NASA.
SCORPIO-V is a division of space technology company HNu Photonics and based in Kahului, Hawaii.