Friday, January 2, 2015

Launch Date is January 6

As you are likely aware, the launch of Spx-5 did not occur in December. It slipped - also called a Launch Slip or Scrub or Push, but they are all ways of saying it didn't happening on time. What happens when a launch scrubs or slips so close to the actual launch date? What does this mean for a biologist with experiments set to launch on that flight?

Well that answer depends mostly on how long the launch has been delayed before the next expected launch is to happen.  Usually when a launch slips right before lift-off, it is usually only delayed a day or so, and most of the time the experimental set-up can accommodate this sort of short delay.  In our case the plants are prepared and turned over to launch as seeds in a dormant state and can easily accommodate short delays. However this dormancy cannot be maintained indefinitely. 

What did this mean for our experiment? Bear with me while I delve into our timeline - Sterile, dormant seeds  are placed on sterile petri plates (see earlier post) approximately 10 days before turn-over to NASA so we can make sure they can be tested, confirmed and generally are good to fly. By the time the dormant plates make it up to the ISS and the astronauts get them unpacked, it will be about 2.5 weeks before the seeded plates are inserted into the plant growth hardware to initiate germination and growth. However the seeds will not stay viable indefinitely, and if the experiment does not get started within 4 weeks of the time the seeds are planted, we start to compromise germination. This means that for a launch delay of three weeks, we replanted the entire experiment this week. Fun!

Stay tuned. Those freshly replanted plates are headed to KSC this weekend for loading into Dragon.

No comments:

Post a Comment