SpaceX will launch its Dragon spacecraft for its 11th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre on June 1. Dragon will lift into orbit atop the Falcon 9 rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers living aboard the station, NASA said in a statement on Saturday. The flight will deliver investigations and facilities that study neutron stars, osteoporosis, solar panels and tools for Earth-observation. “In addition to studying the matter within the neutron stars, the payload also includes a technology demonstration called the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT), which will help researchers to develop a pulsar-based, space navigation system,” NASA said. Neutron stars are the glowing cinders left behind when massive stars explode as supernovas and contain exotic states of matter that are impossible to replicate in any ground lab.
These stars are called “pulsars” because of the unique way they emit light. As the star spins, the light sweeps past us, making it appear as if the star is pulsing. The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explored (NICER) payload, affixed to the exterior of the space station, studies the physics of these stars, providing new insight into their nature and behaviour. Neutron stars emit X-ray radiation, enabling the NICER technology to observe and record information about its structure, dynamics and energetics. NASA will also send new solar panels called Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) which are lighter and stores more compactly for launch than the rigid solar panels currently in use. ROSA has solar cells on a flexible blanket and a framework that rolls out like a tape measure.