July 15 (UPI) — A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 5,800 pounds of supplies and science experiments is on its way to the International Space Station after being launched Thursday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Among the science experiments is one that will help scientists research the impacts of airborne mineral dust.
According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the EMIT instrument it developed employs NASA imaging spectroscopy technology to measure the mineral composition of dust in Earth’s arid regions.
Mineral dust blown into the air can travel long distances and affect the Earth’s climate, weather, vegetation and more, according to NASA.
Dust with dark minerals can warm an area by absorbing sunlight, while light-colored dust can cool it. Blowing dust can also affect air quality and phenomenon like snow melt and phytoplankton health in the oceans.
Images will be collected for a year and will be used to generate maps of the mineral composition in Earth regions that produce dust.
Other experiments headed to the ISS include an immunosenescence investigation to study how microgravity affects immune function and aging during space flights.
Immunosenescence is the gradual age-related deterioration of the immune system.
According to NASA, the SpaceX flight also includes an experiment to study the dynamics of microbiomes in space. On Earth, microorganisms facilitate key functions in soil like carbon cycling, the cycling of other nutrients and plant growth support.
A high school weather study experiment on this mission will teach students aerospace science by having them design a CubeSat.
The experiment is called BeaverCube, and NASA says it uses multiple cameras in a 3U CubeSat to take color images of oceans to detect temperatures of cloud tops and ocean surfaces.
The Biopolymer Research for In-Situ Capabilities will examine how the process of microgravity affects creating a concrete alternative made with organic and onsite materials like lunar or Mars dust.
The SpaceX resupply mission is expected to dock with the space station about 11:20 a.m. EDT Saturday, according to NASA.