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SpaceX CRS-22 Launches Technology Development and Fundamental Science Investigations to the International Space Station

Press Release From: Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)

Kidney on a Chip_In Space

Multiple payloads launched to the International Space Station (ISS), including kidney tissue on a chip.

SpaceX’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the orbiting laboratory, contracted through NASA, from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. This mission includes more than a dozen investigations sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory.

Several investigations are in the areas of fundamental science and technology development, including multiple projects funded by other government agencies. Research within these strategic focus areas furthers fundamental knowledge that may enhance future inquiries and advances technologies to bring value to our nation and drive a robust market in low Earth orbit. Below highlights some of the fundamental science and technology development investigations on SpaceX CRS-22.

Organs-On-Chips Take Flight

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences—one of the 27 institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health—continues to work with the ISS National Lab to fund projects as part of the Tissue Chips in Space initiative. Tissue chips contain human cells grown on an artificial scaffold to model the structure and function of human tissue. This mission includes a second Tissue Chips in Space investigation from the University of Washington. 

Kidney chip researchers Ed Kelly, Jonathan Himmelfarb and Cathy Yeung. Credit: Kiyomi Taguchi.

The research team is using tissue chip systems that model the human kidney to better understand kidney stone formation, the body's use of vitamin D, and a condition in which a person’s urine contains unusually high amounts of protein. Results from this investigation could lead to new treatment options for patients on Earth.

Another investigation on this mission was funded through a National Science Foundation solicitation focused on transport phenomena and fluid dynamics. In this project, researchers from the University of Delaware will examine self-assembly of colloidal particles within fluid systems, a phenomenon critical to the development of advanced electronics and nanotechnologies. The number of advanced materials manufactured by the assembly of colloidal particles is growing. Assembly can be controlled by applying external fields, such as a magnetic field, that affect the motion of the particles and their organization during assembly. Performing self-assembly research in microgravity is advantageous because on Earth, the particles settle out of the liquid due to gravity with a sedimentation rate that increases as they form large and complicated structures. The colloidal particles examined in this experiment could serve as building blocks for advanced materials that control the propagation of sound and heat in electronics.

Also on this mission is an investigation from the University of Notre Dame that aims to study the fundamental physics of transport phenomena at small scales. The experiment will examine how metal nanostructures interact with light to create a high degree of local heating and evaporation of surrounding liquid. Specifically, the research team will examine the relationship between nanostructure geometry (i.e., particle size and shape and inter-particle spacing) and the process of bubble formation when the nanoparticles are excited by light. In microgravity, buoyancy-driven convection is eliminated, allowing the team to observe bubble dynamics in detail and with unprecedented clarity. A better understanding of the evaporation process could lead to several important applications, such as the development of new highly selective cancer therapies and new methods of water desalination and purification.

For more information on all ISS National Lab-sponsored research launching on SpaceX CRS-22, please visit our mission overview page. To learn about the latest science and technology advancements happening onboard the ISS, register to attend the 2021 ISS Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC), which will be held virtually August 3-5. To register for free, go to

About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under cooperative agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit

See the UW Medicine Newsroom story Kidney chip studies trek again to Space Station