The CRExIM payload, which contains T-cells isolated from mice and grown in the laboratory, will be exposed to microgravity for about three and a half minutes. These types of cells are the main warriors of our immune system, tracking down and defeating cells that are infected or have become cancerous. The idea behind the experiment is to get insights on how brief exposure to microgravity orchestrates the landscape of different types of immune cells, say Llanos and his colleague Kristina Andrijauskaite with the University of Texas Health Science Center.
Sathya Gangadharan, a mechanical engineering professor who helped advise on the project on the design of the structure of the payload, says: “I’m very glad that Embry-Riddle is pioneering this new area of cancer cell research from a biomedical engineering perspective, utilizing its past experiences in microgravity to bring solutions to problems that are critical to the medical field.”
Getting it Off the Ground
The payload itself will be housed in a 3D-printed structure designed and printed at Embry-Riddle’s Engineering Physics Propulsion Lab on the Daytona Beach Campus. It was tested to meet the different milestones set by Blue Origin’s payload users guide for ensuring the safety and containment for biological agents.
To plan the mission, Llanos formed three teams to work on the suborbital payload: a flight operations team, a design and engineering team, and a science team.
“We went through various design iteration processes and worked closely to test the designs using computational analysis software,” says Vijay Duraisamy, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student who worked on the project along with a large team of Llanos’ undergraduate students.
Collaboration is Key
Because of the nature of this multidisciplinary project, students had to build and expand their team dynamics by working with other teams at the university, as well as industry experts.
Llanos says the project, which was awarded second place at the 2017 Embry-Riddle Discovery Day Awards, allowed the team to work on real-world opportunities while giving students the chance to collaborate with other teams and mature their problem-solving skills.
A second payload, which will measure conditions aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket before the spacecraft’s first manned flight, is in the works.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 80 baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through the Worldwide Campus with more than 125 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and through online programs. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit erau.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.