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NASA FACTS Vol. II, No. 10
An Educational Services Publication of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The Biosatellites, earth-orbiting biological satellites, are scheduled for a series of launches beginning in early 1966. Living things, journeying into space, will be exposed t o a great many unusual effects. Plant and animal specimens, single cells and complex organisms, will be included. The mission of the Biosatellites i s t o study the effects on living organisms of weightlessness, radiation, weightlessness cornbined with radiation, and the absence of the effects of the earth's rotation, such as the removal of the normal 24 hour day night cycle. The information the scientists obtain i s expected t o shed light on the fundamental processes of life and have vital application to the field of manned space flight. Thus, NASA's Biosatellite program marks the decisive leap of biology into full scale ex-
perimentation i n space, t o take advantage of unique opportunities to study the basic properties and nature of living earth organisms with tools previously unavaiIa bIe. The Biosatellite i s essentially a very special Biolokind of biological laboratory in space.
Biosatellite in orbit. The circular motion is the satellite's "free fall." Since the acceleration of the satellite in orbit i s equal to the acceleration of gravity, it is weightless.
Page 2 ‘ gists can conduct experiments in living organisms in the weightless state, for example. Then, by recovering the specimens and comparing their findings with the immense amount of data they have already collected on earth, where gravity i s “1 g,” they can find out just what the effects of zero gravity are. “1 g” means that a gravitational force producing an acceleration of approximately 32 feet per second is constantly pulling everything toward It i s the force of gravthe center of the earth. ity at the earth’s surface. All known living forms have evolved in this “1 g” environment. Man is accustomed to this pull because it is normal in his life. By substituting centrifugal force for acceleration, scientists can study most of the effects of gravity on living organisms right here on earth-but only from “1 g” upward on the scale, that is, for forces greater than gravity a t the surface of the earth. The biologists ask: “What if life on earth were to experience some other gravitational level, from “1 g” down to zero? Would it have any profound effect on i t s development? Where can we find out what will happen to living organisms if we were to remove gravity altogether?” The means of finding the answers i s an orbiting satellite. It i s the free fall of the satellite that provides the weightless laboratory. At the distance the Biosatellite will be orbiting, there i s still 95% of the earth’s gravity, but, since the acceleration of the orbiting Biosatellite equals the acceleration of the earth’s gravity, it i s weightless. If it does not tumble (move around any of the three axes) appreciably, s o as to experience an acceleration any greai O W ten-thousandth of a everything will also be ‘weightless.
NASA FACTS Vol. II, No. 10
k loss may result. There may k some deterioration in the blood-circulating system which normally works against gravity. On the long space journey, the heart muscles may undergo loss of tone because of disuse and fail under the stress of re-entry. Prolonged absence of sensation in the inner ear and weight-bearing muscles may have an adverse effect on maintaining normal balance and coordination. Long periods of confinement, isolation and monotony of the space journey may have serious effects on brain functioning and may weaken a person’s ability to concentrate and make decisions. Another vital problem in prolonged space flight is radiation. Solar or sun flares can make the amount many times greater in local areas than would normally be anticipated. Although solar flares are unpredictable, their high energy particles are a constant hazard to manned space flight. Therefore, this Biosatellite will use a radiation source which will approximate the radiation dosage range to which astronauts might be ’ c exposed. If these two factors, radiation and weightlessness, are combined, the effect of their working together may be “synergistic” (that is, much greater than expected from their simple addiThis combination may tion), or antagonistic.
BIOLOGICAL SPACE HAZARDS
Previous flights of men, plants and animals have demonstrated that an absence of gravitational stress can be tolerated for a few days without dramatic ill effects. But there i s reason t o believe that more extended journeys may raise formidable problems. There i s evidence that the bones and muscles may weaken because of inaction, and calcium
Prolonged weightlessness may cause loss of calcium i n bone structure, weakening of muscles, deterioration i n the bloodcirculating system. Prolonged exposure to radiation i s a hazard which may be complicated by weightlessness.
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SIX FLIGHT P R O G R A M
Rhythms of physiological activity may b e built into living moterials (left) or may b e imposed from outside (right).
intensify or reduce well-known radiation effects in two areas: the somatic or non-inheritable effects and the genetic or hereditary effects. Another potentially troublesome area concerns what i s called circadian (about-a-day) rhythms. Most physiologic activity i s rhythmic within a period of 24 hours. These rhythms control processes within many cells, as well as in entire organisms. Jet travellers are well aware that sudden changes in time zone upset the 24hour cycle of their bodies. Scientists are not certain whether these rhythms are built into the living material (endogenous) or whether they are being imposed by some outside forces whose own rhythms act like pacemakers (exogenous). The biologists intend to explore the nature of these rhythms further in the Biosatellite. They want to know what will happen to the “biological clocks” o f living organisms when we remove them from the effects of the earth’s rotation, when instead of being subjected t o a 24 hour input, they g o into a 90 minute orbit-for as long as 21 days or more. In order to make an all out attack on these and many other problems, the Biosatellite program will be asking questions about life on every level of organization. Leading biologists have submitted proposals for experiments. These have been evaluated by biologists on NASA’s advisory committees and by specialists of the National Academy of Sciences. They examine each proposed experiment t o see if it i s a valid scientific experiment which can be conducted only in space, and equally important, if it i s capable of being conducted in a Biosatellite flight.
A six flight program i s planned with the first launch scheduled in early 1966, followed by successive launches at three month intervals. The experiments are divided into three major payload categories: 1. Radiation Group, 2. General Biology and Biorhythm Group, and 3. Primate Group. The first flight of the Biosatellite, a 3 day orbit, will carry experiments t o study the effects of weightlessness, and weightlessness combined with a known source of radiation. The specimens include pepper and flowering plants, wheat seedlings, amoeba, mammalian cells, frog eggs, sea urchin eggs, bread mold, fruit flies, beetles, wasps and bacteria. Proposed specimens for the five subsequent Biosatellite flights will include plants, rodents, human tissue culture, and for the primate group, pigtail monkeys.
The recovery capsule has a structural shell which is identical for all three groups o f experiment payloads. Supplementary rings a n d brackets are provided to adapt the basic capsule for each experimental payload.
ACCESS D W E
The profile arrangement for typical experiments in the Radiation Group is shown in the diagram “Radiation Experiments.” In order to receive different dosages from the on-board radiation source, specimens are located at various distances from the radiation source. Other specimens will be shielded so as t o receive no radiation. The former will give
NASA FACTS Vol. II, No. 10
their normal 24 hour day-night cycle. They will be in orbit for periods of up t o 27 days. The environment in the capsule i s approximately the same as for the radiation experiment group. The instrumentation will include artificial lighting, time-lapse photography, and continuous on-board recording of experimental data.
In the Primate Group (see diagram “Primate Experiments”) the studies will be conducted on the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the blood circulating system, and the central nervous system and behavior, skeletal systems and metabolism o f primates for periods of 30 days. The monkey i s restrained in a couch which protects him during the expected accelerations. The restraint system also prevents the monkey from interfering with the instrumentation. A life support system i s furnished, including feeding and watering devices. Provision i s made for lighting, and a camera to record his movements. The environment of the capsule i s the same as for the radiation group, with the addition of supplies for the animal for the 30 day missions. Exhaled carbon dioxide gas i s continuously removed to keep the level below 1 percent.
biologists the effects of weightlessness combined with radiation a t various levels. The shielded specimens will provide data on the effects of weightlessness alone. The environment of the capsule must duplicate certain conditions on the ground, hence, the atmosphere in the cabin will consist of 18 to 22 percent oxygen and the remainder nitrogen. The pressure will be maintained at 14.7 psi (pounds per square inch), the same as we experience at sea level. The temperature will be 70 degrees F plus or minus 5 degrees. The relative humidity limits are 40 t o 70 percent.
The diagram “Biorhythm and General Biology Experiments” shows the inboard profile arrangement of the internal packaging for the experiments in that group. The experiments will study the effects o f weightlessness on cellular processes and plant growth, and the effect on behavior of removing living organisms from the effects of the earth’s rotation such as from
BIOSATELLITE C O N F I G U R A T I O N
The configuration of the spacecraft within the payload shroud of the thrust-augmented Delta launch vehicle i s shown in the diagram “Biosatellite Configuration.” The spacecraft has a maximum diameter of 57 inches and i s about six feet long. Overall weight i s between 950 and 1 1 50 pounds, depending on the mission.
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M a j o r sections of the spacecraft.
M A J O R SECTIONS O F THE SPACECRAFT
The Biosatellite consists o f two major sections (see diagram), a re-entry vehicle and an adapter. The re-entry vehicle configuration is a scaled-up version of another flight proven and highly successful spacecraft and i s a spherecone shape with a 40 inch diameter cone base and an overall length of 48 inches. A method for quick access to the specimen compartment makes use of a breech ring for inspection of experiments as late as 3 hours before lift off. The adapter i s a cylinder-cone configuration o f 40 to 57 inches in diameter and a length of
approximately 37 inches. Equipment not needed after orbiting the earth i s located in the adapter and is not returned to earth. As shown in the diagram “Exploded View of Biosatellite” the re-entry vehicle consists of a forebody section, a recovery capsule, a thermal (heat) cover and a thrust cone. The forebody section i s made up of a phenolic nylon heat shield and fiberglass liner, ejected after re-entry. The recovery capsule contains the experiment data and the equipment required for recovery, life support and telemetry. Telemetry i s the science of measuring a quantity, transmitting the measured value to a distant station, and there interpreting, indicating, or recording the quantities measured.
NASA FACTS Vol. II, NO.10
"Exploded" view of the Biosatellite.
Equipment for in-orbit telemetry, tracking (the process of following the movement of a satellite by radar, radio and photographic observation), and command (a signal which initiates or triggers an action in the device which receives the signal), i s designed to be compatible with the NASA tracking network. The re-entry telemetry subsystem i s compatible with equipment carried aboard recovery ships and search aircraft. Power for the 3-day missions i s supplied b y conventional batteries. For all other missions the prime source of electrical power during orbit is the hydrogen-oxygen ionic membrane fuel cell similar t o that used on Gemini. The fuel cell operates on the principle that ions (atoms unbalanced electrically by the removal of
one or more electrons) move across a solid electrolyte ion-exchange membrane to the oxygen cavity where, b y the combination with oxygen, they provide a current flow, with water a s a byproduct. During orbit, a very sensitive attitude control system will detect any tumbling, that is, rotation about any of the three axes (an axis is a straight line about which a body rotates) by sensing minute changes in acceleration. A cold gas iet control system applies correction when the accelerations exceed preselected thresholds. During the last orbit, the spacecraft must be aligned with the earth in the proper attitude needed for retrofire (the firing of the rocket fitted on a satellite t o produce thrust opposed to
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Mission profile for the Biosatellite.
forward motion). This will be done by flight proven systems. An infra-red scanning device points the spacecraft toward the earth in the proper attitude, that is, it controls the pitch. A magnetometer, an instrument that measures the earth’s magnetism, orients it toward the proper place on the earth, that is, it controls the yaw. After the retrofire, aerodynamic forces (forces which act on bodies moving through air or other gaseous fluids) take over and point the heat shield toward the line of flight. The capsule will come down near Hawaii, and will b e caught in mid air, or, if the catch misses and the capsule lands in the ocean, dye markers and radio equipment will be used to locate it in the water. A maximum of six hours has been allowed t o get the specimens back t o the laboratory on land.
The reliable Thrust-Augmented Delta launch vehicle was selected for all Biosatellite missions.
The Biosatellite will be put into a circular
orbit around the earth very close to the equator. For 95 percent of the time after injection into orbit, the effective gravitational force will not exceed one ten-thousandth of a “g.” In the Biosatellite we are provided with the opportunity to evaluate and test major biological hypotheses. Such data i s of fundamental value t o biology. It i s extremely important for defining hazards to astronauts as well as determining whether there i s any degradation in human performance. In addition, it i s anticipated that much of the acquired space biology information will be applicable to the well being of man in his terrestrial environment.
NASA FACTS Vol. II, No. 10
The launch vehicle for t h e DIOsatellite program i s the Thrust Augmented Delta, here shown i n place It i s "augfor a Syncom launch. mented" b y adding the three small Castor solid propellants rockets a t the base of the booster.
NASA FACTS format i s designed for bulletin-board display uncut, or for 8 x 10% looseleaf notebook insertion when cut along dotted lines and folded along solid lines. For notebook ring insertion, punch at solid dots in the margins.
NASA FACTS i s an educational publication of NASA's Educatianal Programs and Services Office. It will be mailed to addressees who request it from: NASA, Educational Publications Distribution Center, AFEE-1, Washington, D.C., 20546.
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