International Space Station.
Credit: NASA

A Chinese experiment is headed toward the International Space Station (ISS), tucked inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft that launched yesterday, June 3.

NanoRacks, a Houston-based company that helps commercial companies make use of the space station, worked with the Beijing Institute of Technology to fly Chinese DNA research to the orbiting outpost.

No commercial Chinese payload has ever flown to the orbiting lab before.

Space radiation

The SpaceX CRS-11 spacecraft is to linkup with the ISS on Monday, if all goes as planned.

SpaceX Falcon booster topped with Dragon supply ship departs for the International Space Station.
Credit: SpaceX

China’s Xinhua news agency reported today that the 8-pound (3.5 kilogram) experiment is keyed to answer questions, such as: “Does the space radiation and microgravity cause mutations among antibody-encoding genes and how does it happen?”

The experiment is headed for the U.S. side of the ISS, with Xinhua noting that astronauts there will conduct studies using the device in about two weeks, data from which will be sent back to the Chinese researchers.

Wolf trap

“There is a U.S. law in place, known as the Wolf amendment, that bans cooperation between the U.S. space agency NASA and Chinese government entities, but this deal is purely commercial and therefore considered legal,” Xinhua said.

Chinese Professor Deng Yulin, who led the Chinese research, said that this is the first time an ISS experiment has been independently designed and fabricated in China.

“This cooperation does not violate any laws and regulations, including the Wolf amendment. We do it in an open and visible way,” Deng told Xinhua. “This is a new model of cooperation that we can follow in the future.”

Spirit of the concerns

Inside Outer Space contacted NanoRacks leader for a comment:

“We were careful to honor not only the Wolf Amendment but the spirit of the concerns of some towards working with the Chinese,” Jeff Manber said. “But, via the commercial pathway, we are able to craft a world-class research project that demonstrates the leadership of NASA and the space station in low-Earth orbit,” he said.

Manber said he was pleased to have this first commercial project from China underway “and look forward to carefully building a program that enhances the commercial competitiveness of American companies in space. I also look forward to one day soon working onboard the Chinese space station,” he added.

For more information on this experiment, go to my 2015 story:

US-China Space Freeze May Thaw with Historic New Experiment

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