Volker Hessel with pills of the type being sent into space.
Photo: University of Adelaide


The launch of Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket is slated to occur later this week, delivering NASA science investigations, supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.

Antares rocket is slated for Thursday, Oct. 1 liftoff from the mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
Credit: NASA

One payload: 60 pills to test how they cope with the rigors of space radiation and microgravity.


The University of Adelaide is investigating how pharmaceutical tablet formulations do in space, first within the ISS, then next year, how tables cope outside the ISS.

Materials used in the tablets being tested — packaged in blister packs as they would be available commercially — include Ibuprofen as a pharmaceutical active ingredient and vitamin C, and “excipients” – a pharmacologically inert, adhesive substance, as honey, syrup, or gum arabic, used to bind the contents of a pill or tablet.

Lunar base dispensary?
Credit: ESA/Foster + Partners

Lunar pharmacy?

“The tablets which were made at the University of Adelaide, will be exposed to the microgravity and cosmic rays found in the harsh environment of space for six months before returning to Earth where we will test what effect the space environment has had on them,” says Volker Hessel, Research Director of the Center for Sustainable Planetary and Space Resources in a University of Adelaide press statement.

“We only used ingredients from materials that are only available on the Moon, and in so doing we are making the first steps towards autonomous on-board pharmaceutical manufacturing.”

The ability to produce drugs in space and on-demand could be of benefit to pharmaceutical companies here on Earth as well.

The experiment is being done by University of Adelaide, in collaboration with Space Tango, and Alpha Space.

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