Last November, the first Costa Rican space mission was launched, generated through the MUSA project. Their mission was to test technology that would study the fungus that causes Panama disease (a disease that damages banana crops around the world) in microgravity. After a successful launch, the results analysis phase followed, which were recently presented. In it, it was possible to validate all the mechanical, electronic and software aspects of the experiment.
The initiative is led by the company Orbital Space Technologies (OST) –created by TEC students– and has 2 phases. The first was the suborbital flight and the second -still undated- will be to send the experiment to the International Space Station (ISS, in English). At the same time, they want to verify the technology and installed capacity in Costa Rica to carry out this type of high-level research in space.
What were the findings?
As reported by the TEC, in this first stage it was verified that the device reacted adequately to the demands of a space flight, managing to integrate with the vehicle’s systems. In addition, they verified that the conditions required for the survival of the fungi were maintained, so that they can interact in space and that the experiment works as designed.
The monitoring cameras and sensors also worked properly. “We are satisfied with the results, because it reaffirms that we are on the right track and validates the engineering that represents the basis for the orbital experiment and other missions to come”, said Valeria Dittel, CEO of Orbital Space Technologies.
In the part of the lessons, they stressed that improvements can be made in the topics of liquids. “It is invaluable information to prepare us for the ISS. It was possible to observe that the pump worked correctly delivering fluid to the samples during its active state in microgravity. However, the seal system can still be improved and we are happy to have found this point of improvement now, which will allow us to bring the most robust product to the orbital platform”, explained Carlos Rodríguez, OST’s head of operations.
This was the second time that a device designed and manufactured by Costa Rican hands has reached space. In 2018, there had already been success with the Irazú satellite, also developed at the TEC. With this, it is expected to position Costa Rica as a benchmark in material for the aerospace industry in the area.
“We seek to be the bridge between Latin America and space. We know the potential that exists in our countries and we want to give that opportunity to our researchers. We seek to promote not only access to space research, but also the generation of experiments with high added value that allow us to stand alongside great powers on these issues, such as the United States or Europe”, added Rodríguez.