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Blue Origin launches rocket with UCF experiment

UCF experiments also launching with SpaceX

New Shepard on the launch pad the morning of Mission 8, April 29, 2018. Blue Origin launched New Shepard on its 9th mission on July 18, 2019. (Photo: Blue Origin)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Two collaborating mico-gravity experiments from the University of Central Florida are ready to launch this week, but Thursday's launch with Blue Origin had a special guest onboard: UCF’s throwback mascot Citronaut.

UCF physics professor Addie Dove is in West Texas at the Blue Origin New Shepard launch site where her experiment, Strata S-1, studying reactions of soil on the service of asteroids and other bodies -- in microgravity -- and a small stuffed Citronaut named Dave --- lifted off just after 9:30 a.m. EDT Thursday.

The space-suit wearing Orange was the Florida Technological University first mascot before the university became UCF. 

Dove takes Dave the Citronaut along on other planetary science trips and documents his appearances in the UCF's physics lab but this was his first spaceflight.

Blue Origin officials launched the reuseable New Shepard rocket carrying 38 microgravity research payloads to space.

UCF's experiment Strata contains four clear tubes with sensors and camera to record the small materials in microgravity to better learn how they react, or sort themselves out, Dove said. A previous version of Strata flew on the International Space Station.

Strata-1 and the regolith aboard the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

The purpose of studying these reactions will help future robotic or astronaut explorers prepare to safely work on the moon, asteroids and other surfaces.

Future Strata investigations could study how spacecraft and spacesuit materials react to rocky materials and anchoring techniques in dirt under microgravity environments.

On Friday, a sister experiment to Strata, known as Hermes, will lift off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral along with the other supplies and experiments bound for the International Space Station.

The SpaceX cargo resupply mission (CRS-17) was delayed from early this week to Friday due to a partial power outage on the space station. NASA robotics engineers were working to restore the outage Wednesday. For now, NASA and SpaceX are targeting 3:59 a.m. Friday for lift off.

Unlike Strata, which will launch on New Shepard and come back down within 15 minutes, providing important launch and liftoff reaction data, Hermes will stay on the International Space Station as facility to host other studies.

As for Citronaut Dave, he will be with the experiments inside the New Shepard capsule and will return to Earth after a brief spaceflight.

Give the little orange astronaut a follow on Instagram @Citronaut_Dave to follow his adventures.


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