Cygnus cargo ship delivers 4 tons of supplies to space station, including new zero-gravity toilet


A Northrop Grumman Cygnus supply ship wrapped up an automated rendezvous with the International Space Station early Monday, bringing 7,800 pounds of cargo the outpost including research materials, a redesigned “female-friendly” toilet and a high-resolution virtual reality camera.

Sailing high above Egypt and the Gulf of Suez, commander Chris Cassidy, operating the lab’s robot arm, locked onto a grapple fixture at the base of the Cygnus at 5:32 a.m. EDT, two-and-a-half days after its launch atop an Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia.

Northrop Grumman names its cargo ships, and the latest honored astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who lost her life aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo ship was captured by the International Space Station’s robot arm early Monday as the two spacecraft sailed high above the Middle East.


“In the name of space exploration, all have given some, some have given all,” Cassidy said after capturing the cargo ship. “It’s an honor to welcome the good ship Kalpana Chawla, KC as we knew her. Welcome aboard the International Space Station, KC.”

With the cargo ship secured, Cassidy turned over arm operations to flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston who remotely pulled the Cygnus in for berthing at the Earth-facing port of the central Unity module.

The unpiloted cargo ship was loaded with four tons of supplies and equipment, including crew food and clothing, experiment hardware and material, the virtual reality camera, the new toilet and even samples of Estée Lauder skin cream that will be used in a commercial photo shoot for the company’s social media platforms.

The $23 million toilet, or “universal waste management system,” is smaller and more sophisticated than the station’s current potty and includes modifications to make it easier for female astronauts to use. Assuming it works as

Addresses major testing need in developing world; also in US, where reagent supplies are again dwindling — ScienceDaily


A major roadblock to large scale testing for coronavirus infection in the developing world is a shortage of key chemicals, or reagents, needed for the test, specifically the ones used to extract the virus’s genetic material, or RNA.

A team of scientists at the University of Vermont, working in partnership with a group at the University of Washington, has developed a method of testing for the COVID-19 virus that doesn’t make use of these chemicals but still delivers an accurate result, paving the way for inexpensive, widely available testing in both developing countries and industrialized nations like the United States, where reagent supplies are again in short supply.

The method for the test, published Oct. 2 in PLOS Biology, omits the step in the widely used reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test where the scarce reagents are needed.

92% accuracy, missing only lowest viral loads

The accuracy of the new test was evaluated by a team of researchers at the University of Washington led by Keith Jerome, director of the university’s Molecular Virology Lab, using 215 COVID-19 samples that RT-PCR tests had shown were positive, with a range of viral loads, and 30 that were negative.

It correctly identified 92% of the positive samples and 100% of the negatives.

The positive samples the new test failed to catch had very low levels of the virus. Public health experts increasingly believe that ultra-sensitive tests that identify individuals with even the smallest viral loads are not needed to slow spread of the disease.

“It was a very positive result,” said Jason Botten, an expert on pathogenic RNA viruses at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine and senior author on the PLOS Biology paper. Botten’s colleague Emily A. Bruce is the paper’s first author.

“You can go for the