Space is hard, and for that reason, researchers are always trying to come up with new ways to make it easier. One of the best places for new technologies to be tested is the International Space station, and as you might come to expect, experiments are continuously being lofted there every several months for astronauts to go hands-on with.
Some of the latest technologies headed for the International Space Station include low-latency communication systems, a radiation-resistant vest, and a plastic recycling system. Each of these will push science in the right direction for upcoming deep space missions where technologies of these sorts will be particularly useful in day-to-day activities.
Starting with the low-latency communication systems, a ‘space internet’ would purportedly make space exploration easier by giving astronauts in a spacecraft more fine-grained control over robots on other worlds. The primary issue with space rovers today is that there’s so much latency between commands and actions, and this results in more missed opportunities and errors than some would like. Low-latency communication systems are being tested right now, and involve precise robotics controlled from outer space by astronauts.
Astronauts will also get to play around with the plastic recycling system, which aims to take in certain kinds of plastics and transform it into a spool of 3D-printer material. Those plastic items would be passed through a grinding system that would make a find powder, and that powder would then be solidified into a strand that could be wrapped along a spool for use in 3D printing machines for the manufacturing of goods. This would effectively reduce the amount of waste that astronauts produce and allow repurposing of existing materials.
It ought to be interesting to see how these new technologies transform space science in the foreseeable future.