Twelve experiments to Space from Sweden

November 20, 2022
Twelve experiments to Space from Sweden

On Wednesday, 23 November, the launch window opens for one of the year’s most anticipated rocket launches at Esrange Space Center, above the Polar Circle in Northern Sweden, after two and a half years of planning and preparation. At 8 AM local time, SubOrbital Express 3 will be launched to an altitude of 260 kilometers and provide six minutes of microgravity conditions. Among the twelve different payloads, there are scientific experiments which will investigate everything from stem cells for diabetes research, to particle research that will provide answers about the origin of planets.

SubOrbital Express 3 is the fifteenth in a series of MASER rockets launched from Esrange since this sounding rocket program started in 1987. MASER stands for “Materials Science Experiment Rocket” and the European Space Agency, ESA, is the program’s largest customer, funding several of the experiments on board.

“Various mechanisms are easier to study in microgravity, as gravity often has a strong influence on the experiments that we work with. This year’s SubOrbital Express campaign has a payload containing twelve experiments in widely different disciplines that could potentially provide answers which are directly significant for life on Earth. It’s wonderful that Sweden and SSC can be part of such important research,” says Stefan Krämer, program manager of the mission.

Engineer working with payload


Launch Site Esrange Space Center,
Northern Sweden, 67.88°N, 21.07°E
Launch period 22 November - 5 December
Rocket type VSB-30 (Brazilian)
Program Manager Stefan Krämer, SSC
Project Manager David Hagsved, SSC

The twelve experiments on board vary in both size and function. Four of them are larger, 25-80 kg heavy, and each one is accommodated in its own rocket structure:

Engineers working with a rocket


Payload A research team from Uppsala University will bring living stem cells and insulin-producing beta cells to Space. By exposing these cells to microgravity, the researchers hope to come closer to a treatment for type-1 diabetes, by influencing beta cell proliferation and beta cell function for diabetes patients with stem cells. Insulin is produced by beta cells in the islets of Langerhans of the pancreas. In patients with type-1 diabetes, these beta cells are damaged and insulin must be supplied by daily injections. The experiment will investigate different ways to stimulate the production of insulin by interacting a type of stem cell with beta cells from the pancreas of mice. It was shown in a previous experiment in 2019, onboard the predecessor SubOrbital Express 1, that microgravity is a favorable condition to favor beta cell reproduction.


Payload Counted as two separate experiments, researchers from the Belgian university ULB in Brussels will use two different liquid experiments to investigate how drops of different liquids behave during evaporation. Through the experiment ARLES, which is short for "Advanced Research on Liquid Evaporation in Space", the researchers will focus on understanding how liquids can best be used to transfer heat and could help improve thermal control systems in Space. The experiment will repeatedly evaporate droplets in microgravity under different conditions, including adding an electric field to the mix, to see how they behave. With so-called schlieren optics, the researchers will look for changes in the liquid as it evaporates. With an infrared camera and other optical systems, droplets will also be filmed at millimeter level in order to be able to follow liquid flows as temperature changes. By investigating these phenomena, the scientists hope to find new answers to known liquid phenomena such as the “coffee stain effect” and the “Benard-Marangoni effect”. A potential application could also be innovative solutions to keep equipment and astronauts at the right temperature in future space missions. This will be the second ARLES experiment in Space. The first was performed in 2019 onboard the SubOrbital Express 1 rocket.
Engineers lifting a rocket module.


Payload Through a cosmological experiment called CHIP (Charges in Planet Formation), researchers from University of Duisburg-Essen will investigate how electrically charged particles behave in Space in order to learn more about the origin of planets. Planets form in protoplanetary disks, which are clouds of gas and dust around young stars. In principle, planet formation is described by a three-step process. The first step is the growth of agglomerates from micrometre-sized dust particles to kilometre-sized bodies, so-called planetesimals. These planetesimals then grow to planetary embryos by mutual gravitational attraction and collisions and finally, the planets form by giant impacts between planetary embryos. The gravity-driven processes from planetesimals to planets are already quite well understood, but it is still not clear how the planetesimals form. Just recently, electrical charging has been proposed as motor of planet formation, and CHIP will give new insights into the structure of clusters formed by charge driven coagulation, the corresponding growth rate and the maximum size to be reached.


Payload The only experiment onboard the SubOrbital Express 3 that will not return together with the rest of the payload is the MINI-IRENE, “Italian Re-Entry Nacelle” of CIRA, ALI Consortium and the University of Naples. This flight experiment by an Italian research team, funded and coordinated by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Italian Space Agency (ASI) in the frame of a GSTP Program, will test the durability of an aero-breaker capsule which could potentially be used for atmospheric re-entry for various spacecraft in the future. The experiment will be separated from the rocket in Space, and the umbrella shaped capsule will allow, after the return into the atmosphere, for a stable flight and impact upon landing. This project aims at testing and demonstrating deployment upon re-entry and thermal protection system consistence at the dynamic pressure load during the flight phase in the atmosphere.

Housed in a rideshare module are several payloads share the space in one and the same module:

Engineers lifting a rocket module.


Payload Swiss watch company Fortis has a long heritage from Space-based tests of the apparatuses of their watches. In this experiment, the team will test the behavior of clock mechanics in wristwatches during extreme speed, g-force, weightlessness and temperature changes.
Engineer preparing a rocket.


Payload A research team from Costa Rica will launch the CubeSat-sized Musa bio logical experiment aiming to find answers to the questions around the “Panama disease“, caused by a fungus and also known as fusarium wilt, being one of the most severe threats facing the banana industry worldwide. Musa is the second Costa Rican space mission, and the first by a private company, to ever be launched into Space.
Engineer preparing a rocket.


Payload Australian space company ResearchSat will send its first small CubeSat into Space, carrying two experiments. The first, a biomedical experiment on cell cultures of yeast and Bacillus subtilis. The second will test the performance of a microfluidic chip. However, the main goal is to test the CubeSat itself – proving that small, standardized research modules can be practically carried by CubeSats or packaged on board the International Space Station, ISS.
Rocket preparation.


Payload Lab-On-Paper will perform research on paper-based colorimetric sensors for glucose and antibiotics determination. This experiment focuses on the determination of glucose and tetracycline using paper-based analytical devices. Recent approaches have displayed the use of paper as a low cost and eco-friendly solution for a biosensors. In nearest future, non-invasive point of care paper-based devices could be used by astronauts and future space tourists for monitoring their health parameters in Space.
Engineer working with payload


Payload The winners of the annual Swedish Space Research School – a summer research camp within astronomy and space technology for high school students, organized by The Swedish Astronomical Youth Association (Astronomisk Ungdom) – will get the opportunity to run their experiment in Space. This year's winner will measure cosmic radiation using a self-constructed scintillation counter.


Payload How does Space taste? With the objective to increase the awareness of Space amongst the public in general and children in particular – our future researchers and space professionals, fruit trees will be grown from parts that were flown in space on this SubOrbital Express mission. After successful grafting, the trees may grow at Science Centers throughout Sweden.

Read more about the SubOrbital Express / MASER program at

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