Meet the hardware, software and science projects bound for the International Space Station this month

Gigaom

After problems forced a delay from a scheduled launch this weekend, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to take off later this month carrying nearly 5,000 pounds of precious cargo headed to the International Space Station, including the equipment for more than 150 experiments. Here’s a look at five of the more interesting projects that will be on board.

OPALS

OPALS at a NASA test facility last year. Photo courtesy of Jim Grossmann/NASA. OPALS at a NASA test facility last year. Photo courtesy of Jim Grossmann/NASA.

The Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science will use a laser to communicate with a NASA station on Earth. Laser beams can send data at a much higher rate than traditional radio frequency transmissions. Sending more data at faster rates will be essential as our exploration of the universe moves farther and farther away from Earth.

NASA’s main challenge will be accurately positioning the laser to point at its target. The agency will test OPALS by sending…

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