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Fact sheet number: FS-2001-07-136 -MSFC
Release date: 07/01


Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE)


During a space walk, astronaut Patrick G. Forrester installs the MISSE experiment, which will expose Researchers examine colorful coatings destined for the International Space Station as part of the MISSE experiment During a space walk, astronaut Patrick G. Forrester installs the MISSE experiment, which will expose hundreds of samples to the space environment for about 18 months. When the samples are returned to Earth, they will be analyzed to determine which materials are the most durable and suitable for tomorrow's spacecraft. (NASA/JSC)

Missions: Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo, ISS Mission 7A.1, STS-105 Space Shuttle Flight

Experiment Location on ISS: Mounted on an airlock located between the Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA1) and the U.S. lab module

Principal Investigator: Rachel Kamenetzky, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. Suzanne Woll, The Boeing Company, Renton, Wash. Sheila Thibeault, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.

Project Manager: Junilla Applin, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.


Overview

Researchers examine colorful coatings destined for the International Space Station as part of the MISSE experiment Researchers examine colorful coatings destined for the International Space Station as part of the MISSE experiment. (NASA/MSFC)

The Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) will test the durability of hundreds of samples ranging from lubricants to solar cell technologies.

The samples, engineered to better withstand the punishing effects of the Sun, extreme temperatures and other elements, will be flown 220 miles above the Earth -- outside the International Space Station and unprotected by Earth's atmosphere. By examining how the coatings fare in the harsh environment of space, researchers seek new insight into developing materials for future spacecraft, as well as making materials last longer on Earth.

Managed by Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., MISSE is a collaborative effort among NASA centers, the U.S. Air Force and private industry. By pooling resources, these groups can reap the rewards of collaborating on advanced material-science research, while minimizing the total investment of any one participant.

Experiment Operations

Backdropped by a sunrise, the newly installed Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) is visible on the International Space Station Backdropped by a sunrise, the newly installed Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) is visible on the International Space Station. (NASA/JSC)

The space environment - with its extreme levels of ultraviolet radiation, atomic oxygen, hard vacuum and contamination -- has a strong degrading effect on some types of materials. Qualifying materials for long-term use in space is made especially challenging because this unique environment is so difficult to simulate in a laboratory. With MISSE, no laboratory is needed. On-orbit testing is accomplished by flying the materials outside the International Space Station for a period of one to three years.

Samples for the MISSE experiment will be mounted to the Space Station during the STS-105 Space Shuttle Mission, ISS Mission 7A.1, in August 2001. They will be mounted by a Space Shuttle crew member during an Extravehicular Activity (EVA), commonly called a spacewalk. Backdropped by a sunrise, the newly installed Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) is visible on the International Space Station. (NASA)

Samples will be contained in two Passive Experiment Containers (PECs). To fully expose the experiments to the elements, the crew will open each Passive Experiment Container after it is mounted to the Space Station. MISSE is a passive experiment, which means that aside from deployment and retrieval, no other interaction is involved. The specimens have no power, data, thermal or maintenance requirements. The two carriers will be retrieved approximately one year after deployment and returned to Earth on a later flight. After the MISSE samples are returned, scientists will analyze the materials to see how they fared.

Flight History/Background

MISSE is a reflight of two reusable Passive Experiment Containers flown on the Russian space station Mir in 1996 and 1997 as part of the Mir Environmental Effects Payload (MEEP). Like MISSE, this experiment studied the effects of the space environment on a variety of materials, some of which were intended for use on the International Space Station. Materials included paint samples, glass coatings, multi-layer insulation and metallic materials.

Space Shuttle crew members attached the samples to the exterior of Mir's docking module during the STS-76 mission in March 1996 while the Shuttle was docked with the Russian space station. The samples remained attached to Mir until September 1997, when the experiment was retrieved by the Space Shuttle crew on the STS-86 mission. After the samples were returned to Earth, scientists analyzed each material to determine how it fared when unprotected by Earth's atmosphere.

Benefits

By examining how the materials fare in the harsh environment of space, researchers can gain new insight into improving materials for use in future space missions. The International Space Station is the ideal venue for such an experiment, because it tests the materials in the unique environment for which they are eventually destined.

Like many NASA experiments, MISSE also has the potential to improve products for consumers on Earth. One such product is exterior paint. Outside the Space Station, coating samples will be exposed to high doses of ultra-violet and other radiation from the Sun. On a more limited scale, this is similar to what painted - or coated -- surfaces are exposed to on Earth, thanks to Earth's atmosphere. By applying knowledge from the MISSE experiment, engineers can gain new insight into creating coatings on Earth that are less likely to degrade with time.

More Information

More information on MISSE and other Space Station experiments can be found at:

http://misse1.larc.nasa.gov/

http://www.scipoc.msfc.nasa.gov/

http://www.spaceflight.nasa.gov/