"The universe is a wonderful and immense engine."
Materials International Space Station Experiment-X (MISSE-X)
-- George Santayana, 20th century American philosopher
Since 2001, NASA's Materials International Space Station Experiment-X (MISSE-X)
series has tested some 4,000 material samples and specimens -- from lubricants and paints to fabrics, container seals and solar cell technologies -- to demonstrate their durability in the punishing space environment. Flown 220 miles above the Earth, fixed to the exterior of the International Space Station for periods of up to four years, these innovative experiments endure extreme levels of solar and charged-particle radiation, atomic oxygen, hard vacuum, temperature extremes and contamination, giving researchers unprecedented insight into developing durable materials for spacecraft, flight hardware and even astronaut clothing.
It's research that is difficult to simulate effectively in Earth-based laboratories, and provides NASA and its partners with endless insight into the challenges of protecting astronaut health and establishing a permanent human presence in space.
Managed by NASA's Langley Research Center
in Hampton, Va., the Materials International Space Station Experiment-X (MISSE-X) Technology Demonstration Mission is a collaborative effort among NASA centers, the U.S. Department of Defense, academia and private industry. By pooling resources, these groups will reap the rewards of collaborating on advanced materials-science research, while minimizing individual investment costs.
MISSE-X will include new enhancements, including near real-time experiment monitoring, daily photographing of samples in flight and expanded accommodations to house more -- and more complex -- experiments. The MISSE-X team also is developing plug-and-play mechanical and avionics systems to enable the cost-effective and timely replacement of experiments. They will also develop new models to correlate ground- and space-based data, and to compare results in low-Earth orbit with anticipated results in other space environments.
MISSE-X will be mounted to the exterior of the International Space Station
using robotics. Individual experiments will be placed in Modular Experiment Containers, which will be installed in larger Portable Experiment Containers. There will be both active experiments -- receiving space station power and data collection -- and passive experiments. The modular containers will be removed and replaced with other experiments after various periods of space exposure, from six months to three years. The passive experiments and some active experiments will be returned to Earth, where scientists will closely analyze the materials and devices to see how they fared. That information will be used in the development of new space materials and devices critical to future space exploration missions.
MISSE-X will be deployed on the International Space Station in 2014.
MISSE-X: Key Mission Facts
- As with the previous Materials International Space Station Experiments, MISSE-X advances the technology readiness level, or TRL, of new space materials and devices.
- MISSE-X will measure performance, reliability and durability of materials and devices, using plug-and-play mechanical and avionics systems.
- The mission will provide daily photography of experiments and other customer-driven capabilities.