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Press Release 98-21

Anne M. Teubl
NASA Lewis Research Center
(Bus: 216/433-2901)

NASA Lewis Research Center Microgravity Experiments on STS-91 Shuttle Mission

CLEVELAND, OH--When the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-91) is launched on June 2, 1998, two NASA Lewis Research Center experiments will be on board.

STS-91 will be the 23rd flight of Discovery and the 91st mission flown since the start of the space shuttle program in April 1981. The mission is scheduled to last 9 days, 18 hours, 31 minutes.

STS-91 will mark the final Shuttle/MIR Docking Mission. This Phase 1 Program is a precursor to the International Space Station maintaining a continuous American presence in space and developing the procedures and hardware required for an international partnership in space.

Lewis Research Center microgravity experiments flying as part of the STS-91 mission are:

The Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE) will measure the spread rates and temperatures of flames spreading over solid fuels (i.e. ashless filter paper and Plexiglas) in microgravity. It will also determine the effect of air pressure and oxygen concentration on flame spread rate and temperature, as well as determine the mechanism of flame spreading in the absence of any forced or convective airflow and validate existing numerical models of the flame spreading process. This experiment will contribute to improved methods of fire safety and fire control of space travel. NASA Lewis Project Manager Franklin Virgilii resides in Parma; Project Scientist Kurt Sacksteder resides in Hinckley.

The Growth and Morphology, Boiling, and Critical Fluctuations in Phase Separating Supercritical Fluids (GMSF) experiments will test current theories and measure properties not possible in Earth’s gravity for phase transitions, vapor to liquid and vice-versa, near a unique thermodynamic state, the "critical point." All three experiments will use a typical gas, pure sulfur-hexafluoride, which has been used both as a refrigerant and an electrical insulator in transformers, compressed to about the density of water. These microgravity experiments will increase our knowledge in the fundamental science of critical fluids. Further development of critical phase transition theories to fully predict their behavior will be useful in manufacturing processes and applications. Past fundamental research in critical fluids has enabled us to use supercritical (above critical temperature and pressure) extraction of caffeine from coffee beans using carbon dioxide and the mixing of paint and solvent in manufacturing processes. NASA Lewis Project Manager Monica Hoffmann resides in Berea; Project Scientist Dr. R. Allen Wilkinson resides in Cleveland Heights.

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