Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station (EXCISS) - 12.05.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

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Science Objectives for Everyone
We are stardust, as the saying goes, but many questions remain as to how the dust originally created by star-based processes turned into intermediate-sized particles, which eventually became planets, moons and other objects. Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station (EXCISS) simulates the high-energy, low gravity foundry of the early solar system using automated cameras and a contained apparatus aboard the International Space Station (ISS). EXCISS specifically zaps a specially formulated dust with an electrical current and then studies the shape and texture of pellets formed from these steps in the absence of gravity.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Tamara Koch, M.S., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom:

Principal Investigator(s)
Tamara Koch, M.S., Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Anna Antonie Beck, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
Oliver Christ, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
Philomena-Theresa Genzel, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
Miles Lindner, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
Diego Mederos Leber, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany

Developer(s)
EXCISS GmBh, Nordestedt, Germany

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
October 2018 - April 2019

Expeditions Assigned
57/58

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station (EXCISS) studies whether electrical discharges can melt dust particles and aggregates.
  • The formation of chondrules, one of the first materials of our solar system, is still unknown.
  • Different theories for the formation of chondrules have been proposed.
  • Chondrule formation experiments under gravity conditions cannot explain everything.
  • The natural behavior of collisions of dust particles cannot be simulated on Earth in the long-term.

Description

The formation of chondrules, small spherical object which belong to the oldest material of our solar system, is a topic of intensive debates. Many different theories have been proposed, e.g., the formation by electrical discharges. Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station (EXCISS) imitates solar nebular conditions and develops an experiment that transforms silicate dust into chondrules by electric discharges.
 
The sample chamber consists of glass with an inner size of approximately 5 mm by 4 mm by 4 mm. The electrodes in the sample chamber have a distance of 3 mm. The samples chamber is filled with forsterite (Mg2SiO4) dust particles with a size of 100 µm. The experiment is controlled by a Raspberry Pi computer. The electrical discharges are induced by an ignition coil. Investigators perform one discharge every hour over 30 days.
 
The particles are free floating within the electrodes, before the first discharge occurs. Some of the particles melt and collide with other molten or solid dust particles and form aggregates. Aggregates are hit by following electric discharges, melting completely or parcially and forming chondrule-like aggregates. Furthermore, dust particles accumulate on these chondrule like objects.
 
The electrical discharges and the behavior of the dust particles and aggregates is recorded by a high definition (HD) camera. Investigators are able to make statements about the particle velocities and how they are related to sticking-probabilities. Investigators want to know, how molten and unmolten particles behave during collisions.

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Applications

Space Applications
EXCISS contributes to space exploration by constraining an important physical and cosmological question. The research contributes understanding on how stars and stardust turn into planets and other objects. A better understanding of how planets form can pinpoint conditions that give rise to habitable planets (i.e., of a certain size and distance from a given star) and thus serves in the search for new, high-value exploration targets.

Earth Applications
EXCISS benefits scientific research that seeks to understand Earth’s origin and early history. EXCISS also contributes fundamental understanding of material performance and material science processes under unusual conditions of high energy and low gravity.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols

The experiment starts as soon as the universal serial bus (USB) connects to the NanoRacks platform. In the first hour, a tiny vibration motor shakes the sample chamber and the dust particles are free floating in the sample chamber.
 
After one hour, the first electrical discharge occurs. The camera starts recording just before the discharge occurs. The camera records for ten minutes and downlinks one frame per second in the first two minutes. All of the data is saved on a USB Stick. One discharge is produced every hour, 100 times.
 
After the experiment, samples are analyzed with different techniques on Earth and are compared to the results with natural chondrules.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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Imagery

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NASA Image: ISS057E105661 - ARISE - NanoRacks Module-75, the Pump Application using Pulsed Electromagnets for Liquid reLocation (PAPELL) - NanoRacks Module-76 and the Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station (EXCISS) - NanoRacks Module-77 experiments shown in the Japanese Experiment Module (Kibo).

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NASA Image: ISS057E105672 - European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst with the ARISE - NanoRacks Module-75, the Pump Application using Pulsed Electromagnets for Liquid reLocation (PAPELL) - NanoRacks Module-76 and the Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station (EXCISS) - NanoRacks Module-77 experiments shown in the Japanese Experiment Module (Kibo).

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