Materials on the International Space Station Experiment 3 and 4 (MISSE - 3 and 4) are the third and fourth in a series of five suitcase-sized test beds attached to the outside of the space station. The beds were deployed during a spacewalk by the station crew in August 2006. They are exposing hundreds of potential space construction materials and different types of solar cells to the harsh environment of space. Mounted to the space station for about a year, the equipment then will be returned to Earth for study. Investigators will use the resulting data to design stronger, more durable spacecraft.Principal Investigator(s)
Boeing, Phantom Works, Renton, WA, United States
Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)Sponsoring Organization
Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)ISS Expedition Duration:
April 2006 - October 2007
13,14,15Previous ISS Missions
MISSE-1 and 2, the first of the MISSE series were delivered to the ISS on STS-105 in August 2001 and returned on STS-114 in August 2005. MISSE-5 was deployed during STS-114 in August 2005 and returned on STS-115/12A in September 2006.
The Materials International Space Station Experiment-3 and 4 (MISSE-3 and 4) was successfully deployed in August 2006 and retrieved in August 2007. Approximately 875 specimens of various materials were contained in suitcase-like cases called PECs (passive experiment containers). These specimens were exposed to the harsh environment of microgravity to observe the effects that Atomic Oxygen (single oxygen molecules) and Ultraviolet light have on materials.
The specimens include a variety of materials such as paint and protective coatings that will be used on future spacecrafts such as satellites. Environmental monitors recorded the thermal cycling (the change in temperature) that the experiment was subjected to while on orbit. New material that might be used in the next generation of EVA (extravehicular activity) suits was tested to examine how the material reacts to the harsh space environment.
As part of an education outreach program, three million basil seeds were placed in containers located underneath the sample trays on MISSE 3 and 4 PECs. These seeds were returned to Earth as part of the STS-118/13A.1 mission in which Astronaut Barbara Morgan initiated the grown cycle of basil seeds inside the ISS, The seeds were sent to school children for them to plant and observe the differences between seeds exposed to space and seeds that have remained on Earth.
Results will provide a better understanding of the durability of various materials when they are exposed to the space environment. Many of the materials may have applications in the design of future spacecraft.Earth Applications
The new advanced materials and components that will be demonstrated in MISSE-3 and 4 will improve the performance, increase the useful life, and reduce the costs of future space operations of commercial weather, communication and Earth observation satellites that we all now depend on. The participation of school children in experiments with seeds from the MISSE-3 and 4 will stimulate their interest in science and can help to ensure the U.S. leadership role in future space operations.
MISSE-3 and 4 is mounted to the Station's exterior on the airlock. It is a passive experiment requiring no power or crew interaction. The critical interaction is between the samples and the space environment.Operational Protocols
During extravehicular activity astronauts will install the MISSE PEC 3 and 4 on the ISS. During EVAs throughout the deployment of MISSE PEC 3 and 4 crewmembers will capture snapshots of the MISSE PECs, if time permits. Another set of crewmembers in a later increment will retrieve MISSE-3 and 4 when the experiment is completed. The samples will be returned to the investigators, who will carefully examine each to determine how the materials fared.
Preliminary assessments that include results from previous MISSE-flown materials, suggest that the contamination
control for the station -- the method for tracking whether scientific instruments, windows, radiators and other
hardware is staying clean from contaminants such as dust, dirt, or hair -- is working.
The earlier experiments showed that samples of the glass used in station windows were better than 90 percent clear, and samples of the same white thermal coatings used on station radiators looked like new, even after four years in space. Full analyses of the MISSE 3-4 materials are underway. (Evans et al. 2009)