Today, a new multi-user materials science laboratory began its journey to the International Space Station, leaving NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., for NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for final flight preparations.
The Materials Science Research Rack or MSRR will allow for study of a variety of materials - including metals, ceramics, semiconductor crystals and glasses - onboard the orbiting laboratory. It is scheduled to fly aboard space shuttle Atlantis on STS 128 planned for launch in July 2009. Upon arrival at the space station, the research rack will be housed in the U. S. Destiny Laboratory Module.
"Materials science is an integral part of development of new materials for our everyday life," said Alex Lehoczky, project scientist for MSRR at the Marshall Center. "The goal of studying materials processing in space is to develop a better understanding of the chemical and physical mechanisms involved. Then, with this knowledge, we can reliably predict conditions required on Earth to achieve improved materials."
The research rack is a highly automated facility and contains two furnace inserts in which sample cartridges will be processed up to temperatures of 2500*F. Initially 13 sample cartridge assemblies will be processed, and each cartridge assembly contains experiment samples. The cartridges are placed one at a time into the furnace insert for processing. Once a cartridge is in place, the experiment can be run by automatic command or science can be conducted via telemetry commands from the ground. Processed samples will be returned to Earth as soon as possible for evaluation and comparison of their properties to samples similarly processed on the ground.
"Completing the Materials Science Research Rack brings us one step closer to making the International Space Station a robust orbiting laboratory," said Jimmie Johnson, Marshall Center project manager for MSRR.
The MSRR is about the size of a large refrigerator, measuring 6 feet high, 3