Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE)
Since 2001, NASA’s Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) 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 Earth, fixed to the exterior of the International Space Station for periods of up to four years, these innovative experiments endured 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.
Because such research is difficult to simulate effectively in Earth-based laboratories, the MISSE series provided NASA and its partners with crucial insight into the challenges of protecting astronaut health and establishing a permanent human presence in space.
MISSE-1 and -2
MISSE-1 and 2 are a test bed for materials and coatings attached to the outside of the ISS is being evaluated for the effects of atomic oxygen, direct sunlight, and extremes of heat and cold. This experiment allows the development and testing of new materials to better withstand the rigors of space environments. 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.
Researchers from the private and public sector prepared a wide range of samples for the first externally mounted experiment on ISS. MISSE-1 and -2 were testbeds for more than 400 materials and coatings samples, testing their survivability under the corrosive effects of the space environment; including micrometeoroid and orbital debris strikes, atomic oxygen attack, intense ultraviolet radiation from the sun, and extreme temperature swings. Results will provide a better understanding of the durability of various materials in this environment. Many of the materials may have applications in the design of future spacecraft.
Both MISSE-1 and -2 were deployed in August 2001 on Expedition 3 and were planned for a one-year exposure. Due to the delays incurred following the Columbia accident, they were not retrieved until four years later during ISS Expedition 11 in August 2005.
MISSE-3 and -4
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.
The Materials International Space Station Experiment-5 (MISSE-5) was an external payload that flew on-board the ISS from August 2005 until September 2006. MISSE-5 provided an opportunity for researchers to test a wide range of samples in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) environment. MISSE-5 was a collaboration between NASA Langley Research Center, Glenn Research Center, Ohio State University, Naval Research Laboratory and U.S. Naval Academy and consisted of three experiments: PCSat-2, Forward Technology Solar Cell Experiment (FTSCE) and the Thin Film experiment.
The Prototype Communications Satellite-2 (PCSat-2) was a communication system sponsored by the United States Naval Academy. PCSat-2 had two objectives: (1) to test the Amateur Satellite Service off-the-shelf solution for telemetry command and control; (2) to provide a communication system for the Forward Technology Solar Cell Experiment (FTSCE). PCSat-2 was able to transmit solar cell data for FTCSE using the Amateur Radio Satellite Service with a 145.825 uplink and 435.275 +/- 10 KHz Doppler downlink.
The Forward Technology Solar Cell Experiment (FTSCE) characterized the durability and the electrical output of 39 advanced solar cell samples that could be used on future space exploration vehicles. Several types of solar cell technologies were tested: triple junction InGaP/GaAS/Ge; thin film amorphous Si and Culn(Ga)Se2; and single junction GaAs cells. It is known that solar cells degrade over time when exposed to the space environment. FTSCE used their onboard instrumentation to measure the performance and downlink the data to Earth through the PCSat-2.
The Thin Film Material Experiment consists of 254 thin film samples that were attached to the thermal blanket protecting the PCSAT2 hardware. The samples are exposed directly to the space environment in order to evaluate the degradation of the materials over time. These materials range from testing polymer coatings to solar array blanket material to paints that are used on spacecraft and many others. An additional aspect of the Thin Film Materials experiment is the educational component. Of the 254 samples, 49 of them are part of a collaboration between the Glenn Research Center and the Hathaway Brown School in Cleveland, OH.
The technology testing that occurred during the MISSE-5 investigation provided necessary data to develop new space exploration vehicles, satellites and communication systems that will take us to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
MISSE-6A and 6B
Materials International Space Station Experiment – 6A and 6B (MISSE-6A and 6B) is a sample box attached to the outside of the International Space Station; it is used for testing the effects of exposure to the space environment on small samples of new materials. These samples will be evaluated for their reaction to atomic oxygen erosion, direct sunlight, radiation, and extremes of heat and cold. Results will provide a better understanding of the durability of various materials, with important applications in the design of future spacecraft.
The samples for MISSE-6A and 6B include over 400 new and affordable materials that may be used in advanced reusable launch systems and advanced spacecraft systems including optics, sensors, electronics, power, coatings, structural materials and protection for the next generation of spacecraft. The development of new generations of materials and material technologies is essential to the mission of traveling beyond Earth’s orbit.
The samples are installed in holders and placed in experiment trays, called passive experiment containers (PECs). MISSE-6A and 6B were brought back to Earth onboard the Shuttle Discovery during the STS-128 (17A) mission in September 2009.
The Materials International Space Station Experiment-7 (MISSE-7) is a test bed for materials and coatings attached to the outside of the International Space Station being evaluated for the effects of atomic oxygen, ultraviolet, direct sunlight, radiation and extremes of heat and cold. This experiment allows the development and testing of new materials to better withstand the rigors of space environment. Results will provide a better understanding of the durability of various materials when they are exposed to the space environment with applications in the design of future spacecraft.
Materials International Space Station Experiment-7 (MISSE-7) is a suite of experiments that include over 700 new and affordable materials. The samples tested have potential use in advanced reusable launch systems and advanced spacecraft systems including solar cells, optics, sensors, electronics, power, coatings, structural materials and protection for the next generation of spacecraft. The development of the next generation of materials and material technologies is essential to the mission of traveling beyond Earth?s orbit.
The samples are installed in holders and placed in experiment trays, called Passive Experiment Containers (PECs). For MISSE-7 there are two PECs, 7A and 7B, which will be mounted on the outside of the ISS and hold samples on both sides of the PECs. PEC 7A’s orientation will be zenith/nadir (space facing/Earth facing) while PEC 7B will face ram/wake (forward/backward) relative to the ISS orbit. This installment of experiments for the MISSE program will be the first to receive power directly from the ISS and use the ISS communication system uplink/downlink capabilities to receive commands downlink data.
The Materials on International Space Station Experiment – 8 (MISSE-8) is a suite of experiments that includes new and affordable materials and computing elements. The samples tested have potential use in advanced reusable launch systems and advanced spacecraft systems including solar cells, optics, sensors, electronics, power, coatings, structural materials and protection for the next generation of spacecraft. The development of the next generation of materials and computing technologies is essential to the mission of traveling beyond Earth’s orbit.
The samples are installed in holders and placed in experiment trays within a Payload Experiment Container (PEC). MISSE-8 consists of one new PEC, as well as a smaller experiment called the Optical Reflector Materials Experiment III Ram/Wake (ORMatE-III R/W). The MISSE-8 PEC and ORMatE-III R/W both reuse the MISSE-7 mounting interface and power/data system infrastructure on the MISSE-7 ExPRESS Pallet Adapter (ExPA), which was previously integrated to the ISS on the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier 2 (ELC-2) during the STS-129 mission. The orientation of the MISSE-8 PEC is zenith/nadir (space facing/Earth facing), and ORMatE-III R/W is ram/wake. MISSE-8 is the third experiment in the MISSE program to receive power directly from the ISS, and the second to use uplink/downlink capabilities on the ISS communication system to receive commands and downlink data.
Materials on International Space Station Experiment – 8 Flight Support Equipment – SpaceCube (MISSE-8 FSE) tests the radiation tolerance of a computer made to work in space. The SpaceCube investigation’s computer is built from radiation-tolerant material and simulates work for a future long-term space mission. This demonstrates how new advanced flight control systems, which must be many times tougher than regular Earth hardware, can resist radiation damage in order to perform in the space environment.
The Misse-8 SpaceCube experiment consists of two independent SpaceCube 1.0 science data processing systems. The SpaceCube experiment is demonstrating how these new advance avionics systems perform in the space environment. The SpaceCubes use “canned” data to continuously perform calculations for an autonomous navigation application, simulating in-situ instrument processing on a next generation NASA mission. The SpaceCube system also demonstrates real-world use of novel technology that mitigates radiation-induced errors.
The SpaceCube v1.0 processing system features two commercial Xilinx Virtex-4 FX60 Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA), each with two embedded PowerPC405 processors. The FPGAs are mounted in a back-to-back method, which reduces the size of the circuit board design while maintaining the added benefit of two FPGAs. All SpaceCube v1.0 cards are 4” x 4”, yielding a small, yet powerful hybrid computing system. The architecture exploits the Xilinx FPGAs and PowerPCs and necessary support peripherals to maximize system flexibility. Adding to the flexibility, the entire system is modular. Each card conforms to a custom mechanical standard that allows stacking multiple cards in the same box.
Materials International Space Station Experiment – 9 – NASA (MISSE-9-NASA) is a suite of 6 investigations. Samples include 3 dimensional printed materials, sensors, sensor components, textiles, carbon fiber laminates, paints, coatings, polymers, and composites. Each sample is custom mounted to decks that are installed in each half of a MISSE Sample Carrier (MSC). Ten sample decks deployed as part of the MISSE-9 mission, with a total of 229 individual samples.
Materials International Space Station Experiment-10-NASA (MISSE-10-NASA) is a suite of eight investigations. Each investigation is custom mounted to decks that are installed in each half of a MISSE Sample Carrier (MSC). Fourteen sample decks deploy as part of the MISSE-10 mission, with a total of 188 individual NASA and commercial samples.
An enhanced version of the MISSE series dubbed MISSE-X, a NASA Technology Demonstration Mission led by NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, was a collaborative effort among NASA centers, the U.S. Department of Defense, academia and private industry. By pooling resources, these partners reaped the rewards of collaborating on advanced materials-science research while minimizing individual investment costs.
The MISSE-X concept included new enhancements, such as 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 developed plug-and-play mechanical and avionics systems to enable the cost-effective and timely replacement of completed experiments. The concept also included 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 was designed to be robotically mounted and serviced on the station’s exterior. Individual experiments could be placed in modular experiment containers, which would be installed in larger, portable experiment containers. The concept accommodated both active experiments — those receiving space station power and data collection — and passive experiments. The modular containers could be removed and replaced with other experiments after various periods of space exposure, from six months to three years. Passive experiments and some active experiments could be returned to Earth, where scientists could 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.
Materials International Space Station Experiment-11-NASA (MISSE-11-NASA) is a suite of investigations. Each experiment is custom mounted to decks that are installed in each half of a MISSE Sample Carrier (MSC). Six sample decks (three MSCs) deploy as part of the MISSE-11 mission, with a total of 99 individual samples. This addition will increase the total of MISSE samples on orbit to 349 as MISSE-11 joins MISSE-10 and elements of MISSE-9.
Materials International Space Station Experiment-11-Commercial (MISSE-11-Commercial) is a suite of investigations. Each experiment is custom mounted to a deck that is installed in a MISSE Sample Carrier (MSC), two decks per MSC. Three MSCs deploy as part of the MISSE-11 mission, with a total of 12 individual commercial samples from four commercial customers, plus a new MISSE solar cell test bed facility enhancement developed and paid for by Alpha Space for a total of 13 tests. This will put the total of MISSE samples on orbit to 349 (48 commercial) from NASA, CASIS, EPSCoR, and 18 commercial sources as MISSE-11 joins MISSE-10 and elements of MISSE-9.
PI: Kim de Groh, NASA GRC
Co-I: Sharon Miller, NASA GRC
Co-I: Ching-cheh Hung, NASA GRC
Co-I: Bruce Banks, Alphaport
Co-I: Debbie Waters, ASRC
PM: Don Jaworske, NASA GRC