Press Release

Glenn Space Science Hardware Aboard Space Shuttle Mission to Space Station

By SpaceRef Editor
August 20, 2009
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Glenn Space Science Hardware Aboard Space Shuttle Mission to Space Station

CLEVELAND – Hardware designed, fabricated and tested at NASA’s Glenn Research Center will travel aboard space shuttle Discovery when it is launched on August 25 at 1:36 a.m.

A large, high-tech science experiment facility, the Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR), will be used to perform two broad classes of fluid physics experiments to understand how fluids react in microgravity conditions.

The first group is applied research to test how fluids perform in space. The information derived from these experiments will lead to improved designs of fuel tanks, passive heat exchangers (heat pipes), water systems and other fluid-based systems used for space exploration.

A second class of experiments involves fundamental research in fluid physics, including phase separation, boiling, capillary flow, liquid crystals and colloids. The first of these experiments will involve colloids (substances that solidify over time). The experiments will refine analytical models for a new and exciting field referred to as colloidal engineering, which studies how to manipulate the solidification processes by using small particles of differing shapes. Studying how these structures form without the “jamming” effects of gravity will improve the manufacturing of a broad range of consumer products, including paint, cosmetics, plastics and medicines.

An experiment can be built up on the FIR from components, attached as a self-contained package or a combination. The FIR provides data acquisition and control, sensor interfaces, laser and white light sources, advanced imaging capabilities, power, cooling and other resources. It also offers easy access to the back for maintenance and experiment reconfiguration.

Traveling to station within the FIR will be the Light Microscopy Module (LMM), a remotely controllable on-orbit microscope that can be used on experiments. Also onboard will be two of the six modules of the Constrained Vapor Bubble experiment, which studies heat pipes and is the first experiment to be done in the FIR.

On the space station, astronauts can quickly mount and set up an experiment with final operations accomplished by remote control from the NASA Glenn Research Center’s Telescience Support Center (TSC) with input from the principal investigators after review of the data over the internet.

The TSC is a smaller version of NASA’s Johnson Space Center control center in Houston. It allows researchers on Earth to operate experiments onboard the International Space Station and the space shuttle. Glenn’s TSC provides distributed space station ground operations to other NASA Centers and remote sites. This enables payload developers and scientists to monitor and control their experiments from the TSC and the principal investigators’ university sites. This enhances the quality of scientific and engineering data while reducing the long-term operational costs of experiments.

For more information on STS-128, visit:

For more information on the Fluids Integrated Rack, visit:

For more information on Light Microscopy Module, visit:

For more information on the Constrained Vapor Bubble experiment, visit:

For more information on Glenn’s Telescience Support Center, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.