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July 16th, 2009

3-2-1, Liftoff!

Published on July 16th, 2009 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

After five failed attempts, space shuttle Endeavour lifted off at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the STS-127 mission to the International Space Station.

Endeavour’s flight will deliver the final components of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory to the ISS. The 16-day mission will include five spacewalks and the installation of two platforms outside of the Japanese module. One platform is permanent and will serve as a type of porch for experiments that require direct exposure to space. The other is an experiment storage pallet that will be detached and returned with the shuttle.

During the mission, Kibo’s robotic arm will exchange three experiments from the palette to the platform. Future experiments also can be transferred to the platform from the inside using the laboratory’s airlock. Experiments at Kibo focus on space medicine, biology, Earth observations, material production, biotechnology and communications research.

One part of the Kibo lab, the Space Environment Data Acquisition Equipment-Attached Payload (SEDA-AP) will measure space environment data at Kibo on the ISS. It is composed of equipment that supports launch, RMS handling, power/communication interface, an extendible mast that extends the neutron monitor sensor into space (1m) and equipment that measures space environment data.

SEDA-AP has seven measurement units as follows:

  • Neutron Monitor
  • Heavy Ion Telescope
  • Plasma Monitor
  • Standard Dose Monitor
  • Atomic Oxygen monitor
  • Electronic Device Evaluation Equipment
  • Micro-Particles Capture
  • Space Environment Exposure Device

Of particular interest are the Atomic Oxygen Monitor, Electronic Device Evaluation Equipment and Micro-Particles Capture and Space Environment Exposure Device.

The AOM will be measuring the amount of atomic oxygen in ISS orbit and how it affects coatings and other materials in space. Since atomic oxygen is very active, it interacts with the thermal control materials and the paints, worsening their thermal control ability. The thickness of thin carbon film will be decreased due to erosion by atomic oxygen. The change in the thickness is calculated as resistance value. Integration flux of atomic oxygen will be measured by preparing the table showing the relation between the change in resistance value and integration flux of atomic oxygen in advance.

The EDEE collects the data on how “single event effects” (caused by radiation in the space) effects materials and electronics. It detects Single Event Upset, Single Event Latchup and Single Event Burnout by monitoring the storage data inversion, the power supply current and the electric charge, respectively. The results should improve accuracy of the prediction of how a part will behave in space.

The MPAC is a device for capturing microparticles (space debris and micrometeoroids) that exist at the ISS orbit. Post-retrieval analysis will enable particle size, composition, collision velocity, etc., of captured particles to be estimated. MPAC consists of two materials: silica aerogel and a golden plate. The aerogel allows scientists to determine particle impact directions and velocities from tracks left in the material. The golden plate provides a means for measuring particle fluxes and estimating impact velocities by analyzing craters in the material.

The SEED exposes materials for space use (thermal control materials, solid lubricants, etc.) to the space environment. After retrieval, scientists will analyze the degradation of these materials due to the space environment – namely radiation, ultraviolet rays and atomic oxygen – as well as examine changes unique to each material.

Kibo – which means “hope” in Japanese – is Japan’s first human space facility.


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