Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA MidSTAR-1 Successful Technologies May Be Revolutionary

20.02.2008
Two new technologies launched onboard a U.S. Naval Academy satellite called MidSTAR-1 have proven successful in their tests in space. One technology is a sensor that can check for harmful chemicals and the other is a special "film" that can control heat.

These technologies were collaboratively developed between NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.; and Eclipse Energy Systems Inc. of various U.S. locations, respectively.

The nano chemsensor unit (NCSU), can sense chemicals and contaminants that may be harmful to astronauts, as well as a wide range of scientifically interesting compounds. "The chemical nanosensor is like a smoke detector that would fit on the end of an eraser," said Dan Powell, lead nanotechnologist for Goddard. The NCSU was developed by Dr. Jing Li of Ames. Goddard was instrumental in identifying applications, as well as facilitating this first-ever demonstration of applied nanotechnology in space, on-board MidStar-1.

The NCSU's successful operation aboard MidSTAR-1 proved that it senses target chemicals both accurately and repeatedly in space. The NCSU uses a network of tiny carbon nanotubes that are about 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, to sense various gases and their concentrations. These nanosensors are developed for NASA missions, such as cabin air monitoring for a crew exploration vehicle, in-flight fuel leak detection, planetary exploration, and earth science observation. This experiment proved that the nanosensors are robust and can undergo the vigorous launch process and can work in the space environment, such as microgravity, radiation, temperature variation, and vacuum.

The sensor in orbit was designed to detect trace amounts of nitrogen dioxide, a common air pollutant. This capability, when combined with the unit's extremely small size, power consumption and heat output makes the NCSU useful to many industries. It could find its way into homeland security applications such as explosives trace detectors.

The NCSU also can be used to measure nitrogen dioxide levels in the upper atmosphere. "If you had a sensor like this, the size of a postage stamp, you could lick and stick it to monitor chemicals and environmental constituents anywhere," Powell said. "NASA wants to put this in the International Space Station to monitor contaminants, and the Federal Aviation Administration may build hand-held NCSU systems so aircraft crews could detect explosives and/or harmful gases in aircraft," Powell said.

MidSTAR-1 sits aboard an Atlas 5 rocket the night before launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Credit: United Launch Alliance

> Larger image A relatively cheap integrated NCSU system capable of being stuck to any surface would have a wireless radio transmitter, ad-hoc network, and tiny solar cell or battery power supply about the size of a quarter. It could monitor environments and relay detection data for months or years before a replacement would be needed.

Since MidSTAR-1 was launched in March 2007, the sensor has been improved and can now detect and identify more than 15 different chemicals, including ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, hydrogen chloride, and formaldehyde.

Second-generation NCSUs being developed for the space station are capable of selectively sensing several chemical compounds simultaneously and may be hardwired to a permanent power- and data-transmission system for continuous, long-term monitoring of a wide array of environments. Whether wireless or hard-wired, the systems could relay environmental status, contamination or threat data from multiple sites to centralized monitoring-stations located just about anywhere in the world, including to and from spacecraft and orbiting satellites.

The second successful revolutionary experiment on MidSTAR-1 is a variable emissivity film. The flight onboard MidSTAR-1 demonstrated how a special film, no thicker than an empty plastic sandwich bag, can control the temperature on a spacecraft. The technology had not been demonstrated successfully in space until MidSTAR-1. Until now, it has been difficult to make a film that could survive the harsh conditions of space.

Electrochromics is the science behind the film, which could be applied to outer surface of a spacecraft. By controlling voltage differential across the film, it is possible to change the film's ability to radiate waste heat into space or keep heat in a spacecraft. Very little power is needed, and the process is reversible.

The United Launch Alliance booster shot into the night sky above Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 8, 2007 at 10:10 p.m. EST, carrying MidSTAR-1 into orbit. Credit: United Launch Alliance

> Larger image Used on a spacecraft, the film can reduce launch weight, make future thermal design easier, reduce power consumption, and allow more accurate control of the spacecraft's inside temperature. The weight savings could be used to accommodate additional payloads, scientific instruments and astronauts. The film also could be used on satellites, space antennas, spacesuits and visors and robotic systems that will be placed on the Moon and other planets in the future.

There are many applications for this technology beyond space. It could be used to cover buildings and homes to reduce solar heat gain in the summer and decrease heat loss in the winter. One day, it could be possible to control the tint of a car window with the press of a button.

The variable emissivity film was manufactured by Eclipse Energy Systems Inc., of St. Petersburg, Fla., with joint financial sponsorship from Goddard and the U.S. Air Force.

Neither of the experiments would have reached space if not for the MidSTAR program. Billy Smith, Director of the Small Satellite Program and manager of the MidSTAR program at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md., made it possible to launch these experiments on a limited budget.

"MidSTAR is the seventh piece of hardware that the small satellite program has flown. It's by far the most sophisticated and most ambitious," Smith said. "It's proven to be the most productive and all four experiments operating in space are producing excellent data." Naval Academy students built the MidSTAR-1 satellite and placed the experiments onboard. The school currently controls the satellite and collects data, transferring it to Eclipse and other users.

Naval Academy students are building another satellite, MidSTAR-2. Work will continue through 2008 under the auspices of the U.S. Defense Department. MidSTAR-2 will carry four Goddard experiments into space in 2011 to look at different parts of Earth's atmosphere, gamma rays and solar winds.

Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2008/midstar.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'
26.05.2017 | University of Leicester

nachricht Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>