Re-usable test facility launches to the International Space Station to provide space exposure testing for engineers and scientists.
Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance (Alpha Space) has launched its commercial science and testing facility “MISSE” to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the SpaceX CRS-14 resupply mission. Alpha Space owns and operates the MISSE, an orbiting commercial science facility that will be permanently installed on the exterior of the ISS later this month, and serves the space research, testing and materials science communities.
“This is an exciting time for NASA and the growing commercial space industry,” stated Mark Gittleman, Alpha Space president and CEO. “Our new MISSE facility offers both the traditional and commercial aerospace communities, as well as NASA, a unique, in-space testing and exposure capability that is inexpensive, easy to get to and easy to use.”
Alpha Space will continue to launch and return test samples approximately every six months for the rest of ISS’s planned life, working through a cooperative agreement with NASA and a user agreement with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS. By making the facility permanent, Alpha Space and NASA have dramatically reduced the cost and logistical difficulties of testing in space. They have also created the ability to provide extended exposure to the space environment, for years at a time if required.
“Our customers – which include scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs – simply deliver their samples or components to us and we take care of the rest,” stated Gittleman. “Soon their product is in orbit, and we’re delivering data back to them and, unlike most other flight tests, they get their samples back when their time on orbit is over.”
The experiment complement on the current MISSE is composed of 229 individual samples from a mix of commercial customers and NASA centres. Samples include 3-D printed materials, sensors, sensor components, textiles, carbon fibre laminates, paints, coatings, polymers and composites. Exposure times range from six to twelve months.
“Alpha Space is actively accepting samples and experiments for its next two flights, scheduled for November of this year and May of 2019,” shared Gittleman.