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AFRL Experiment Seeks to Identify Effects of Space Weather on New Spacecraft Materials

Space-based research

AFRL Experiment Seeks to Identify Effects of Space Weather on New Spacecraft Materials

The Space Vehicles Directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory has confirmed the installation of new spacecraft materials on the International Space Station as part of research designed to determine the impact of space weather on such equipment.

A SpaceX Cargo Dragon capsule delivered the 16 Materials International Space Station Experiment to the orbiting laboratory on July 16 under a commercial resupply mission for NASA. Data gathered from the study will allow AFRL to conduct preflight material characterization and identify products fit for spaceflight, the AFRL website reported.

The experiment is being performed in partnership with NASA, Georgia Tech Research Institute and DuPont de Nemours. According to Ryan Hoffmann, AFRL MISSE-16 mission manager, DuPont contributed to the research by supplying material samples and providing an in-depth knowledge of material composition and space utility.

“The data we will receive directly from the ISS has never been collected before and there is an aspect of machine learning required to turn the raw data into a useable format,” Hoffmann said. “These data serve as training datasets for the machine learning algorithms developed by GTRI’s team for analysis of the materials degradation under true space weather.”

GTRI, the primary investigator for the MISSE-16 mission, will look into the collected information and determine products that can potentially be used for aerospace, avionics and spacecraft applications in low-Earth orbit. Elena Plis, a senior research engineer at GTRI’s Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory, noted that the experiment will support the development of technology for monitoring spacecraft through the atmosphere using ground-based telescopes and will help track hazardous orbital debris.

Placed on an ISS flight facility, the spacecraft materials will gather data for six months then the research results will be returned to Earth in early 2023 for analysis.

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Category: Space