Kirtland team testing 16 materials in space - Albuquerque Journal

Kirtland team testing 16 materials in space

A box containing 16 different materials attached to the International Space Station. A team including researchers at Kirtland Air Force Base are studying how the materials respond to the harsh space environment. (COURTESY AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

In mid July, a spacecraft ferried 16 different materials to the International Space Station so scientists, including those at Kirtland Air Force Base, could study how they would respond to the harsh space environment.

The team of researchers included members from the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, which is based at Kirtland. The experiment marks the first time scientists will receive periodic feedback to see how the objects are responding to space, where they face multiple types of radiation, atomic oxygen and other challenges.

“The overall mission objective is to expose materials to the space environment and see how they react,” said Ryan Hoffmann, the mission manager.

Hoffmann runs the AFRL’s Spacecraft Charging and Instrument Calibration Lab at Kirtland, which uses vacuum chambers to test materials for use in space. He said the ongoing project allows scientists to test the validity of the vacuum chambers.

Scientists from Georgia Tech Research Institute, NASA and DuPont de Nemours, Inc., are also part of the team.

On July 16, a SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft hauled a box of materials about the size of a small table to the International Space Station for the experiment.

Hoffman said the 16 materials run the gamut. There’s a new type of polyimide film, which is used as a thermal blanket to protect a spacecraft. And there’s a high-tech carbon fiber that’s been used in mountain bikes that will be tested to see if it has promise to be used in a spacecraft. It’s a good candidate because it’s lightweight, he said.

“Over the past 50 years, we took a lot of risks early in the space development. We flew a bunch of materials that we didn’t really know how they would react, we found which ones worked. And then we sort of stuck with those materials,” Hoffmann said. “That works as long as you’re OK just using heritage materials, and not really pushing the pace of spacecraft development.”

Dr. Elena Plis, a senior research engineer at the Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory/Georgia Tech Research Institute who is part of the research project, said the materials on the space station for the experiment could be used in the future for aerospace, avionics and other spacecraft applications.

The box of materials was placed on the outside of the space station by a robot. It will remain there for about six months before it’s hauled back down to earth for more analysis.

While NASA has for years tested different materials in space, Hoffman said this project marks an advancement because the materials can be regularly monitored to see how they are changing. In prior missions, the materials were only analyzed before and after spending time in space.

“You want to understand how it’s going to change over time and what capabilities are possible,” Hoffmann said.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Kirtland team testing 16 materials in space


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Outdoor rec projects receive $2M+ in state funding
ABQnews Seeker
The New Mexico Economic Development Department's ... The New Mexico Economic Development Department's Outdoor Recreation Division handed out more than $2 million to 20 projects statewide through its Outdoor Recreation Trails+ ...
2
Rain or shine, students fight for normalcy
ABQnews Seeker
Homecoming returns after years of pandemic ... Homecoming returns after years of pandemic impacts
3
NM to be part of 'clean freight corridor'
ABQnews Seeker
Hydrogen network could power trucks throughout ... Hydrogen network could power trucks throughout Southwest
4
Judge was a 'very generous and caring person'
ABQnews Seeker
Friends and colleagues describe Judge James ... Friends and colleagues describe Judge James A. Parker as a gentleman
5
Climate-fueled wildfires worsen dangers for struggling fish
ABQnews Seeker
A summer-long mission comes to a ... A summer-long mission comes to a quick end as cutthroat trout rescued earlier this year are released into new digs
6
Stewart moves to oust Ivey-Soto from committee post
ABQnews Seeker
Sexual harassment allegations against him behind ... Sexual harassment allegations against him behind the action
7
APD arrests suspect in killing outside Calvary Church
ABQnews Seeker
Victim a security guard and former ... Victim a security guard and former Bernalillo County Fire Rescue commander
8
Electric demand to outpace capacity for New Mexico utilities
ABQnews Seeker
Blackouts feared for 2023, 2024 seasons Blackouts feared for 2023, 2024 seasons
9
New Mexico allows funds for prosecutions in 'Rust' shooting
ABQnews Seeker
DA declines to name potential targets DA declines to name potential targets