ISS Science Update for Week of November 11

JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata participates in the Reversible Figures experiment. (Credit: NASA TV)
JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata participates in the Reversible Figures experiment. (Credit: NASA TV)

ISS Science Highlights
Week of Nov. 11, 2013
John Love, Lead Increment Scientist
Expedition 37/38

Aboard the International Space Station, the Expedition 38 crew removed InSPACE-3 hardware from the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) to prepare for the Selectable Optics Diagnostic Instrument-Diffusion Coefficient in Mixtures 2 (SODI-DCMIX 2) installation. InSPACE-3 stands for Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions-3. Nine of 12 additional runs have been completed.

The study’s purpose is to obtain fundamental data about Magnetorheological, or MR fluids. These fluids are a type of smart fluid that tends to self-assemble into shapes. When they are exposed to a magnetic field, they can transition into a nearly solid-like state. When the magnetic field is removed, they return to a liquid state. After the magnetic field is applied to an MR fluid, the microstructures form a rigid lattice that causes the suspension to stiffen.

The study of MR fluids on Earth is difficult as these paramagnetic particles sediment, or sink, while the magnetic field is applied, effecting the formation of aggregate structures. The low-gravity environment that is provided on the space station will eliminate this sedimentation effect. The rapid transformation of these fluids has many possible technological applications on Earth, especially for actuator-type devices. This technology has promise to improve the ability to design structures, such as bridges and buildings, to better withstand earthquake forces.

NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins prepared hardware for the SODI-DCMIX 2 investigation inside the MSG. The purpose of this study is the measurement of diffusion coefficients of selected ternary mixtures taking advantage of the reduced gravity environment on station. Data from these space studies may help the oil industry generate formulas to predict correct measurements for the liquid to gas ratio in potential wells. This information aids geophysics and mineralogy experts as they evaluate the capacity of reservoirs — collections of natural resources that lay hidden in the ground.

The test samples for SODI will be arriving at the station aboard the Progress 53 cargo ship, scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in late November.

NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins conducts a session with the Capillary Flow Experiment. (Credit: NASA)
NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins conducts a session with the Capillary Flow Experiment. (Credit: NASA)f

Seven to 10 test points were completed on the Interior Corner Flow 5 (ICF-5) test vessel during the Capillary Flow Experiment-2 (CFE-2). CFE-2 investigates how fluids move up surfaces in microgravity, and will be used to improve low-gravity fluid systems on future spacecraft. CFE results are also being considered for improving fluid flow in miniaturized biological devices used for health screening and analysis here on Earth.

Radi-N2 bubble detectors’ deployment (Credit: NASA)
Radi-N2 bubble detectors’ deployment (Credit: NASA)

The crew deployed bubble detectors and photographed their positions for the RaDI-N2 Neutron Field Study (RaDI-N2). This investigation uses newly developed bubble spectrometers to measure neutron radiation levels in different areas of the space station. The spectrometers have been designed to only detect neutrons and ignore all other radiation. The objective of this investigation is to better characterize the station neutron environment and define the risk posed to the crew members’ health and provide the data necessary to develop advanced protective measures for future spaceflight.

Other human research investigations continued for various crew members including Cardio Ox, Journals, Ocular Health, Reversible Figures, Space Headaches, and Repository, and Dietary Intake Can Predict and Protect Against Changes in Bone Metabolism During Spaceflight and Recovery, or Pro K.