The only way to test how materials will perform in space is to test them in
space. Laboratories can only simulate one or two space environmental factors
at a time.

When Shuttle Mission STS-105 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on
August 10, it carried the MISSE payload. The Materials International Space
Station Experiment consists of two “suitcases” full of materials that will
undergo a one-year exposure test in space. The cases, called Passive
Experiment Containers (PECs), will be clamped to the exterior of the
International Space Station by astronauts Daniel T. Barry and Patrick G.
Forrester during a spacewalk planned midway into the scheduled 11-day

MISSE deployment during the mission’s first spacewalk is scheduled for
Thursday, August 16. The MSSE installation should take place at
approximately 3:00 EDT.

NASA Langley Research Center’s Newsroom will be open from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m.
EDT with live images of the EVA. A MISSE principal investigator will be
available for interviews. Look for a Public Affairs Office representative in
the NASA front gate parking lot on Commander Shepard Blvd. to receive an
entry badge.

Space is an extremely hazardous vacuum filled with lethal radiation, storms
of micrometeoroids, extreme variations of temperature, and all manner of
man-made debris. Any one or a combination of these can damage or even
destroy unshielded satellites and other spacecraft.

Approximately 1,500 samples will be tested during the year-long project. The
samples include ultra-light membranes, composites, ceramics, polymers,
coatings and radiation shielding. In addition, components such as switches,
solar cells, sensors, and mirrors will be evaluated for durability and
survivability. Seeds, plant specimens and bacteria, furnished by students at
the Wright Patterson Air Force Research Laboratory, are also being flown in
specially-designed containers.

A similar experiment, the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF, spent 69
months in low-Earth orbit before being retrieved in 1990. Researchers
learned much from that experiment and began to develop new materials that
could withstand the hostile space environment.

Another materials experiment flew on the Mir space station in 1996-97 as
part of the Mir Environmental Effects Payload (MEEP). The current project
will test materials developed as a result of the LDEF and MEEP programs.

After the exposure time of one-year, Mission Specialists will seal the
Passive Experiment Containers, remove them from the Space Station and bring
them home on the Shuttle for examination and study.

NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, leads the MISSE project
and is working closely with other NASA Centers, the Department of Defense,
and the Boeing Corporation.

For more information on MISSE, please check the Internet at: