In August 2001, NASA launched the Materials on the International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), a cooperative effort with the Air Force Research Laboratory, Boeing, the Langley Research Center and several other aerospace industry leaders. MISSE is a series of experiments designed to test the effect of the space environment on different materials over extended periods of time, in hopes of developing new, more affordable materials for launch systems and spacecraft.

Approximately 1,500 specimens are being tested for durability and survivability in the hostile and unforgiving space environment. Samples range from components such as switches, sensors and mirrors to materials such as polymers, coatings and composites. Biological materials such as seeds, spores and various types of bacteria are also being evaluated. To support these research efforts, NASA needed a way to measure and record temperature for the MISSE. The chosen sensor needed to be exceptionally accurate, have long battery life and large memory, and be robust enough to resist vibrations, G-forces and vacuum conditions. It also needed to withstand dramatic temperature swings as the space station shifted from direct sun exposure to the shadow of the Earth.

After considering several options, the NASA team opted to use Vaisala temperature data loggers. These compact, self-contained, wireless temperature and humidity recorders incorporate sensors, memory, power supply, clock and microprocessor . Vaisala data loggers are easy to install, accurate, and many have a ten-year battery life.

The Vaisala loggers were integrated into other NASA measurement instrumentation and used to measure temperature in externally mounted Passive Experiment Containers (PECs). PECs, each containing a different experiment, were attached to select locations on the space station and exposed to designated orientations.

Although the scheduled timeframe for the first MISSE tests was one year, the grounding of the shuttle program following the Shuttle Columbia disaster delayed plans for retrieval of the experiments. The PECs remained in place on the International Space Station for a full three years before they could be recovered.

Because of the 10-year battery and large memory, NASA was confident that the loggers would function properly for the duration of the return trip. There aren’t many data loggers that could survive and perform as well under such extreme conditions. Learn more about Vaisala’s precision loggers designed for demanding applications, ranging from GxP regulated, to cleanrooms, to warehouses, to chambers.

For more information about the materials on the International Space Station Experiment, visit: 

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Vaisala Data Loggers Protect Critical NASA Data
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