From the 'Vomit Comet' to the Shuttle to the International Space Station
The water-monitoring system fits in a pack the size of a small ice chest. It was launched Aug. 28 on space shuttle Discovery bound for the International Space Station.
The project is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) economic development initiative and two universities where Porter worked previously: Arizona State and Iowa State. The project team now includes NASA, USTAR and the University of Utah, Iowa State University and Wyle Laboratories. Porter is a professor hired under the USTAR program.
During the past decade, the water quality monitoring method was developed and tested during about two dozen low-gravity flights on NASA's "vomit comet" research aircraft such as the KC-135 and C-9, which took off from Ellington Air Force Base in Texas. During a flight, each plane makes 40 parabola-shaped arcs through the sky, climbing steeply, then leveling and diving. Weightless conditions exist for about 30 seconds at the top of each arc.
Porter rode the KC-135 twice in 2002 and 2004, and became very motion sick. Siperko rode the C-9 five times in 2006 and 2007, developing and testing the water-quality monitoring technique, including how to remove drinking water samples from collection bags without excessive bubbles, which don't easily separate from water in weightless conditions. The handheld sensor and chemicals used in the testing process also were checked for reliability during the low-gravity plane flights.
Now, "the experiment is in space for the first time," Siperko says. "It's very rewarding and exciting to know that something you worked on is so important that NASA put it on the shuttle for a six-month test on the International Space Station."
Porter called the space station "the coolest place to do exper
|Contact: Lee Siegel|
University of Utah