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NASA MidSTAR-1 successful technologies may be revolutionary
Date:2/19/2008

Two new technologies launched onboard a U.S. Naval Academy satellite called MidSTAR-1 have proven successful in their tests in space. One technology is a sensor that can check for harmful chemicals and the other is a special "film" that can control heat.

These technologies were collaboratively developed between NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; NASAs Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.; and Eclipse Energy Systems Inc. of various U.S. locations, respectively.

The nano chemsensor unit (NCSU), can sense chemicals and contaminants that may be harmful to astronauts, as well as a wide range of scientifically interesting compounds. "The chemical nanosensor is like a smoke detector that would fit on the end of an eraser," said Dan Powell, lead nanotechnologist for Goddard. The NCSU was developed by Dr. Jing Li of Ames. Goddard was instrumental in identifying applications, as well as facilitating this first-ever demonstration of applied nanotechnology in space, on-board MidStar-1.

The NCSU's successful operation aboard MidSTAR-1 proved that it senses target chemicals both accurately and repeatedly in space.

The NCSU uses a network of tiny carbon nanotubes that are about 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, to sense various gases and their concentrations. These nanosensors are developed for NASA missions, such as cabin air monitoring for a crew exploration vehicle, in-flight fuel leak detection, planetary exploration, and earth science observation. This experiment proved that the nanosensors is robust that can undergo the vigorous launch process and can work in the space environment, such as microgravity, radiation, temperature variation, and vacuum.

The sensor in orbit was designed to detect trace amounts of nitrogen dioxide, a common air pollutant. This capability, when combined with the unit's extremely small size, power consumption and heat output makes the NCSU useful to many industries. It
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Contact: Rob Gutro
Robert.J.Gutro@nasa.gov
301-286-4044
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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