The NCSU also can be used to measure nitrogen dioxide levels in the upper atmosphere. "If you had a sensor like this, the size of a postage stamp, you could lick and stick it to monitor chemicals and environmental constituents anywhere," Powell said. "NASA wants to put this in the International Space Station to monitor contaminants, and the Federal Aviation Administration may build hand-held NCSU systems so aircraft crews could detect explosives and/or harmful gases in aircraft," Powell said.
A relatively cheap integrated NCSU system capable of being stuck to any surface would have a wireless radio transmitter, ad-hoc network, and tiny solar cell or battery power supply about the size of a quarter. It could monitor environments and relay detection data for months or years before a replacement would be needed.
Since MidSTAR-1 was launched in March 2007, the sensor has been improved and can now detect and identify more than 15 different chemicals, including ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, hydrogen chloride, and formaldehyde.
Second-generation NCSUs being developed for the space station are capable of selectively sensing several chemical compounds simultaneously and may be hardwired to a permanent power- and data-transmission system for continuous, long-term monitoring of a wide array of environments.
Whether wireless or hard-wired, the systems could relay environmental status, contamination or threat data from multiple sites to centralized monitoring-stations located just about anywhere in the world, including to and from spacecraft and orbiting satellites.
The second successful revolutionary experiment on MidSTAR-1 is a variable emissivity film. The flight onboard MidSTAR-1 demonstrated how a special film, no thicker than an empty plastic sandwich bag, can control the temperature on a spacecraft. The technology had not be
|Contact: Rob Gutro|
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center