In November, the ISS National Lab and NASA’s Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications (SLPSRA) Division released the 2019 ISS Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) Materials Science in Space Workshop Report.
The 2019 ISSRDC Materials Science in Space Workshop was held on July 29 during ISSRDC in Atlanta, Georgia. This joint workshop brought together government, university, and industry researchers and engineers to discuss how microgravity and the extreme environmental conditions on the ISS could be leveraged for innovative materials science research that meets both NASA’s exploration goals and the ISS National Lab’s goals to benefit life on Earth.
The first part of the workshop included briefings on high-priority advanced materials topics and new ideas and provided overviews of the latest facilities and instruments on the ISS available for materials research. The second part of the workshop consisted of in-depth breakout sessions, chosen based on responses to a Request for Information issued in advance of the workshop, covering three topics:
1) Functional Materials
2) Materials Characterization, Microstructure, and Process Modeling
3) Lunar Infrastructure and Surface Operations
The goal of the breakout sessions was to discuss potential future investigations, identify gaps in existing research capabilities on the ISS, and recommend follow-on actions.
The Functional Materials session focused on leveraging microgravity conditions on the ISS to develop materials that have improved or tailored properties either for use on Earth or for exploration purposes. Key themes discussed in the session include additive manufacturing and how it can be used to produce materials with improved functionality and performance, materials reuse and the ability to process waste into useful material, high-value materials that can uniquely benefit from studying their production in microgravity, and the acquiring of thermophysical property data to drive machine learning and modeling.
The Materials Characterization, Microstructure, and Process Modeling session centered on use of the ISS for benchmark experiments to study microstructure development and thermophysical properties in microgravity. Such information is needed for the development and validation of physics-based models for a wide variety of fabrication processes. Overarching themes of this session include the use of microgravity to gain fundamental knowledge of additive manufacturing and metal processes and the application of insight gained to the in-space processing, manufacture, and assembly of large-scale systems.
The Lunar Infrastructure and Surface Operations session discussed materials systems and processes necessary for operation in space, lunar, and Martian environments. The focus was on identifying research that could be done on the ISS to examine the effects of microgravity or reduced gravity on materials production and repair processes for long-duration missions on the surface of the Moon or Mars. Key themes from this session include advanced manufacturing, surface infrastructure, in-space assembly, resource prospecting, resource processing and handling, advanced materials development, dust mitigation, and space/lunar environmental compatibility testing.
The workshop report summarizes discussions from the breakout sessions and highlights the resulting key recommendations. For more information about the workshop and to view workshop presentations, visit issnationallab.org/workshops/2019-materials-in-space. Download the full workshop report at issnl.us/2019msw.
This content was adapted from an article that originally appeared on ISS360 in November 2019.