Article

QMI: Rising to the Space Station Design Challenge

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Abstract

The Quench Module Insert (QMI) materials processing furnace is being designed to operate for 8000 hours over four years on the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the first Materials Science Research Rack (MSRR-1) of the Materials Science Research Facility (MSRF). The Bridgman-type furnace is being built for the directional solidification processing of metals and alloys in the microgravity environment of space. Most notably it will be used for processing aluminum and related alloys. Designing for the space station environment presents intriguing design challenges in the form of a ten-year life requirement coupled with both limited opportunities for maintenance and resource constraints in the form of limited power and space. The long life requirement has driven the design of several features in the furnace, including the design of the heater core, the selection and placement of the thermocouples, overall performance monitoring, and the design of the chill block. The power and space limitations have been addressed through a compact furnace design using efficient vacuum insulation. Details on these design features, as well as development test performance results to date, are presented.

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