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John O | January 2019

College produces record number of payloads for the International Space Station

By Josh Perry, Editor


The University of Alabama – Birmingham (UAB) recently announced that a resupply mission for the International Space Station (ISS), which was launched by SpaceX on Dec. 4, carried four Polar refrigerator/freezers and a new rapid freezer that were developed at the school and gives UAB 17 payloads in orbit.


Rapid freezer developed at UAB and is now on the International Space Station. (UAB)


According to the school, this is a record for the UAB Engineering and Innovative Technology (EITD) group.


The payloads that UAB has launched to the space station include:


Five Merlins: The Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator is a thermal carrier that has flown on the Space Shuttle, Northrop Grumman Cygnus and SpaceX Dragon. Merlin is a rear-breathing Middeck Locker replacement refrigerator/incubator that provides a thermally controlled environment for scientific experiments in the ISS Express Rack, or the Visiting Vehicles. MERLIN operates between +48 °C and -20 °C and has been operational on the ISS since 2008.


Four Glaciers: Glacier is a cryogenic refrigerator/freezer system that provides a generic interface to accommodate multiple biological sample types and volumes that require thermal control between +4 °C and -160 °C. It is also capable of transporting science in the visiting vehicles at -95°C on 150W. Glacier is a double locker equivalent.


Seven Polars: Polar is a powered, single Middeck locker equivalent size, +4 °C to -80 °C refrigerator/freezer developed by EITD for NASA crew and Thermal Systems Division. Polar is capable of operating within SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule, the Cygnus Pressurized Cargo Module and the ISS EXPRESS Rack. Polar is compatible with the 75W limitation for single lockers in Visiting Vehicles.


One Rapid Freezer: Included in the 17 payloads was the newest device designed by researchers from the EITD. The device will provide a -185° C interface to enable astronauts to quickly freeze biological samples similar to the way liquid nitrogen is used on Earth. The Glovebox Freezer is portable and is capable of operation within both the Science Gloveboxes on the ISS.


The new rapid freezer is part of a $3.6 million contract with NASA, according to another article from the engineering department, and the participants in the project received awards for their efforts.


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