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04-14-2015

SpaceX Launch Has Experiments Worked on by Clarkson University Students

Experiments worked on by three Clarkson University students will be aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft en route to the International Space Station (ISS) in a launch scheduled for 4:10 p.m. EDT today.

Front row (l-r): Eric Sandberg, Ras Labs; Stephanie Liffland, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Whitney Blocher, Clarkson University; Lenore Rasmussen (holding samples), Ras Labs; and Surbhi Hablani, Skidmore College. Back row: Tyler Fuerst, Clarkson University; Bob Hitchner, PPPL; and Sergio Gallucci, Clarkson University (image courtesy of Elle Starkman).Sergio Gallucci '16 (aeronautical engineering/honors program) of Campbell Hall, N.Y.; Tyler Fuerst '15 (aeronautical engineering and mechanical engineering) of Lake Luzerne, N.Y.; and Whitney Blocher '15 (chemical engineering) of Middletown, R.I., were interns last summer at the U.S. DOE’s Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) where they prepared polymer samples for the space environment of the ISS.

The Synthetic Muscle: Resistance to Radiation; Ras Labs-CASIS-ISS Project for Synthetic Muscle: Resistance to Radiation (Synthetic Muscle) investigation tests the radiation resistance of an electroactive polymer called Synthetic Muscle™, developed by Ras Labs, which can contract like real muscle and can also expand.

The payload, eight Synthetic Muscle samples, is a polymer that has the potential to act as if it were muscle fibers in response to voltage differentials. The experiment will last 90 days, gathering information on the effects of the low earth orbit space environment on the functioning of the samples.

Synthetic Muscle samplesThe three Clarkson students worked with other interns on samples going into gamma radiation testing and analyzed the effects of it on the function of the material. Gallucci and Fuerst worked with the plasma treatment of titanium coupons for the payload and supported ballistic testing of the samples to analyze possible damage by G-forces during launch.

Gallucci also designed the aluminum envelope of the payload to ensure minimum jitter and the probability of cross-contamination from launch to termination shock, and analyzed the space environment variables that could be expected in possible ISS configurations, including compliance with ISS environmental regulations.

The versatile material worked on by the Clarkson interns has the potential to introduce revolutionary movement potential to robotics: muscle fibers that could allow for a revolution of robotic movement, and through this experiment, radiation-resistant muscle fibers that could allow robots to replace humans in some situations in irradiated disaster sites, as well as in outer space.

Robots will be of increasing importance on future space missions, where they could perform tasks too difficult or too dangerous for humans. Robots built with Synthetic Muscle would have more human-like capabilities, but the material would have to withstand the rigors of space as well as any metal.

This project brought together resources from the PPPL, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space and the U.S. Army.

Read more about the project at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1291.html .

Read more about Clarkson's mechanical and aeronautical engineering programs at http://www.clarkson.edu/mae .

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption (synthetic-muscle-students.jpg): Investigators and interns testing Synthetic Muscle samples for radiation resistance at the U.S. DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton University. The material undergoes similar testing at the International Space Station National Laboratory. Front row (l-r): Eric Sandberg, Ras Labs; Stephanie Liffland, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Whitney Blocher, Clarkson University; Lenore Rasmussen (holding samples), Ras Labs; and Surbhi Hablani, Skidmore College. Back row: Tyler Fuerst, Clarkson University; Bob Hitchner, PPPL; and Sergio Gallucci, Clarkson University (image courtesy of Elle Starkman).

[Photographs for media use are available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/synthetic-muscle-students.jpg and http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/synthetic-muscle.jpg  .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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