The NASA-owned SUBSA furnace, managed by Redwire, allows researchers to investigate how materials melt and solidify in microgravity. Returned to Earth onboard the recent Crew-6 mission, the SUBSA-ugGA investigation was completed successfully on the International Space Station (ISS).
Launched to the ISS on NG-19, the Examination of the Multi-physical Properties of Microgravity-synthesized Graphene Aerogels (SUBSA-ugGA) investigation is a physics study that seeks to develop a graphene aerogel in space using Redwire’s Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA) facility located inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox on ISS.
During on-orbit operations, eight ugGA ampoules were processed in the SUBSA facility to study the formation of the graphene aerogels. NASA astronauts Mark Rubio, Stephen Bowen, Waren “Woody” Hoburg, and UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi supported on-orbit operations. Back on Earth, the SUBSA-ugGA ampoules will undergo additional testing and comparisons to grown controls, after science teams extract hydrogel from the aerogels, transforming them from hydrogels to aerogels.
Aerogels can be used for power storage, environmental protection, and chemical sensing. Using the microgravity environment, researchers expect to alleviate some of the effects of Earth’s gravity, like agglomeration, sedimentation, and thermal convection. This could enable the production of a better, more uniform material structure for the aerogel. An improved aerogel has uses both in space and on Earth, for power, energy storage, and sensing. This could provide key improvements in electrical and optical conductors for electronics on Earth and for deep space.
The SUBSA furnace has been used in several other previous investigations on the ISS. The SUBSA-BRAINS (BRazing of Aluminum alloys IN Space) investigation sought to examine differences in the solidification of brazing allows in microgravity, which could serve as a method for construction and repairs of vehicles, habitats and other systems for spaceflight and on Earth. The Effect of Convection on the Columnar-to-Equiaxed Transition in Alloy Solidification (SUBSA-CETSOL) investigation examined the effects of gravity-driven melt convection, sedimentation, and floatation of grain structure in metals. Information from this investigation could help improve computer simulation models.
Check out other Redwire technologies on the ISS that are enabling a new era of science to improve life on Earth and advance exploration here.