Engineering researchers hit record with 17 payloads on the International Space Station

The December launch of the SpaceX CRS-16 carried the Engineering and Innovative Technology Department’s newly designed Rapid Freezer.

Feature Image PayloadsThe SpaceX CRS-16 launched its resupply mission to the International Space Station on Dec. 4 and carried four Polars and the Rapid Freezer developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s engineers. This flight, combined with additional assets currently on-orbit, provided a record for UAB developed payloads on-orbit.

“Our employees at EITD always surpass our expectations,” said Lee Moradi, Ph.D., director of UAB’s Engineering and Innovative Technology Development. “Having 17 payloads on the International Space Station is a testament to their hard work and dedication. This record makes UAB a significant contributor to the ISS science support.”

The 17 payloads 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.

“EITD follows UAB’s strategic plan by providing high-quality, reliable, cold stowage products,” Moradi said. “The EITD takes great pride in its heritage of developing complex engineering products and is thrilled to put UAB in the microgravity environment of space. UAB is well-known by NASA.”