Space Shuttle

Real-time data from an experiment aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, launched Sunday, is available to anyone with access to the World Wide Web on Internet for most of the current 10-day mission.

The experiment is the Brilliant Eyes Ten-Kelvin Sorption Cryocooler Experiment (BETSCE), which can produce temperatures as low as 10 Kelvin (-441.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

The data from the experiment will be made available with the assistance of two companies, National Instruments of Austin, TX, and Apple Computer Inc. of Cupertino, CA.

The Measurement Technology Center at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where BETSCE was developed, is using graphical instrumentation software from National Instruments to monitor the status of the experiment.

The data is being transmitted to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, which in turn is relaying it to a computer at JPL, which sends the data to a server at National Instruments in Austin.

To access the data, Web users need to use Netscape Navigator Version 2.0. The data will be available at two Web sites:

BETSCE is a new refrigeration technology designed to enable precision pointing without vibration for long-duration astronomy, Earth observation and surveillance space applications. Before, it was only possible to achieve temperatures as low as 10 Kelvin in space by launching large, heavy dewars containing liquid helium or solid hydrogen. Typical lifetimes for these missions has been well under one year because the helium or hydrogen depleted. The closed cycle sorption cooler has the potential to operate reliably for more than 10 years.

In BETSCE, the sorption cryocooler alternately heats and cools beds containing metal hydride powders to circulate hydrogen as the refrigerant fluid in a closed cycle. It takes less than two minutes to reach its 10 Kelvin level.

The Web page is showing the status of a number of experiment measurements including temperature and pressure of the coolant, whether the coolant is solid, liquid or gas, temperatures of specific parts of the system and whether valves are open or closed.

BETSCE was developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory under contract to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and the Air Force Space and Missiles Systems Center. The NASA Office of Space Access and Technology sponsored the space shuttle flight for BETSCE. The project manager and principal investigator at JPL is Dr. Steven Bard.

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