Polyurethane Repair Kit
South Houston High School’s Polyurethane Repair Kit for the ISS investigates whether these foams can be used to repair cracks or minor damage on space equipment. The investigation compares the density of foam produced in microgravity with foam produced on Earth.
Polyurethane foams are strong and dense, making them beneficial materials for insulation, construction and building repairs on Earth. The Polyurethane Repair Kit for ISS demonstrates the use of commercially available polyurethane repair foam on orbit and examines the compressive strength and insulative effectiveness of polyurethane repair foam by comparing the density of the foams produced in microgravity and Earth’s gravity.
Polyurethane foams are commonly used on Earth as an insulation, repair and construction material. The polymerization reaction produces carbon dioxide as a by-product. The carbon dioxide helps to build up the foam and determining, in part, its density. The density of the foam is one of the factors that determine its compressive strength and its insulation effectiveness.
South Houston High School’s-Polyurethane Repair Kit for ISS investigates if polyurethane foam can be used to repair cracks or damages on space equipment or structures in microgravity. The experiment compares the density of the foam produced in Earth’s gravity with the density of the foam produced in microgravity. The expansion of the MixStix by the carbon dioxide is accounted for by leaving one chamber empty and flattened out to make it as devoid of air as possible. This reduces the pressure build up during the reaction and allows the foam density to develop to its normal level.
Cracks, dents and other structural damage to a spacecraft can be extremely hazardous if not repaired quickly. If polyurethane foam condenses and solidifies in a way similar to how it works on Earth, it could be used for convenient, fast structural repairs in space.
Crew members activate MixStix in a NanoRacks chamber to form polyurethane foam, which produces carbon dioxide (CO2) as a byproduct of its polymerization. The CO2 helps determine the foam’s strength, density and effectiveness as an insulator, all of which influence its capacity to serve as a space-based structural material.
Students from South Houston High School designed the investigation, providing hands-on experience in experimental design, engineering and project management. Students have the unique opportunity to compare results from their own ground-based experiments with data obtained on the International Space Station, connecting them to the space program.
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