STS-134 Fluid/Sample Compatibility Test

This page (put up on December 13, 2010) provides comprehensive information on the Fluid/Sample Compatibility Test, including final information on when the test is to be performed and when the student experiments’ fluids and solids must arrive at ITA. It became clear, given the level of information associated with this Test, that there should be a dedicated page as opposed to covering the requirements in SSEP Blog Posts.

All questions regarding this test should be sent directly to Dr. Harri Vanhala, SSEP National Program Manager, at or 202-297-9178.

Description of the Test

ITA, whose MDA mini-laboratory is to be loaded on the Shuttle, is required by NASA to conduct a Fluid/Sample Compatibility Test. The general description of the test that is provided by ITA and appears in the Critical Timeline states that:

“The student team is to send their experimental samples (fluids and solids) to ITA to conduct a Fluid/Sample Compatibility Test, to assess if the samples will degrade the seals on the MDA—which could cause a breach in the first level of containment required to protect the crew cabin on the Shuttle. “

NEW INFORMATION The test is performed on all fluids and solids that are expected to be loaded in the MDA for flight, which comprise up to 90 separate experiments. The test therefore involves a very significant number of samples. The test is to be performed in two stages:

Grease Plate Test: The first phase is to place the sample fluids and solids on smears of the grease used to provide the seal between the MDA’s sliding blocks to see if the grease degrades.

Loading of Flight Blocks with Samples: this second phase is a complete loading of the fluids and solids in the MDA’s upper and lower blocks , as would be done for flight, and conducting a full dry run of the flight experiments using the correct slide protocol and allowing the experiments to run for the full mission duration–which NASA has increased from 10 days to 14 days on orbit.

This test is meant to ensure that the fluids and solids do not degrade the sealing compound within the MDA sample blocks, which could cause leaks or cross contamination. Any fluids or solids that show evidence of degradation of the sealing compound will not be allowed to fly the mission since it could impact all other experiments within the blocks. Potential solutions to such a situation are to reduce the concentration level, or use a different fluid sample that is on the Master List of Experiment Samples. ITA would work directly with NASA Toxicology and try and find a solution if this occurs.

Date of Test for STS-134

NEW INFORMATION On Wednesday, December 29, 2010, the Grease Plate Test will be conducted on all fluids and solids. On this date, the MDA blocks will also be loaded with all fluids and solids and the experiments will be run for 14 days.

Due Date for Arrival of Your Fluids and Solids at ITA

NEW AND FINAL DETAILS All student teams must provide their samples in the December 27 to 28, 2010, time frame. That is, they should not arrive any earlier than December 27 and not any later than December 28. If you have biological samples, December 28 is preferred.

The Fluids and Solids to be Sent

Precisely as Specified to NASA Toxicology: Every flight experiment team must provide the precise fluids and solids that were specified to NASA toxicology for their experiment. Not doing so puts at risk the flight opportunity. This includes fluids already mixed at correct concentrations (if this is a concern please contact Dr. Harri Vanhala at or 202-297-9178.)

Other points:

• you must send all fluids and samples specified for your experiment
• you cannot add new fluids and samples beyond what was specified to NASA toxicology
• you cannot substitute any samples relative to what was specified to NASA toxicology

If your experiment operates over a range in concentration for specific fluids, we advise that you send the maximum concentrations for the test.

Amount of Fluids and Solids to be Sent: For all your fluids and solids, the test requires at least 3 times the sample size that will fly. The extra quantity will support the two phases of the test with a little extra to allow for any unforeseen issues.

Shipping Containers for Fluids and Solids

The samples should be sent in a reasonable-sized vial such as a test tube or similar appropriately sealed container.

Required Labeling of Your Fluids and Solids

Use three levels of labeling for your samples:

1) Mark the shipping box with the identification “SSEP”, the name of the Teacher Facilitator, and the name of your community.

2) Mark each sample vial inside the box with a label (taped to the vial or using a sticky note) containing the following information:

• What the sample is, using the exact wording from your final samples list (e.g., “5% salt in distilled water”)

• The name of the Teacher Facilitator and contact information (cell phone, email)

It is essential to mark all samples this way, so that the vials containing the samples can be identified and kept together for the test.

3) Include a master packing list containing:

• The name of the Teacher Facilitator and contact information (cell phone, email)

• The name of your community

• The name of your experiment

• Listing of all vials you are sending with the samples in each vial identified; be sure to include all details of the samples you are sending (concentrations, amounts included, and the amount intended to be used for the experiment)

• If you are sending samples in two mailings (e.g., one arriving directly from a commercial sample supplier – see FAQs), include the name of the supplier and the expected delivery time

Where to Send Your Samples

Please have your student teams send their samples by either UPS or FedEx and make sure that their packages are sent requiring a signed signature receipt for the package. Send samples to:

Mr. John Cassanto
Instrumentation Technology Associates, Inc.
108 Ashland Drive
Downingtown, PA 19335
(610) 363-7971

Student Teams are Responsible for Reading the FAQs on the Test
Besides the information on this page, all student experiment teams are responsible for also reading the FAQs on the Fluid/Sample Compatibility Test. These FAQs, found at the bottom of the STS-134 Flight Experiment FAQ page, address issues that may be important to individual teams, e.g.: Can you get left-over samples back? Can you have a sample shipped directly from a supplier?

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.