Taking Temperatures in Space

Fluke Corp. (Everett, Wash.) sent a modified Fluke 54 Series II digital thermometer along with the crew of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery. It was part of a demonstration of space-based repair of Thermal Protection System (TPS) tiles during the shuttle's "Return to Flight" voyage. Testing emergency inspection and repair techniques was one of the primary goals of Discovery's August 2005 mission.

Adapted for work in space by Swales Aerospace (Beltsville, Md), the Fluke 54 thermometer and a Fluke 80PK-27 surface probe accompanied mission crew members Steve Robinson and Soichi Noguchi in their space walk on day five of the mission. It was used to check surface temperatures during testing of a space spackle type of sealant material called NOAX (short for Non-Oxide Adhesive eXperimental) that may be used to patch small cracks in the thermal tiles if they are damaged during launch or in flight.

According to George Tansill, mechanisms engineer for Swales Aerospace, the Fluke 54 Series II was critical to NASA personnel's understanding of the NOAX application temperature, providing accurate readings that were invaluable in helping analysts compare the sealant's properties under real-space conditions with thermal analysis predictions made prior to the mission. In fact, the Fluke 54 Series II performed so well, said Tansill, NASA decided to leave the unit with the crew of the international space station rather than bringing it back to Earth as planned.

Source: Fluke Corp.

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