NASA EXPRESS Racks Achieve 1 Million Hours of Service on Space Station


NASA EXPRESS Racks Achieve 1 Million Hours of Service on Space Station: It was a monumental day for NASA scientists on the International Space Station on June 14.

One million hours of combined power duty on the EXPRESS Racks, or “EXpedite the Processing of Experiments to the Space Station” multipurpose payload shelving units, has been registered. In barely two decades, scientists have finished the work of roughly 115 years of research.

Since its inception more than 60 years ago, NASA’s technological innovation in space has been propelled by science, sparking our curiosity and expanding our reach into the cosmos, according to Jody Singer, director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Express Racks play an important part in making our astronauts more secure and comfortable while they are in orbit, and continue to unlock practical benefits to science, medicine, and countless other facets of everyday life here on Earth,” NASA says in a statement.

By 2020, the 12 permanent racks will be able to accommodate up to 100 experiments simultaneously, enabling a wide range of scientific research with practical applications on Earth and for the Artemis-Generation explorers, NASA soon plans to send back to the Moon and eventually Mars.

When it comes to maximizing space station utilization, “we rely on Marshall’s knowledge and talent,” International Space Station program manager Joel Montalbano of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston said. Achieving this milestone is a remarkable demonstration of what we can accomplish together to benefit the space program, the future, and the people of Earth.

According to Marshall’s EXPRESS Racks project manager, Joel Hardy, his team is proud to have delivered such crucial gear – and to have kept it operating for more than two decades by monitoring and improving component technology and software to generate scientific data.

A proud day for everyone at Marshall who contributed to the achievement of this milestone, Hardy remarked. This really demonstrates the high standard of Marshall’s design and production, as well as NASA’s long-term commitment to quality.

There are up to eight configurable lockers and two payload drawers in each refrigerator-sized EXPRESS Rack, with direct access to power, cooling, and heating. There is also direct access to command and data communications. There is no limit to the length of time an experiment can last, as long as it can be safely stored away in its own compartment.

Two dozen NASA team members in Marshall’s Payload Operations Integration Center control the experiments in the racks, either on-board the station or from afar. To guarantee that data is being processed correctly, they monitor all parts of the science payloads on station 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in real time.

With NASA’s Commercial Crew Program gaining momentum, rack space is in high demand among global research partners.

As launch vehicle traffic to and from the space station increases, “it’s an interesting challenge,” Hardy said.

Marshall rack engineers are also considering NASA’s plans for the Moon and Mars, which are expected to continue into the 2030s.

Marshall payload facility and research integration manager Lynn Farris is no stranger to this type of environment, having worked here before. In 1997, she was part of a crew that tested the first EXPRESS Racks aboard the space shuttle, which were subsequently installed. During more than 130 shuttle flights between 1981 and 2011, astronauts used the shuttle’s own very adaptable “mid-deck lockers” to conduct a variety of scientific experiments, and this gear significantly influenced the creation of the EXPRESS Racks.

When NASA’s Gateway Program, Human Landing System Program, and other lunar development efforts convene to discuss the integration of advanced science rack technologies with the long-term demands of future Moon missions, engineers and management from EXPRESS Rack participate.

“We’re adapting and improving on that success for a new generation of explorers and a thriving commercial space economy,” Farris said of the racks’ first million hours of powered service on station. No one else can speak for me, but I’m having an absolute blast.”

Johnson Space Center in Houston, which manages crew and station operations for NASA, provides funding for the EXPRESS Racks. The EXPRESS Racks were created and tested by the Boeing Company of Huntsville and Marshall engineers during the development and early construction of the space station in the early 1990s.

More than 242 people from 19 countries have lived on the space station, working alongside more than 4,000 scientists from 108 countries to undertake nearly 3,000 research activities.