Climate change is an increasingly prevalent social, ethical, and scientific issue that threatens ecosystems, biodiversity, and entire continents. Current concentrations of greenhouse gases, specifically CO2, are at a record high of 413 parts per million as recorded by the NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in January 2020. The modern rate at which anthropogenic CO2 is entering the atmosphere is 100 times faster than naturally occurring rates of CO2 emission, with an average per annum growth of +2.3 ppm CO2 (NOAA) (Solomon et al., 2009). The physical effects that coincide with unchecked CO2 emissions are speculated to be irreversible within the human timeframe, and cause lasting ecological damage to ≥70% of land and sea ecologies (Helbig et al., 2017). Elevated CO2 concentrations are common in the lower troposphere, but once past the tropopause, which is the boundary between troposphere and stratosphere, the concentrations decrease and disperse globally. It is imperative that CO2 concentrations throughout the troposphere, tropopause, and stratosphere are regularly recorded and interpreted in order to build a more accurate understanding of the immediate and long term global effects of anthropogenic climate change. The objective is to send a scientific instrument suite onboard a high-altitude balloon to 130,000 feet, and collect vertical CO2 concentration profiles throughout the ascent through the atmosphere. The science suite will consist of a power source, arduino/raspberry pi, CozIR ≤ 2000 ppm CO2 sensors, global positioning sensors, camera, and ambient meteorological sensors. Upon data retrieval, a cross-examination of current atmospheric CO2 concentrations and past concentrations from 1970 to...

The Case For The Space Toilet Objective: The concept of the “bathroom” in space has typically been approached with only the most fundamental and queasy human requirements in mind, resulting in unpleasant, uninspiring, or even brutal areas to perform tasks intrinsic to our physiological health and overall mortality. Bathrooms are one of the few zones crew are afforded visual privacy, and due to the demands surrounding grooming, bathing, and waste elimination, require the most sensitive and intimate hardware our bodies must directly interface with on the entire ship. As the space industry pushes for a more permanent human presence outside Earth, examinations of how design implementations can simultaneously improve the sanitary and cultural considerations of these spaces should be contemplated. To be clear, this is not an examination of the actual waste disposal sub-systems. The experiment will focus on the more design and human-factor relevant issues, such as the “shell” of the toilet to improve ease of cleaning, cleaning time, degradation of components by urine or feces, and to prevent the improper use of the toilet hardware as a translational aid which can cause damage. Methods: This experiment will utilize a low-fidelity mockup of a Universal Waste Management System (UWMS) as a toilet baseline for the “shell” and applicable fixtures, including handles, hoses, foot holds, restrain tethers, and toilet seats. All components will be made out of 3D printed ABS plastic or resin. The demonstration shall occur in a suborbital spaceflight vehicle to simulate the ease of positioning, utilizing, and releasing a...

Improving spacecraft heat pipes and other capillarity-driven flows with triangular features In a microgravity environment, capillary forces dominate the behavior of liquids. I have experience conducting capillary action experiments using 2 seconds of microgravity in a drop tower. However, in suborbital flight, I could utilize microgravity on the order of minutes rather than seconds. My research shows that adding triangular cavities to heat pipes could improve spacecraft heat transfer systems. However, I have only proposed this through mathematical analysis of liquid behavior. To fully prove the benefit of triangular features, I would conduct a longer experiment on a suborbital flight that tests heat pipe designs with my proposed modifications, directly measuring their rate of heat transfer. The objective of this experiment is to improve the heat pipe design currently used on the ISS by determining the shape and size of the triangular feature most beneficial to heat transfer. To conduct this experiment, heat pipes will be flown on a suborbital spacecraft (a minimum of three heat pipes, a maximum determined by size constraints). One heat pipe will replicate the design used on the ISS. The remaining will be identical to this control except for the addition of triangular cavities. Triangles’ shapes and sizes will vary per heat pipe. The coolant will enter the pipes upon the start of the microgravity environment with a simple mechanism controlled by an Arduino. Each heat pipe will be in a thermodynamically isolated box and surrounded by hot air. A temperature probe will record the temperature inside each box...

Testing the WaferSat Propulsion System in a Microgravity Environment Most satellites are large and costly, making space agencies very selective about which missions they approve for launch. This changed with the CubeSat, but a price tag of a couple million dollars at the least is still a hefty purchase for a mission requiring a swarm of satellites. To break those barriers, there has been a move towards even smaller satellites, such as WaferSat. By condensing an entire satellite system into a few bonded silicon wafers, WaferSat drastically reduces the cost of production and increases the amount that can be sent to space at a time, making space research more accessible. To reduce the size of the satellite, WaferSat’s electrospray thrusters are etched directly onto its silicon wafers. An EMI-BF4 ionic liquid propellant is fed to these thrusters through a passive capillary system, eliminating the need for pressurization or moving parts. When a current is passed through the propulsion system, electric field concentrates at their miniscule emitter tips. The concentration of electric field separates the propellant into ions that are then accelerated to high velocities from the tips, producing a thrust and moving the 300-gram satellite. An externally-wetted tip electrospray system like that of the WaferSat has yet to be tested in a microgravity environment. Testing in microgravity is vital as the flow of the propellant may differ from that of tested porous tip systems, altering the thrust produced. In testing, a specific current would be induced through the thruster system. An accelerometer...

Dark matter or nah?  The Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter (ATIC) is a long-duration balloon-borne instrument that flew in the stratosphere to measure the energy and composition of cosmic rays. In 2008, scientists published the finding of a surplus of high energy electrons. During runs in 2000 and 2003, ATIC counted 70 electrons with energies in the range 300-800 GeV; these were in excess of those expected from the galactic background. The source of these electrons is unknown, but it is assumed to be close; electrons in this energy range lose energy as they travel and collide with photons. It is possible that these electrons could result from collisions of dark matter particles. The satellite PAMELA (Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics) had found excess positrons in the cosmic ray signal, also believed to originate from dark matter interactions. ATIC cannot tell the difference between electrons and positrons, so it is possible that the two results are in agreement. This serves as an excellent motivation to recreate such a high-altitude balloon experiment with a magnetic spectrometer on board. The next balloon-borne dark matter experiment to fly will be GAPS (General AntiParticle Spectrometer), which does not make use of a magnetic spectrometer, and instead will use an “exotic atom technique” to identify findings....

Gravity Effect on Impact Physics with Applications of Projectile Motion Following the laws of inertia, objects are moving continuously in a straight line in their momentary direction of motion if no resistance hinders them. The objects react solely to the forces (molecular, electrical, magnetic, mass-attracting and others) acting among and inside themselves. However, despite these changes in object behavior of weightless projectiles caused by the absence of gravity, the laws of how these materials come to rest are not arbitrary. The behavior of liquids is especially unique in zero gravity, as well as the combination of reactive materials. If gravity is missing, the discrete particles of mass can conform to their molecular forces unconstrained and arrange themselves according to their characteristics. The experiment will demonstrate these molecular forces with objects while on a suborbital flight. The objective would be to fill latex balloons with numerous materials, including but not limited to wet sand, a concrete-type composite, water, and ferrofluid. The balloons would be within a clear container for experiment control. A puncturing mechanism will be attached to the inside of this container, with accessibility outside of the container for aim and loading of a variety of projectile materials. The types of projectile material can include ice, rock, magnet, and metal to detect impact power and results. The experiment will be captured with a high frame rate camera to measure and compare the impact differences between target, projectile materials, and gravity level changes. I anticipate surface tension forces to act strongly on...

Determining Suitability of 3D-Printing Polymers for Space Via Stratospheric Balloon Flight Additive manufacturing (3D printing) uses computer control to make precise 3-dimensional objects. In 2016, Made In Space Inc. contracted with NASA to launch the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), a 3D printer that works in microgravity. The AMF has printed over 100 parts aboard the International Space Station. 3D-printed objects, such as hand tools and surgical instruments, could make space exploration more efficient and cost-effective. The objective of this experiment is to send 3D-printed polymers on a stratospheric balloon flight to simulate the conditions of the Mars surface. The polymers will undergo stress tests to identify changes to their mechanical properties after flight. Our payload contains 3D-printed test objects made from five different polymers: ABS Plastic, Green PE, PEI/PC, PLA, and polycarbonate. Since the AMF printer can print with ABS, Green PE, and PEI/PC, we will include both space-printed and Earth-printed objects from these three polymers. PLA and polycarbonate objects will all be Earth-printed. We will also fly raw filament of these five polymers. We will send the ~10-kg payload on a balloon to the middle stratosphere, ~35 km above sea level, for 24 hours. The samples will undergo tensile and compression stress testing before and after flight. From the data, we will identify the most suitable polymers for space applications. The stratosphere and the Mars surface share similar temperature, pressure, humidity, and UV and cosmic radiation levels. Anticipated results are based on the findings of Nogales et al. (2018) and Prater et al....

Characterization of Microbial Communities Characterization of microbial communities has blossomed in recent decades at pace with cost-effective analytical tools for its study and with implications for public health and global geochemical cycling of essential nutrients. Several studies of microbiomes of astronauts and surfaces of the ISS have been published, including a metagenomic and a cultured bacterial isolate study (1, 2). Although a crewed landing on Mars is planned, the effects of microgravity, radiation, and lack of atmosphere on these communities are poorly understood. To address the possibility of Earth microbial proliferation on worlds such as Mars and Europa, as well as to explore conditions that may preserve evidence of extraterrestrial microbes in ejecta (meteors), arrays of substrate varying in mineral composition will be exposed to suborbital conditions. Substrates will include Mars analogs and will be inoculated in culture baths before launch. Environmental and human microbiome inoculates will be sequenced, sampled, and cultured in a time series to compare changes in viable microbial composition on each substrate. Furthermore, chemolithotrophy assays will be developed to provide real-time monitoring of microbial activity at varying depths in the substrates. These data would advance understanding of effects of space conditions on human and environmental microbiomes and detection of microbial life on other worlds. References Be NA, Avila-Herrera A, Allen JE, Singh N, Checinska Sielaff A, Jaing C, Venkateswaran K. 2017. Whole metagenome profiles of particulates collected from the International Space Station. Microbiome. 5(1):81. doi: 10.1186/s40168-017-0292-4. Erratum in: Microbiome. 2017 Sep 1;5(1):111. Coil DA, Neches RY, Lang JM, Brown WE,...