Space innovations have allowed many spacecraft vehicles to be deployed on more than one mission, creating the need to mark and identify spacecraft parts and components for inventory and warranty purposes. To meet this need, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the Mission International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), an experiment designed to test the durability and readability of both human- and machine-readable markings/part identifiers after being exposed to environmental elements of the low-earth-orbit environment (50-1,240 miles above Earth’s surface) for an extended period.
To date, NASA has conducted several MISSE experiments in which various marked and coded sample materials are positioned on the exterior of the International Space Station for a certain period of time before being removed and returned to earth for readability inspection. Each sample is exposed to harsh environmental conditions, including vacuums, solar ultraviolet radiation, micrometeoroids, space debris, atomic oxygen and deep thermal cycles.
Working closely with NASA through one of its laser label customers (Sys-Tec Corp.), Dave Adams of tesa tape inc., an affiliate of tesa SE of Hamburg, Germany, recommended a premier tesa® labeling product for inclusion in the MISSE 6 experiment. After being approved for the mission, the tesa Secure 6973 PV3 laser-engraved label was prepared for its first space mission.
The label is designed to work with select laser-engraving machinery to produce custom marking and coding labels for new and replacement parts within a range of industries.
Prior to launching the MISSE 6 experiment on March 11, 2008, NASA representatives photographed each coded sample specimen and tested each for readability to document their pre-flight status. After being placed on the exterior of the International Space Station, the coded specimens remained in orbit for one year and 130 days.
Upon retrieval from orbit, each coded specimen was again photographed and tested for readability using select reading devices. The tesa Secure 6973 PV3 label was successfully read with various scanning devices and is now considered one of the acceptable marking and coding methods for NASA. As a result, the label will be added to the NASA-STD-6002 standard for applying data matrix identification symbols on aerospace parts.
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