UCD to take lead on European Space Agency project – October ‘15 launch


A research group led by Dr David Browne will be the coordinator on a European Space Agency (ESA) project. Solidification experiments will be conducted on an unmanned rocket launching from Sweden this October. 

XRMON is an ESA sponsored multidisciplinary international collaboration investigating the effects of gravity on aluminium-based alloy solidification using real-time in situ X-radiography. UCD (PI: Dr. David J. Browne, postdoc Dr Andrew G. Murphy) has been chosen by ESA to lead the XRMON consortium until 2018.

All metal solidification (casting) processes are subject to the effects of gravity. Modelling these processes is difficult because gravity cannot be controlled anywhere on earth. By conducting experiments in microgravity conditions, however, a greater understanding of the effect of gravity on solidification can be gained.

Solidification experiments have already been performed under short duration microgravity conditions by the UCD team on parobolic flights, but each such experiment can only last about 20 seconds. UCD will next launch a similar experiment on and ESA sounding rocket, on board which 6 minutes of zero gravity is available for solidification of the alloy. Eventually such experiments will be conducted on the International Space Station.

UCD has designed and developed a dedicated isothermal furnace (XRMON-SOL) for the forthcoming experiments. The sounding rocket launch date is scheduled for mid-October, 2015, from Kiruna, Sweden. This is the first time an Irish scientific team has been asked by ESA to lead such a Microgravity Applications Promotion (MAP) project.