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A taste of home for the International Space Station crew

25 October 2012

By helping to maintain cryogenic temperatures as low as -95°C, edge welded metal bellows have become a trusted, reliable solution for NASA cryogenic temperature chambers. 

On October 7, 2012, NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-1) mission lifted off from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral air force station in Florida, carrying a batch of frozen confectionery ice cream as a surprise for the three member crew on board SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule. The ice cream was stored on board in a GLACIER freezer, in which a BellowsTech edge welded bellows assembly was designed.

The GLACIER, or General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator, , is used primarily to preserve science samples that require temperatures between -160 and +4 degrees Celsius on the way to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The mini-fridge sized freezer previously flew aboard the space shuttle.

A BellowsTech rectangular bellows assembly provides the mechanical seal between the GLACIER’s door and the refrigeration unit; providing a leak-tight seal once the door is closed to prevent temperature changes. At extremely cold temperatures, materials like rubber becomes brittle, however; using a metal bellows assembly as the mechanical seal ensures survival through the cryogenic temperatures of the chamber.

Chris Cattle of Abssac Limited, the sole United Kingdom distributor for BellowsTech products says , “With the ability to customize size, shape, material, weight, length, and mounting connections, we can provide a solution to industry specific application needs."  

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