Innovations in spacecraft development within the past 20 years have led to the ability to deploy many spacecraft vehicles on more than one space mission; a feat not possible prior to the launch of the Space Shuttle Program.
With the ability to re-commission spacecraft came the need to mark and identify spacecraft parts and components for inventory and warranty purposes. To meet this need, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration – a division of the US government) launched the MISSE (Mission International Space Station Experiment), an experiment designed to test the durability and readability of both human and machine-readable markings and part identifiers after being exposed to environmental elements of the low earth orbit environment (50 to 1,240 miles above earth’s surface) for an extended time period.
NASA has conducted several MISSE experiments, each one containing an array of marked and coded sample materials to be positioned on the exterior of the International Space Station for a defined period of time, and then removed and returned to earth to be inspected for readability. Each of the sample materials 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 a customer relationship, a tesa representative recommended a tesa® laser label product for inclusion in the MISSE 6 Experiment. The specific product - the tesa® Secure Laser Label - is designed to work with select laser engraving machinery to produce custom marking and coding labels for new and replacement parts within a variety of industries. After gaining acceptance to the mission, the tesa® Secure Laser Engraved Label was prepared for its first space mission.
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 its pre-flight status. After being placed on the exterior surface of the International Space Station, the coded specimens, including the tesa® Secure Laser Label, 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 Laser Engraved Label was successfully read with various scanning devices and is now considered one of the acceptable marking and coding methods for NASA.
With more space missions planned, and space travel becoming a real probability in the future, you may find yourself headed to the moon one day aboard a vehicle with identification labels produced by tesa tape!