The European Space Agency's materials science laboratory is housed in a NASA research rack aboard the International Space Station.

It consists of a stainless steel chamber that can accommodate furnace inserts designed to carry out different types of melting and solidification processes; these are an arrangement of heating elements, isolating zones and cooling zones contained in a water-cooled metal jacket. The ISS crew can change the insert depending on an experiment's requirements.

A high temperature furnace insert - capable of 1,600°C (2,912°F) - is under study.

Samples to be processed are contained in cartridges, including a sample tube and crucible and prepared on the ground at a cost of about €100,000 ($145,000) each. After an experiment is finished, the cartridge is stored until it can be returned to Earth for evaluation.

Source: Flight International