MagVector (MFX) - Magnetic Flux Experiment (DLR)
  1. 2014 • ISS Increments 39-40
  2. 2014 • ISS Increments 41-42
  3. 2015 • ISS Increments 45-46
  4. 2016 • ISS Increments 47-48
  5. 2016 • ISS Increments 49-50
  6. 2017 • ISS Increments 51-52
  7. 2017 • ISS Increments 53-54
  8. 2018 • ISS Increments 55-56
Physical Sciences:
  • Fundamental physics
EDR (European Drawer Rack)
D. Konigorski (1), V. Schmid (2), F. Werfel (3)
Astrium GmbH
Airbus Allee 1
28199 Bremen
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. DLR
Königswinterer Strasse 522-524
53227 Bonn
Adelwitz Technologiezentrum GmbH (ATZ)
Naundorfer Strasse 29
04860 Torgau

The approved Opsnom is: MagVector

Magnetic Flux Experiment - MFX is a study on the interaction between a moving magnetic field (of Earth origin) and a very good electrical conductor.

MFX is an experiment aboard the International Space Station which qualitatively investigates the interaction between a moving magnetic field (of Earth origin) and a very good electrical conductor. The proposed set-up will provide initial insights regarding the principal feasibility on board the ISS, future improvements and phenomenological trends and dependencies. The expected changes in the magnetic field structure on the Ram and Wake side of the electrical conductor are of interest for technical applications as well as for astrophysical research. In the latter case, the ISS/MFX combination may open a way for experimental astrophysics, e.g. with regard to the interaction between the interplanetary magnetic field and Venus.

Astrophysics would thus no longer be based solely on passive observation.

MFX is using highly sensitive magnetic sensors to detect the change of the field strengths. The magnetic field and temperature data are collected over time and then transmitted via the ISS infrastructure to Bremen.

The MFX serves the assessment of 3 tasks:

- assessment of the ISS environment with regard to it suitability as experimental astrophysical laboratory,
- warm reference measurements with fair conductivity,
- cold measurements with good electrical conductivity.

The assessment of the ISS environment task is designed to understand the magnetic environment surrounding MFX when installed in the EDR Rack.
The magnetic field sensors will measure the static disturbances from magnetic sources in neighbouring racks, e.g. strong current sources etc. and the dynamic background from the magnetic field of Earth as it passes through the ISIS drawer.

The suitability of the ISS environment is considered as evident, when the dynamic component (the terrestrial magnetic field) can be detected by the MFX sensors while all neighbouring sources remain unchanged, i.e. no current changes in neighbouring circuits.
This shall be measured at least before first installation. These data will support the data analysis later on.

The warm reference measurement task will give insight into the time scale and magnitude of changes of the magnetic field of Earth inside the EDR along the flight path. These data will support the data analysis later on.

This measurement will also be used to detect any sensor offset between the Ram and Wake side of the electrical conductor.

The cold measurement with good conductivity task will give insight into the interaction between the good conductor and the passing by of the magnetic field of Earth inside the EDR along the flight path.

1- and 3-axis sensors will be employed on the Ram and Wake side of the electrical conductor.
Furthermore will the sensors be installed in different heights above the Ram and Wake side to achieve an improved 3 D field assessment above the electrical conductor.

Detailed Scientific Objectives

SO 1: Measure and record magnetic field changes over time/flight path while the conductor is at room temperature, in transient cooling and cold condition.
SO 2: Measure and record the Ram and Wake side as well as the ISIS drawer reference simultaneously.
SO 3: Measure and record the temperature of the conductor over time. The time tags of all records shall be synchronised with the ISS time signal.
SO 4: Re-run the measurements while the Helmholtz cage is in operation to minimise magnetic disturbances.
SO 5: ./.
SO 6: Investigation of the ISS environment with regard to its suitability as experimental astrophysical laboratory.
SO 7: Upload of a small probe of the conductor material (30 grams) in a Ziploc bag, storage in Columbus for MagVector and recovery to Earth - pefereably with Alexander Gerst or six to nine month after launch - for comparison of the material properties.
SO 8: Implementation and operation of a fast track COTS experiment.
SO 9: Before rack installation the magnetic field of the environment should be measured by the crew.

Justification for the need of space experiment:
MFX will simultaneously measure the magnetic field on the Ram and Wake side of the electrical conductor as already indicated above. Furthermore the ISS is moving through the magnetic field of the Earth - or vice versa depending on the chosen reference frame. The ISS is the only laboratory where the interaction can be studied under astrophysically relevant velocity conditions and magnetic field dimensions. It is also the only location where this can be done continously over a prolonged periode of time. The variability of the magnetic field vector - in direction and value - along the flight path is a further parameter, which can not be achieved in combination with orbital velocity and planetary dimensions in a ground laboratory.

As a consequence of the above conditions the magnetic field is piled up on the Ram side of the conductor - as indicated in Figure 1 - under a large set of magnetic parameter variation.
MFX is installed inside of the ISIS drawer, which is itself installed inside the EDR. (see Figure 3).

Time for Measurement:
The time for science measurement is not less than 90 minutes (1 orbit).
The minimum measurement campaign shall contain two weeks continuously to fullfil the basic scientific goals. Before installation; it would be good to gain an overview of the magnetic field at the location.
This could be done with a hand held sensor which could be delivered with the experiment. In every case this measurement on the location should be done on ground with the EML training facility to get information about the influence on the MagVector location. 

The experiment should stay in the EDR as long as possible for long-time measurement, due to the availability of the drawer place. The long-time measurements could then be taken in an alternating mode with EML. After this the MagVector Experiment shall be stored for decommissioning and destructive re-entry.

Measurements of the following quantities will be performed:
• Magnetic Field (various locations inside and outside of the Cryostat)
• Temperature (inside Cryostat)
• Pressure (inside Cryostat)

Parameters measured:

Signal  Range  Sample Frequency Measurement Device Comments
Magnetic field
 ± 1 mV 1Hz Magnetic sensor Mini FCL 100
Pressure 0 – 100 mPa 1Hz Pressure Transducer  MKS Dualtrans 910-13
± 1 mV  1Hz Thermocouple Typ K (Ni-NiCr)
    Columbus System Camera HD - Mode

Electromagnetic environment:
Experiment should be prepared/performed in a relatively calm electromagnetic environment, i.e. without major activities going on near the ISIS drawer. EML shall not be switched on during the scientific measurement time since its high currents would potentially mask the magnetic field of the Earth. Other magnetic field sources or dc power lines next to EDR should be switched off when possible to reduce the electromagnetic noise. All internal magnetic field sources should be static - unchanged - during measurement to avoid misinterpretation of the data. Under the assumption of such a static environment the only remaining dynamic magnetic field source would be the external terrestrial field.

The first MagVector/MFX measuring campaign run from 17 to 19 November 2014 - almost three days without interruption. The run delivered first data for further evaluation.

The motion of the ISS through the magnetic field of the Earth provides the possibility to utilise the magnetic field as simulated moving interplanetary magnetic field when considering the ISS as rest frame.

When the magnetic field is interacting with the electrical conductor a magnetic pile up is expected to happen on the Ram side while a magnetic void is expected on the Wake side.

This set up would therefore in principle simulate the astrophysical situation encountered between the interplanetary magnetic field and a planetary object like Venus.

Expected results:
Each sensor on the Ram and Wake side is expected to deliver a voltage output as indicated in diagramme 1.1. - idealised sketch.
The temperature sensor is expected to deliver a voltage signal as indicated in diagramme 1.2 - idealised sketch
These voltages will be transferred to ground and then converted into physical quantities.

Expected benefits:
- Fast track experiment implementation to increase industrial through put under growing financial constraints.
- A new type of utilisation of the ISS; astrophysical experiment lab rather than astrophysical observatory (AMS 02), μg lab, manned space activities.
- Better understanding of the interaction of a moving magnetic field with a good conductor will pave the way towards the realisation of new applications.

status as of March 2016

The experiment is still on-going. So far, the experiment runs have been successful. All received data show excellent value for the evaluation which is still under process. There are efforts on the way to keep the experiment running until 2018.

click on items to display

Figure 1: Interaction between Venus (electrical conductor) and the interplanetary magnetic field (moving)

Figure 2: ISS Trajectory and Earth magnetic field component

Figure 3: MFX Accommodation concept inside ISIS Drawer

Diagramme 1.1 and 1.2: Idealised sketch of Ram and Wake side voltage output and voltage signal from temperature sensor.

Figure 4: The first MagVector/MFX measuring campaign run from 17 to 19 November 2014 - almost three days without interruption. The run delivered first data for further evaluation. The 75 kg, banana-box sized container is installed in the European Drawer Rack of the European Columbus module.

DLR press release on the experiment from 12 December 2014.
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