July 10, 2012
On Tuesday July 10th the Space Academy toured the Fatigue And Structures Test (FAST) laboratories. The FAST lab performs testing to verify characteristics, such as the Young’s modulus, of different materials and the structural integrity of hardware. Within the lab are hydraulic systems capable of providing pressures up to 3,000 psi, hydraulic cylinders that are capable of developing loads of 20,000 pounds on three axes, and axial-torsion machines capable of providing 5,000 lbs of axial force and 2,000 lbs of torsional force. Various computational and modeling methods within the lab allow for accurate data acquisition and analysis. In addition to the sheer force many of the machines are capable of applying, the FAST lab also has the capabilities of running tests in extreme environmental conditions such as high and low temperatures and pressures.
Our guide began the tour by showing the Academy RAs a machine that is currently used to test materials capable of improving Russian windows in the International Space Station. The RAs were then shown a machine that applied stress to certain metals while images were taken for later use in modeling. The models created could allow characterization of high stress locations and traits like the Young’s modulus. After being shown a few more machines the Academy RAs were taken down the hall into another room of the FAST lab. Increasingly impressive machines were shown, each with unique abilities for testing materials and hardware. Our guide explained many of the seemingly minor tests ran in the FAST lab. The tests are integral to significant feats of engineering, including bolts used on airplanes and washers used in various space vehicles. The tour was an impressive look into an essential part of engineering. The Academy RSs left with a better appreciation of FAST lab’s importance.