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MELFI: Preserving biological samples in orbit

Air Liquide has already helped put astronauts in orbit, on board the International Space Station, by supplying NASA with the MELFI, a turbo engine that cools its laboratory freezer for preserving biological samples at -80°C. Our experience suggested that turbo-Brayton technology would be suitable. Our experts took great care to avoid mechanical wear and tear: the compressor wheel and the centrifugal turbines are mounted on a tungsten carbide shaft in suspension on a nitrogen film. This was an excellent precaution to have taken when you bear in mind that the MELFI, which was initially due to have an operating life of two years, is still working perfectly a decade later and should last until at least 2020: hundreds of thousands of hours later!

This success was the very first experiment with a turbo-Brayton engine in space. Today, Air Liquide is building a turbo engine capable of supplying 400 times more cooling power. A new challenge!

Why choose us?

  • 01

    Our experience

    We have worked on all the developments for the European launch vehicle, Ariane, as well as numerous international projects, including the International Space Station; the Planck, Herschel, and Microscope satellites; and the Curiosity and ExoMars exploration rovers, among others.

  • 02

    The expertise of our teams

    Our employees are passionate about their work. Our results-minded approach and wealth of expertise have allowed us to make great strides and are now leading us to even more ambitious technological challenges, from launch vehicles with reignition capability and electric propulsion for satellites, to life on Mars...

  • 03

    Our capacity for innovation

    Our innovation teams rely on Air Liquide's expertise and close collaborations with public research laboratories, like the CEA, the CNRS, and the Grenoble University Space Center.