Extended Temperature Range Studies for Dry Heat Microbial Reduction 2005-01-3096
Dry heat microbial reduction is an approved method to reduce the microbial bioburden on space-flight hardware prior to launch to meet flight project planetary protection requirements. Microbial bioburden reduction also occurs if a spacecraft enters a planetary atmosphere (e.g., Mars) and is heated by frictional forces. However, without further studies, administrative credit for this reduction cannot be applied. The killing of Bacillus subtilis var. niger spores has been examined and lethality data has been collected by placing spores in a vacuum oven or thermal spore exposure vessels (TSEV) in a constant temperature bath. Using this lethality data, a preliminary mathematical model is being developed that can be used to predict spore killing at different temperatures. This paper will present the lethality data that has been collected at this time and the planned future studies. The results show that rapid ramp-up heating times are critical to obtaining valid lethality data at high temperatures because an extensive number of spores are killed before reaching the target temperature. Exploratory experiments have also been performed using a laser to rapidly heat coupons.