Air Liquide on board the International Space Station

June 19, 2007

MELFI (Minus Eighty Degrees Laboratory Freezer for the ISS) is a cryo-refrigerator for use on board the International Space Station (ISS) for freezing and storing biological samples and other research specimens at temperatures as low as - 95°C, before they are brought back to Earth.

On behalf of the European Space Agency, Air Liquide designed and manufactured a unique turbo machine for production of cold, which constitutes the active cooling part of MELFI. Since July 2006, when it was commissioned on board the ISS, astronauts have used this cold producing system intensively; the rotating speed of the turbo machine can reach 90,000 rpm, and it has already been in flawless service for over 8,000 hours.

Experts from the Advanced Technology Division of Air Liquide took up the challenge to adapt industrial equipment to manned space flights conditions. Thanks to this achievement and the reliability and performance of the system, NASA decided to extend the orbital lifetime of MELFI by five years. It was initially planned for two years.

It is envisaged that Air Liquide will also provide special equipment for the internal purification of the cryo-refrigerator. To remove even the minutest trace of humidity, the astronauts will have to vacuum the system each year and refill it with nitrogen stored on board the ISS. Air Liquide will provide them with a system to purify this gas and ensure all the pumping and filling operations.

François Darchis, Senior Vice-President, responsible for R&D, Technologies, Engineering and Construction, declared: With this new success on board the ISS, Air Liquide confirms its long term commitment to space-related activities by providing its high level of technology and innovation, a key growth driver for the Group.


Air Liquide takes part in the International Paris Air Show in Le Bourget (France), June 18 to 24, 2007, where the Group will show the MELFI turbo machine. In 2007, the Advanced Technologies Division of Air Liquide celebrates 20 years of designing and manufacturing on-board gas production systems, thus contributing to safety in air transportation. Today, the Group totals 15 major aeronautical programmes, eight of which currently being developed, obtained over the five past years.