RFID tags, bar codes, and printing solutions have been tested in all kinds of environments: jam-packed DCs, refrigerated warehouses, salt-sprayed container terminals, and more. Now researchers have embarked on a mission to take testing of these technologies to the final frontier: outer space.
Earlier this year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shipped a number of marked RFID tags and aluminum disks on the space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station. The items were manufactured by Intermec and were marked with two-dimensional codes and text generated by DataLase's Guardmark printing system. Guardmark uses a laser beam to create tamper-proof images on laser-reactive labels.
The marked parts were attached to the outside of the space station, where they will remain for 12 months. During that time, they will be exposed to ultraviolet radiation, contamination, extreme cold, and vacuum conditions. The parts will then return to Earth for testing to determine whether the tags and the indelible markings can perform as well in space as they do in more mundane conditions. If so, NASA and the U.S. military will use them to track and trace equipment on future space missions, say DataLase executives.