NASA selects Thermo Electron's Exploris 240 Orbitrap mass spectrometer

May 2, 2023
Methods based on fragmentation and ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry that can interrogate single atom isotope enrichments in small molecules.

WASHINGTON - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) needed a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer to identify features in natural systems that would not arise due to aboiotic processes. They found their solution from Thermo Electron North America LLC in West Palm Beach, Fla.

NASA says that Thermo Electron was selected as their Exploris 240 gas chromatograph Orbitrap mass spectrometer system assembly that meets their needs. NASA requires a gas chromatograph (GC) equipped with both a programmable temperature vaporizing (PTV) injector and a split/splitless (SSL) injector module. Both modules must be capable of integrated electronic gas control with both constant and programmable flow and pressure modes as well as leak check and column evaluation capabilities. The PTV must be capable of a maximum temperature of 450°C for large volume and on column injection while the SSL must be capable of a maximum temperature of 400°C and compatible with Merlin Microseal septa.

Among other requirements, Thermo Electron's Exploris 240 meets NASA's requirement for a mass spectrometer with a mass range from m/z 30-3,000 with resolution up to 240,000 at m/z 200 and a scan rate of 40 Hz for m/z 200 with a resolution of 7,500. The mass spectrometer must have an analytical dynamic range of >106 and sensitivity of at least 100 fg octofluoronaphthalene with electron ionization and 10 pg benzophenone with chemical ionization.

These methods based on fragmentation and ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry that can interrogate single atom isotope enrichments in small molecules. Our methods require tandem mass analyzers to generate separate signals for different ions in complex mixtures as well as high resolution mass spectrometry to resolve analyte signals that differ by only a signal enriched atom for position specific isotope analysis. NASA's methods also rely on the characteristic fragmentation patterns generated by the Orbitrap mass analyzer in order to calculate molecular assembly estimates.

The application of the gas chromatograph mass analyzer is to ensure the delivery of an analytical instrument suite for simultaneous in situ measurements of organic compounds, their position-specific isotope composition and their fragmentation patterns for small molecules separated by gas chromatography.

While NASA believes Thermo Electron North America LLC is uniquely qualified for its needs with their Exploris 240 Orbitrap mass spectrometer, the agency invites other companies to reach out with products that meet the capability and qualifications prior to the contract being issued. See a full list of the requirements, please visit

Interested organizations may submit their capabilities and qualifications to perform the effort electronically via email to Shanita Boykin or [email protected] not later than 12 May 2023 at 4:30 P.M. Eastern Time. Such capabilities/qualifications will be evaluated solely for the purpose of determining whether or not to conduct this acquisition on a competitive basis. 

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