MELBOURNE, FLA.—An experiment designed by Florida Tech scientists, NASA's Kennedy Space Center engineers and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is among the cargo that recently arrived at the International Space Station on the Orbital-1 cargo resupply mission. The experiment, “SPHERES Slosh” seeks to study how liquids move around inside containers in microgravity.
The data collected from this unique experiment will ultimately be used to design safer and more efficient rockets and spacecraft. The investigation utilizes the Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) to control the motion of a container partially filled with liquid. The container undergoes motions that are representative of the actual motions of large rockets and spacecraft during orbital operations in space.
“The experiment worked flawlessly during our checkout session and our preliminary data is looking very good. We look forward to using this new data to enhance our fundamental understanding of how liquids dynamically behave inside moving containers in microgravity,” said Dan Kirk, a Florida Tech faculty leader on the project.
The first of two dedicated science sessions will take place on Friday, February 28, and real-time support for the experiment, including live communications with NASA, will be conducted at Florida Tech’s Aerospace Systems And Propulsion (ASAP) Laboratory.
“We are very excited to be operating Florida Tech’s first experiment on the ISS from the ASAP Laboratory and we are particularly thrilled with the many students that we have been able to involve in this important research project,” said Hector Gutierrez, a Florida Tech principal investigator and director of the ASAP Laboratory.
Orbital-1 is NASA's first contracted resupply mission to the space station by U.S. company Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va. Orbital's Cygnus spacecraft launched atop the company's Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia Jan. 9. Expedition 38 crew members captured the Orbital-1 Cygnus using the space station's robotic arm at 6:08 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 12. Orbital developed its Antares and Cygnus with NASA and successfully completed a test mission to the space station in September, enabling the first of eight planned contract resupply flights by the company.
PHOTO: Florida Tech faculty member Daniel Kirk poses with a model of the SPHERES Slosh Experiment prior to ground testing at Florida Tech.