The Fluids and Combustion Facility (FCF) is a set of two International Space Station (ISS) research facilities designed to support physical and biological experiments in support of technology development and validation in space. The FCF consists of two modular, reconfigurable racks called the Combustion Integration Rack (CIR) and the Fluids Integration Rack (FIR). The CIR and FIR were developed at NASAʼs Glenn Research Center (GRC) in Cleveland, Ohio, under a prime contract with ZIN Technologies. The CIR was launched to the ISS on the Space Shuttle STS-126 in 2008 and the FIR was launched on STS-128 in 2009. Both racks are operated remotely from the ISS Payload Operations Center (ISSPOC) at GRC. The sustaining engineering and operations team is under a prime contract with ZIN Technologies.
The Fluids Integration Rack (FIR) is used primarily to perform fluid physics experiments in microgravity on the ISS but can accommodate a wide range of experiments in other disciplines. The FIR is designed to be easily reconfigured on-orbit similar to an optics bench in a scientist’s laboratory. The FIR will permit a wide range of fluid investigations from microscopic imaging to large two phase flow experiments. The FIR offers the largest open volume for configuration of unique experiments on-board the ISS.
The Combustion Integration Rack (CIR) is used to perform combustion experiments in microgravity. The CIR is designed to be easily reconfigured on-orbit to accommodate a wide variety of combustion experiments.
The ISS Fluids and Combustion Facility (FCF) was designed and built at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio to accommodate the unique challenges of working with fluids and combustion processes in microgravity. The CIR and FIR were designed from 1999 to 2003 with production and testing completed in 2007. CIR has been running since 2009 and has completed over 1000 combustion tests from the FLEX-1, FLEX-2, and FLEX-ICD-GA experiments. FLEX-2 operations are on-going and are planned to run through most of 2015. After FLEX-2, the FLEX-2J experiments with the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) will run for several months, to be followed by the Cool Flames Investigation. All of these experiments are liquid fuel droplet combustion experiments. After the Cool Flames Investigation tests are completed, the Multi-User Droplet Combustion Apparatus will be removed from the CIR and replaced with the ACME combustion insert for non-premixed gaseous combustion experiments.
Glenn was an ideal choice for this project because of their reputation for award-winning research, particularly in the areas of fluids and combustion, as well as their long-standing experience in developing experiment hardware and world-class test facilities. Glenn engineers and scientists have been involved in designing, producing, and managing space-based hardware and facilities since the 1960s. As pioneers in rocket research, they had tested high-energy propellants even before the United States officially entered the space business. Glenn Research Center advanced the propulsion technology that helped make space travel possible. The Center’s unique Zero Gravity Research Facility and other drop towers and laboratories were the source of foundational work in microgravity research. These facilities give Glenn a unique ability to develop and test microgravity experiments. Glenn Research Center is NASA’s center of excellence for fluid physics and combustion science and has been responsible for hundreds of science experiments on the Space Shuttle, sounding rockets, and the ISS. The first experiment was actually performed on the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission in 1962 to study the behavior of liquid in a weightless state. In addition to providing the Fluids and Combustion Facility, Glenn engineers/scientists are a major contributor to the investigations onboard the FCF, in the Microgravity Glovebox, and in other ISS facilities. A forerunner of the FCF, the Glenn-developed Combustion-Module-1 (CM-1), which flew onboard the Shuttle Columbia, STS-83, in April, 1997, laid the groundwork for the combustion portion of the new Fluids and Combustion Facility with several hardware innovations.
Contacts at NASA Glenn Research Center
Project Manager: Robert Corban, NASA GRC