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News, features & press releases
News, features & press releases
News, features & press releases

Microgravity Science Glovebox


February 2017 – The Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE) is nearing successful completion of all test conditions on the ISS within the Microgravity Science Glovebox facility. The experiment is designed to study the fluid mechanics within a fixed bed reactor including: 1) minimum liquid flow to remove trapped bubbles 2) steady state flows to determine pressure drop and flow distribution for a wide range of gas and liquid flows; 3) transient flows to determine hysteresis effects during startup or step changes in flow rates; and 4) low gas flows into a stationary liquid to observe viscous fingering phenomena. Two types of packing have been studied (glass beads and Teflon) to observe the effects of a wetting vs non-wetting material. All of the planned test points have been completed and the science team is refining the test matrix to flows very near transition points. The PBRE flight operations are scheduled to be completed by February 10, 2017.

December 2016 – The Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE) hardware was installed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) facility on December 1, 2016 by ISS crewmember Peggy Whitson. The PBRE hardware and the PBRE fluid system checkout was completed the first week of operations. The PBRE experiment operations are scheduled to run through January 2017. The PBRE fluid physics experiment is investigating the performance of packed beds under microgravity conditions. The PBRE experiment will test two types of packed beds and will utilize the two phase liquid gas separator design.

Smoke Aerosol Measurement Experiment (SAME)

sameLogoSpacecraft smoke detectors must detect different types of smoke. For example, hydrocarbon fuels typically produce soot and plastics produce droplets of recondensed polymer fragments. While paper and silicone rubber produce smoke comprised of liquid droplets of recondensed pyrolysis products. Each of these materials produces a different type of smoke, with particles of various sizes and properties. SAME will assess the size and distribution of smoke particles produced by different types of material found on spacecraft such as, Teflon, Kapton, cellulose and silicone rubber. SAME will evaluate the performance of the ionization smoke detectors (used on Space Shuttles), evaluate the performance of the photoelectric smoke detectors (used on the ISS) and collect data for which a numerical formula can be developed and used to predict smoke droplet growth and to evaluate alternative smoke detection devices on future spacecraft.

Smoke Aerosol Measurement Experiment-R (SAME-R)

The Smoke Aerosol Measurement Experiments (SAME) is a combustion and aerosol science flight experiment that investigates the formation of smoke aerosol (solid particulate and liquid drops) in low gravity.  The purpose of the SAME experiment is to make measurements of the smoke particle size distribution to enable design of future smoke detection systems that are more sensitive and specific.  The SAME data is important to the success of Vision for Space Exploration by improving crew health, safety and mission assurance in that it provides data necessary to ensure reliable detection of incipient spacecraft fires should one occur during an exploration mission.

The Boiling Experiment Facility (BXF)

bxfLogoThe Boiling Experiment Facility (BXF) will accommodate two separate investigations, BXF–MABE (Microheater Array Boiling Experiment) and BXF–NPBX (Nucleate Pool Boiling Experiment), to examine fundamental boiling phenomena. BXF is planned for the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) located in the U.S. Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS). The purpose of the BXF is to validate models being developed for heat transfer coefficients, critical heat flux, and the pool boiling curves.

Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates From Colloidal Emulsions (InSPACE) -2, -3

sm_inspace-3logoinspace2LogoInSPACE is a microgravity fluid physics experiment that will be performed on the International Space Station (ISS). The purpose of this investigation is to obtain fundamental data of the complex properties of an exciting class of smart materials termed magnetorheological (MR) fluids. MR fluids are suspensions of small (micron-sized) superparamagnetic particles in a nonmagnetic medium. These controllable fluids can quickly transition into a nearly solidlike state when exposed to a magnetic field and return to their original liquid state when the magnetic field is removed. Their relative stiffness can be controlled by controlling the strength of the magnetic field. Due to the rapid-response interface that they provide between mechanical components and electronic controls, MR fluids can be used to improve or develop new brake systems, seat suspensions, robotics, clutches, airplane landing gear, and vibration damping systems.

Shear History Extensional Rheology Experiment (SHERE)

shereLogoThe resistance of a fluid to an imposed flow is termed a ‘viscosity’, and is a fundamental material parameter by which manufacturers and end-users characterize a material. Normally, researchers will place a material in a commercial instrument that imposes a simple shearing flow, and will report a rate-dependent shear viscosity. While this level of characterization is sufficient for some processes, in typical industrial polymer processing operations, the material experiences a complex flow history with both shear and extensional kinematic characteristics.

Shear History Extensional Rheology Experiment-II (SHERE-II)

shere2LogoThe Shear History Extensional Rheology Experiment  (SHERE) is designed to investigate of the effect of preshearing on the stress/strain response of a model viscoelastic suspension (dilute polymer solution filled with PMMA particles) being stretched in microgravity. This experiment will look at polymer processing operations that involve complex flows, i.e. both shearing (”rotation”) and elongation (“stretching”).

Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures (CSLM)

cslm2LogoThe Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures (CSLM) experiment is a materials science space flight experiment whose purpose is to investigate the kinetics of competitive particle growth within a liquid matrix. During coarsening, small particles shrink by losing atoms to larger particles, causing the larger particles to grow. In this experiment solid particles of tin will grow (coarsen) within a liquid lead-tin eutectic matrix. By conducting this experiment in a microgravity environment, a greater range of solid volume fractions can be studied, and the effects of convection present in terrestrial experiments will be negligible. The flight hardware consists of two separable pieces of equipment, the sample processing unit (SPU) and the electronic control unit (ECU).

Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures-2R (CSLM-2R)

Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures-2 Reflight (CSLM-2R) is a materials science experiment that will support the development and accuracy of theoretical models of the Oswald Ripening (coarsening) process.  CSLM-2R will determine the factors controlling the morphology of solid-liquid mixtures during coarsening.

Smoke Point in Coflow Experiment (SPICE)

spiceLogoThe Smoke Point in Coflow Experiment (SPICE) will observe nonbuoyant round laminar jet diffusion flames in air coflow at standard temperature and pressure (STP) to:

• Determine the effects of fuel type, burner diameter and coflow velocity on smoke point properties.
• Identify test conditions for closed- and open-tip smoke point behavior and resolve mechanisms of these transitions.
• Determine the effect of fuel type, burner diameter, and approach to the smoke point on luminous flame shapes.

Develop and evaluate models of soot formation, luminous flame shapes and flame radiation.

Data to be obtained from SPICE include video of flames, digital photographs of flames, radiometer output, fuel flow velocity, fan voltage, and coflow air velocity.

The purpose of this test was to measure the acoustic emission levels of SPICE for purposes of comparison with the noise emission limits for Microgravity Glovebox experiments.

Structure & Liftoff In Combustion Experiment (SLICE)

sliceLogoStructure and Liftoff in Combustion Experiment (SLICE) is a combustion science experiment that will extend the SPICE investigation by introducing additional objectives that relate to flame stability and structure rather than the smoke point.  The SLICE objectives will provide experimental results that will allow optimization of the ACME Co-flow Laminar Diffusion Flame experiment, increasing its scientific return.


Burning and Suppression of Solids (BASS)

BASS_SMALLBurning and Suppression of Solids (BASS) is a combustion science experiment that will bridge the gap between normal gravity NASA-STD-6001 Test # 1 method, ground based microgravity tests, and actual material flammability in microgravity.  BASS will also assess the effectiveness of an inert, gaseous extinguishing agent (similar to that used on ISS) in putting out flames over different material, geometries, and flow.

Capillary Channel Flow (CCF)

ccfLogoCCF is a versatile experiment for studying a critical variety of inertial-capillary dominated flows key to spacecraft systems that cannot be studied on the ground. Applications of the results of CCF are direct to the portion of the aerospace community challenged by the containment, storage, and handling of large liquid inventories (fuels, cryogens, water) aboard spacecraft. The results are immediately useful for the design, testing, and instrumentation for verification and validation of liquid management systems of current orbiting, design stage, and advanced spacecraft envisioned for future lunar and Mars missions. The results will also be used to improve life support system design, phase separation, and enhance current system reliability by designing into the system passive, in this case capillary redundancies.

Zero Boil-Off Tank Experiment (ZBOT)

zbotLogoZBOT research will aid the design of long-term storage systems for cryogenic fluids. Simulated by Perfluoro-normal-Pentane (P-n-P).

  • Obtain 1-g and microgravity two-phase flow data for pressure control through mixing and active cooling.
  • Verify and validate a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model for cryogenic storage in 1g and microgravity.
  • Use data and CFD model to assess and optimize cryogenic liquid storage design concepts.

Observation and Analysis of Smectic Islands in Space (OASIS)

oasisLogoThe Observation and Analysis of Smectic Islands In Space (OASIS) experiment is designed to exploit the unique characteristics of freely suspended liquid crystals in a microgravity environment to advance the understanding of fluid state physics.

OASIS is being developed under contract by ZIN Technologies, Inc. The OASIS sample module flight hardware will be developed from a functional model of the liquid crystal mixture dispensing system from commercial off the shelf (COTS) parts and will be designed to be integrated into the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG).

Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE)

sm_PBRE_logoThe Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE) is being developed under the Space Flight Systems Development and Operations Contract (SpaceDOC), through the collaboration of ZIN Technologies and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Glenn Research Center (GRC), the International Space Station (ISS), the University of Houston, the National Center for Space Exploration Research (NCSER) and NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). PBRE is an ISS payload designed to validate the hydrodynamics of two phased flow in a packed bed reactor operating within a microgravity environment. Packed bed reactors will be used of future space missions to purify water and air, two substances essential for human life.

Foam Optics And Mechanics (FOAM)

The objective of the FOAM (Foam Optics And Mechanics) flight experiment is to study the characteristics of wet foams in the absence of gravity. The microgravity environment on the ISS will eliminate drainage of liquid out of the wet foams at high liquid contents. This experiment is a joint collaborative project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. As part of the ISS Non-Exploration Program, Professor Douglas Durian, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Physics, participates as the U.S. principal investigator, and is supported by NASA. Professor Dominique Langevin of the University of Paris South (UPS) leads the flight project. As part of the international science team, ESA also supports several additional scientists from Germany, Ireland, France, Belgium and Sweden, mostly from universities.