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


A Lab Aloft: The Advantage of Laboratory Time in Space

Guest blogger Dr. Mark Weislogel shares his thoughts on the advantages of working long-duration investigations on the International Space Station.

By engaging in long-duration investigations, there is time to think things over and, when unexpected events occur, there is time to respond in a creative and curious way.

Time, resources and astronaut involvement factor into the success of

The full text for this blog is available here.

The entry for the A Lab Aloft blog can be found at:


CFE-2 Status

July 2014 – The International Space Station commander Steve Swanson performed several bubble-free drain tests using the Interior Corner Flow 5 (ICF5) vessel on July 3, 2014. The ICF5 vessel has a square cross-section, and the top half of the test section is divided into 4 smaller square channels. There are 4 valves at the top of the test section corresponding to each of the 4 channels. During the runs, silicone oil was deployed into the test section to commence the top drain tests through one open valve. The silicone oil was drained from the test chamber through the open valve without ingesting gas into the reservoir. A top drain test with all the top valves open was then run. The Principal Investigator and his team at Portland State University are reviewing the test results.

April 2014 – The ISS Increment 39 flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio preformed the third operation of the Interior Corner Flow-7 (ICF7) vessel for CFE-2 on April 3, 2014. The test chamber of the ICF7 vessel has a circular right cylinder bisected by a tapered vain running the entire length. There are two valves that connect the test chamber with the fluid reservoir. The fluid reservoir contains a piston to transport the fluid into and out of the test chamber. The first set of Tip Drain tests involved deploying liquid of a known volume – determined by the location of the piston in the reservoir – into the test chamber. Then the liquid was drained through one valve (with the other closed), while keeping the meniscus of the gas in the test chamber as close to the drain port as possible without ingesting gas. The Tip Drain test was repeated. Then the Tip Drain tests were repeated with opposite valve configuration. This configuration resulted in a long drain time so only a partial drain was conducted to allow time for a repeat run. The Bubbly Tip Drain tests followed the same procedure with the addition of a Bubble Generation step. After the last drain test was complete, air was intentionally drawn into the reservoir, compressed, and broken up using the whipper plate. The resulting froth was dispensed into the test chamber through one of the valves and a Tip Drain test was conducted through the opposite valve. During the operations Rick introduced Steve Swanson to the CFE test procedures and test vessel. Applications to science conducted include drain limits of spacecraft fuel tanks in orbit and medical devises on earth.

May to June 2012 – The final two scheduled Vane Gap 2 (VG2) unfilled perforations tests were completed. Don Pettit completed a test on May 10, 2012, and Joe Acaba completed the second test on June 13, 2012. Both Don and Joe were able to find all four critical wetting angles. All scheduled unfilled perforation tests have been completed for VG2.

May 2012 – Astronaut crew training was held for Capillary Flow Experiments 2 (CFE-2) flight experiments on April 30 and May 1 at NASA JSC. Astronauts Chris Cassidy (Increments 35-36) and Karen Nyberg (Increments 36-37) were trained with the CFE-2 ICF4 and ICF9 trainer units, including installation on a Maintenance Work Area (MWA) in a mockup of the ISS LAB module. CFE-2 training was performed by Chuck Bunnell (ZIN). The CFE-2 PI, Mark Weislogel attended and provided a science overview for the CFE-2 experiment.

March 29, 2012 – A Systems Acceptance Review (SAR-1) was held for ICF4 and ICF9 to verify the hardware is ready for flight. The ICF4 and ICF9 hardware passed the SAR-1 review and are being prepared for flight on SpaceX-1.

January to March 2012 – Increment 30 commander, Dan Burbank, and flight engineer, Don Pettit, completed a series of vane gap tests with filled (VG1) and unfilled (VG2) vane perforations to determine critical wetting angles. An extra science test was also completed using the ICF1 vessel. All test matrices and extra science runs have been completed for VG1 and ICF1.

January 26, 2012 – Astronauts Sunita Williams, Tom Marshburn, and Kevin Ford were trained on installation of CFE-2 units on the Maintenance Work Area (MWA) and CFE-2 science operations. Oct. 7, 2011 – Increment 29 commander, Mike Fossum performed a Filled Perforations test of VG1 investigating the critical angles in quadrants 3 and 4. Observed the same bulk shift phenomena initially observed during the Sept. 15 test.

Sept. 30, 2011 – Increment 29 commander, Mike Fossum performed the VG2 initial “Dry Chamber” test and found the expected critical angles within 3-4 deg of predictions.

Sept 15, 2011 – Increment 28 flight engineer, Mike Fossum performed the first Filled Perforations test of VG1 investigating the critical angles in quadrants 1 and 2. Observed a bulk shift phenomena, i.e. movement of fluid from one side of vane to the other at base of test chamber.

May 3, 2011 – The ISS flight engineer Ron Garan operated the CFE-2 Interior Corner Flow2 (ICF2) vessel in the US Lab on the Maintenance Work Area (MWA). The test operation consisted of two compressed bubble tests in the transport tube of the ICF2 vessel. The Principal Investigator, Mark Weislogel was at the NASA Glenn Research Center to observe and direct operations from the Telescience Support Center.

January 18, 2011 – Cady Coleman completed 3 test runs on the CFE-2 Interior Corner Flow2 (ICF2). This series of tests were performed with ICF2 to test capillary flow with bubbles in the test fluid.

December 2010 – Capillary Flow Experiment-2 (CFE) Vane Gap-1 operated on ISS. The CFE Van Gap-1 (VG-1) module was operated for a fourth time by Increment 25 astronaut Scott Kelly on Wednesday, December 8, 2010.

September 29, 2010 – The CFE-2 experiment launched 4 test vessels on STS-131/Flight 19A in April 2010. On September 7, 2010 the CFE-2 experiment was set up in the Japanese Experiment Module and operated by crewmember Shannon Walker. To date CFE-2 has completed 11 of 16 Interior Corner Flow 1 (ICF1) test points.

• Capillary Flow Experiments (CFE-2) consists of eleven approximately 1 to 2 kg test vessels designed to probe certain capillary phenomena of fundamental and applied importance, such as: capillary flow in complex containers, critical wetting in discontinuous structures and surfaces, and passive gas-liquid phase separations. Quantitative video images from the simply-performed flight experiment crew procedures will provide immediate confirmation of the usefulness of current analytical design tools, as well as provide guidance to the development of new ones.

• Vane Gap experiments investigate a fundamental, geometric critical wetting condition that occurs in complex systems where one or more substrates are porous (i.e. screens or perforated plates). The experiments determine both dynamic wetting and equilibrium interface behavior.

• Interior Corner Flow experiment quantifies the nature of large length scale capillary flows and bubbly capillary flows throughout 3-dimensional polygonal containers for the purpose of theory development, verification, a demonstration of passive phase separation.