Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) - 10.04.18

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

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Science Objectives for Everyone
The Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) is a multiuser facility designed by the European Space Agency (ESA) for conducting fluid physics research in microgravity. It can be operated as a fully automatic or semiautomatic facility and can be controlled onboard by the International Space Station (ISS) crew or from the ground in telescience mode.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Horst Mundorf, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details

OpNom: FSL

Facility Manager(s)
Horst Mundorf, European Space Research and Technology Research Centre, Noordwijk, Netherlands

Facility Representative(s)
Information Pending

Thales Alenia Space, Milan, Italy

Sponsoring Space Agency
European Space Agency (ESA)

Sponsoring Organization
European Space Agency

ISS Expedition Duration
October 2007 - March 2010; September 2011 - May 2012; September 2012 - September 2014; March 2015 - March 2016; March 2016 - April 2017; September 2017 - April 2019; -

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

Information Pending

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Facility Description

Facility Overview

  • The Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) provides a central location for fluid physics experiments onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The experiments provide insight into the physics of fluids in space, including aqueous foam, emulsions, convection, and fluid motion.
  • The FSL provides almost all the equipment the investigator requires for research, minimizing cost and payload weight. The system can be operated remotely, so minimal crew time is required.
  • Understanding how fluids behave in microgravity will lead to the development of new fluid delivery systems for future spacecraft.
The major objective of the experiments that use the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) on the International Space Station (ISS) is to study dynamic phenomena in the absence of gravitational forces. In microgravity, gravitational forces are almost entirely eliminated, significantly reducing gravity-driven convection, sedimentation, and stratification as well as fluid static pressure and allowing the study of fluid dynamic effects normally masked by gravity, such as diffusion-controlled heat and mass transfer. The absence of gravity-driven convection eliminates the negative effects of density gradients (inhomogeneous mass distribution) that arise in processes involving heat treatment, phase transitions, diffusive transport, or chemical reaction. Convection in terrestrial processes is a strong perturbing factor, the effects of which dominate heat and mass transfer in fluids, yet are seldom predictable with great accuracy.

The ability to control such processes accurately remains limited on Earth, and a full understanding of these processes requires further fundamental research through well-defined model experiments for developing and testing theories in microgravity. Such research should facilitate the optimization of manufacturing processes on Earth.

Experiments must be integrated into an FSL experiment container (EC). With a typical mass of 30 to 35 kg and standard dimensions of 400 x 270 x 280 mm3, the EC provides ample space to accommodate the fluid cell assembly, including any necessary process stimuli and dedicated electronics.

The FSL is comprised of the following four major components:
  • The facility core element contains the optical equipment (cameras, interferometers, and illumination sources) used in observations of the experiments and two central experiment modules that house the ECs.
  • Scientific instrumentation includes digital cameras, infrared cameras, and the equipment to make particle observations.
  • The video management unit processes, distributes, and records all the images produced by the FSL.
  • Control and support equipment provides power and controls the environmental systems for the FSL. This module also provides storage and the workbench for the facility.
The modular design of the FSL is based on a drawer system that allows for different configurations to accommodate a variety of experiments and easy access for upgrades and repair of the equipment. The Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) has different operating modes, depending on the type of experiment. For experiments involving fluid motion in spherical gaps, the FSL will require a large amount of electricity to provide a simulated geocentric force. Some experiments require extreme heat or cold; the FSL can accommodate them, also. Other requirements include avionics and a fire suppression system within the FSL.

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Facility Operations

  • The Fluid Science Laboratory will be home to many fluids experiments during its lifetime. The astronauts' time is required only to set up an experiment; the experiment can be run remotely from a telescience center on Earth.

  • After the crew sets up the experiment in the chamber, the telescience center can take over operations. The crew can play a partial role in the experiment through the laptop computer, if necessary.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Dewandre TM, Dubois F, Callens N, Dupont O, Bascou E.  The Fluid Science Laboratory and Its Expereiment Container Program on Columbus. 54th International Astronautical Congress, Bremen, Germany; 2003

    Winter JL, Dewandre TM.  Experiment Containers for ESA's Fluid Science Laboratory. 2003 ISPS and Spacebound, Toronto, Canada; 2003

    Dewandre TM, Dubois F, Callens N, Dupont O, Bascou E.  Digital Holographic Microscopy fr Emulsions on the Fluid Science Laboratory. International Conference on Space Optics, Toulouse, France; 2004

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Related Websites

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image The experiment container that will hold the experiment is inserted into the Fluid Science Laboratory for execution of the science protocol.
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image An artist's representation of the Fluid Science Laboratory as it appears in the European Space Agency's Columbus module on the International Space Station.
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image Fluid Science Laboratory. Image courtesy of ESA.
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image NASA Image: ISS016E031567 - The Fluid Science Laboratory installed in the Columbus laboratory. Image taken during Expedition 16.
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NASA Image: ISS021E016880 - The Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) Rack located in the European Laboratory/Columbus. Photo taken during stowage consolidation.

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