Designing a microgravity fluidics experiment for use on-board the international space station

Joshua Brandt, Barnaby Osborne, Naomi Tsafnat, Tracie Barber, Ediz Cetin, Chris Welch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


Spun Microgravity Liquid Experiment (SMiLE) is an experiment developed for use on board the International Space Station (ISS), currently scheduled to launch in early 2016. The purpose of SMiLE is to statistically categorize the development of droplet formation when liquid is ejected at a constant velocity from a small circular nozzle in a very low gravity environment. Specifically, SMiLE aims to investigate the existence of a chaotic dripping regime within such environments, which has been documented at low Reynolds numbers (240 < Re < 470 for pure water). In this regime, drops do not have a constant time of formation.

SMiLE consists of a liquid injection assembly and a viewing chamber, including two cameras to provide high quality stereoscopic recording of the droplet formation. Precise control of the flow velocity is provided through a syringe pump driven by a stepper motor. The temperature of the fluid is constantly monitored immediately prior to the nozzle. SMiLE has been designed to conform to a 1.5U payload slot (150×100×100mm), weigh less than 1.5kg and consume less than a 2W peak externally supplied power. In order to ensure that the experiment requires no external intervention when on board the ISS, a novel centrifuge system has been included such that the liquid is recycled for each new test, precluding the necessity for large test and waste reservoirs.

This paper will initially present the overall design of the experiment, and the benchtop testing setup. Finally, preliminary results gathered from the testing are provided and discussed. The results provide a platform to discuss the viability of SMiLE in its current state.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication66th International Astronautical Congress 2015 (IAC 2015)
Subtitle of host publicationSpace - the gateway for mankind's future
Place of PublicationParis,
PublisherInternational Astronautical Federation, IAF
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781510818934
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Astronautical Congress (66th : 2015): Space - The Gateway for Mankind's Future - Jerusalem, Israel
Duration: 12 Oct 201516 Oct 2015
Conference number: 66th


OtherInternational Astronautical Congress (66th : 2015)
Abbreviated titleIAC 2015

Bibliographical note

Contents page indicates "Design and drop tower testing of a liquids experiment investigating the chaotic dripping regime in low gravity conditions" starting from p.504; however, "Designing a microgravity fluidics experiment for use on-board the international space station" is printed as paper title on p.504.


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