Phenomena

Sloshing in Space

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Last month, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet posted a video of some experiments he did on the International Space Station exploring the movement of fluids in microgravity. He filmed the experiments as part of the SPHERES Slosh project. Sloshing is the technical term for how liquids respond to the motion of their container, and it’s a tough problem whether you’re carrying a full coffee mug on Earth or dealing with a partially-emptied fuel canister in orbit.

Here on Earth, gravitational forces dominate how fluids respond, but in microgravity, surface tension is a more powerful player. Pesquet’s demonstrations help scientists here on Earth better understand and model how liquids respond to movement in space. One major application for this is in spacecraft fuel tanks, which engineers must be able to design so that they empty themselves consistently with or without the added complications of spinning, maneuvering, or impulsive kicks of acceleration. (Video and image credit: ESA; submitted by gdurey)

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