Fluid Sciences

The Physical Sciences in Space Program has supported a number of fluid science experiments over the last few years. Through its participation in the development of the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), Canada will have access to this facility to perform fluid physics experiments. The FSL, a cutting edge technological facility, will go up to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2004 and will allow all sorts of experiments in fluid science to be done. The FSL should lead to significant scientific advances.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA), through the Physical Sciences in Space Program, will develop a facility based on the MIM (Microgravity Vibration Isolation Mount) technology, which will be installed in the ESA's Fluid Science Laboratory. The purpose of this payload, called MVIS, is to isolate experiments and optical hardware from vibrations aboard the ISS. Although minimal these vibrations can skew experimental results. Fluid physics experiments are particularly sensitive to perturbations in microgravity. These perturbations, also called g-jitter, can be caused by a number of things: astronauts moving about, microthrusters firing, or simply the operation of the numerous experimental systems aboard the ISS.

In exchange for its contribution to the project, the CSA will have access to 5% of the use of the FSL throughout the service life of the Laboratory. In order to take advantage of this unique opportunity, the CSA will develop a multifunctional payload for fluid science research. This payload will be based on the one used for the Fluid Physics Experiment on MIM (FLEX) experiments that flew on mission STS-85. These five experiments tested the very first generation of the MIM technology, and also yielded an explanation of the various chemical and physical parameters that influence some industrial processes.

As an orbital microgravity laboratory, the ISS will give researchers the opportunity to make numerous scientific discoveries that would be unachievable in Earth-normal gravity, in particular because of the behaviour of fluids in microgravity: the movement of liquids and the interactions between gases and liquids are considerably modified in microgravity.