Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Watery load for Ariane 5 ECA


When the Ariane 5 ECA qualification flight lifts off in October, one of the ‘passengers’ will be 33.5 litres of water. Onboard will be the experimental Sloshsat-FLEVO satellite, designed to help European scientists find out more about the movement of water in microgravity and its effects on satellites.

Sloshsat-FLEVO is aptly named: slosh for the movement of water, sat for satellite and FLEVO, the project’s acronym: Facility for Liquid Experimentation and Verification in Orbit. Flevo is also the name of the latest province in the Netherlands to be reclaimed from the sea, and one of the sites of the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR), the main contractor for this project. The cube-shaped Sloshsat-FLEVO is a mini satellite with a mass of just 129 kg. It will be launched on top of the cylinder-shaped Maqsat-B2 structure and placed in the lower passenger position under the Ariane 5 fairing.

This joint project between ESA’s Technology Research and Development Programme and the Netherlands Agency for Aerospace, is funded mainly through ESA’s General Study and Technology Programme. Sloshsat is designed to investigate fluid dynamics in microgravity conditions by monitoring the behaviour of 33.5 litres of deionised water, placed in a tank onboard the small satellite.

The composite tank has 270 sensors to measure the water’s distribution. Other sensors will measure the temperature, pressure and fluid velocity at 17 locations, and six accelerometers and three fibre-optic gyroscopes will monitor the spacecraft’s motion. Thrusters, powered by a cold gas nitrogen system, will provide linear and rotational movement to increase and control fluid motion.

This is the first time that a satellite has been dedicated to studying fluid behaviour in weightlessness. Spacecraft transporting supplies to the International Space Station, carrying out repairs to disabled communication and observation satellites or heading for other planets, often carry large quantities of fluids onboard in the form of propellant or water. This is why it is important to fully understand the effect a liquid’s movement can have on the attitude control of these spacecraft.
Many fluid dynamic models exist, as well as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software, but to date the effect of sloshing on spacecraft control has been difficult to predict for real situations as it has not been validated.

Jan Vreeburg of NLR, the Principal Investigator for Sloshsat says “once the satellite is in orbit, scientists will be able to verify and validate existing models”. This will allow them to design new CFD numerical algorithms and liquid management systems for spacecraft.
As well as testing the effect of liquid movement on the attitude control of a spacecraft, Sloshsat-FLEVO will also test the effect of spacecraft manoeuvres on liquids. “For example,” reports Vreeburg, “tests will show us how best to manoeuvre a spacecraft to move the liquid in a tank near to the exit hole; this has to be done carefully to avoid ‘ingesting’ bubbles. Once thrust is generated by the engine, its action generally keeps the propellant at the exit hole.”

Almost ready for launch

Sloshsat-FLEVO has been installed inside the Sylda 5 multiple payload deployment system at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana since the end of August. On top of the Sylda is another passenger bound for space, an XTAR-EUR telecommunications satellite.

ESA’s spring-loaded ESAJECT mechanism, developed and built by the Belgian company Verhaert for 50 – 150 kg satellites, will eject Sloshsat-FLEVO once the launcher reaches geostationary transfer orbit. The satellite will then transmit data on the behaviour of the water in its tank under different motions controlled from the ground, for a minimum of 14 days. The total experiment time will be about 24 hours and last until the gas supply of the reaction control system is exhausted. Between experiment runs the water is allowed to settle and the battery will be recharged using solar panels.

Staff at the ESA Diane ground station in Kourou, French Guiana will control the satellite with the support of ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. During operations, the Principal Investigators will be able to follow Sloshsat in near real time via the internet, from a server located at ESTEC, ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands. Telemetry data will enable a virtual reality image to be created of both Sloshsat and the liquid in the tank.

Alain Conde Reiss | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>