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The Fluid Science Laboratory is a multi-user facility to study the dynamics of fluids in the absence of gravity

Within the time frame January 2013 to September 2013 and to take into account the results of the Council at ministerial level, the ESA Executive has elaborated on the USOC network, aiming to reduce operation cost and increase efficiency. As consequence of this elaboration, MARS USOC (Italy) activities will be discontinued upon completion of the FASES and FASTER experiments, currently planned in first quarter of 2014 (TBC), to be followed by the reassignment of the MARS USOC’s FSL payloads/experiments to the B.USOC.

The Fluid Science Laboratory is a European (ESA's) science payload designed for use in Columbus built by Alenia Aeronautica Spazio and OHB-System. It is a multi-user facility for conducting fluid physics research in microgravity conditions. It can be operated in fully or in semi-automatic mode and can be controlled on board by the ISS astronauts, or from the ground in the so-called telescience mode.


The major objective of performing fluid science experiments in space is to study dynamic phenomena in the absence of gravitational forces. Under microgravity such forces are almost entirely eliminated thereby significantly reducing gravity-driven convection, sedimentation and stratification and fluid static pressure, allowing the study of fluid dynamic effects normally masked by gravity. These effects include diffusion-controlled heat and mass transfer.

The Fluid Science Laboratory fully occupies one International Standard Payload Rack. The Facility Core Element consists of the Optical Diagnostics Module and Central Experiment Module into which the experiment containers are sequentially inserted and operated. The Optical Diagnostics Module houses the equipment for visual and interferometry observation, their related control electronics and the attachment points and interfaces for Front Mounted Cameras.

The Central Experiment Module is divided into two parts:

  • The first part contains the suspension structure for the Experiment Containers, including all the functional interfaces and optical equipment, and is designed to be pulled out from the rack to allow insertion and removal of the Experiment Container.
  • The second part contains all the diagnostic and illumination equipment and its control electronics to command and monitor the electromechanical and opt-mechanical components. The Facility Core Element is complemented by the functional sub-systems for power distribution, environmental conditioning and data processing and management

Experiments must be integrated in an FSL Experiment Container (FSL EC). With a typical mass of 25–30 kilograms (55–66 lbs.), a maximum mass of 40 kilograms (88 lbs.), and standard dimensions of 400x270x280 mm (15.7x10.6x11.0 in), the EC provides ample space to accommodate the fluid cell assembly, including any necessary process stimuli and dedicated electronics.

For observation of experiments the Fluid Science Laboratory includes:

  • Two-axis visual observation with electronic imaging and photographic back-up via Front Mounted Cameras which provide high speed imaging together with high resolution and colour recording;
  • Background, sheet and volume illumination with white light and monochromatic (laser) light sources;
  • Particle image velocimetry, including liquid crystal tracers for simultaneous velocimetry and thermometry;
  • Thermographic (infrared) mapping of free liquid surfaces;
  • Interferometric observation in two axes by convertible interferometers with active alignment:
  • Holographic interferometer;
  • Wollaston - shearing interferometer;
  • Schlieren mode combined with shearing mode;
  • Electronic Speckle Pattern Interferometer.