When you’ve devoted two years to designing and building a groundbreaking new fuel gauge for spacecraft —
When you’ve spent almost every free hour and your entire Spring Break working in the lab —
When the entire success of your project comes down to a single week with some of the world’s top scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center —
It’s going to be hard to relax until you know your experiment arrived at NASA in one piece.
So on Friday, April 20, as the six members of the Carthage Microgravity Team kicked off Flight Week with briefings on hypoxia, disorientation, motion sickness, and dangerous foreign object debris, they couldn’t help but wonder about the rig between worst-case scenarios: Did it arrive in one piece? Will it work? What’s going to go wrong?
Their fears were alleviated later that afternoon, when the team was finally able to unpack the experiment from its shipping crate. Someone had re-arranged the crate’s stuck-on “HANDLE WITH CARE” letters to “CAN WE HIT DARE 4L,” but that’s apparently all that was jostled during the rig’s trip from Wisconsin.
Even better? The team’s first test runs worked perfectly. The team has built a zero-gravity fuel gauge that uses non-invasive piezoelectric transducer technology to measure fluid volume in a microgravity environment using modal analysis.
“It’s a really unique method of measuring fuel in zero gravity, a problem that has plagued spacecraft engineers since Apollo,” said team advisor Dr. Kevin Crosby, a physics professor at Carthage. “Our method involves listening to the natural vibrations of the fuel tank, which change under varying fluid levels.” Read more.
“The highlight of the trip so far is that everything came out of the crate working,” said two-time Microgravity Team member Steve Mathe ’13, a chemistry major from Wauconda, Ill.
“I was very pleased with how everything came together,” said Kevin Lubick, a first-time member of the Microgravity Team. “Everything is working just as it was in Kenosha, which is excellent news,” Lubick said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better start.”