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NASA and Sierra Lobo Partner on CubeSat Development 

NASA KSC has partnered with Sierra Lobo Inc. to design and build a small satellite, or CubeSat, called CryoCube-1 (CC-1), which will gather measurements and data that will be useful for characterizing fluid behavior in spacecraft on orbit. 

CC-1 is about the size of a loaf of bread, but packs a high volume of technology, including a special deployable heat shield, a 3D-printed experiment tank and a high speed radio.  This nanosatellite is designed to condense pressurized oxygen by chilling it to -280 degrees Fahrenheit using just the cold atmosphere of space.  During the experiment, cameras and the unique SLI Reduced Gravity CryoTracker sensor take measurements of the fluid behavior in space. 


Understanding this fluid behavior in the space environment is necessary because fluids behave differently on orbit than they do on Earth, complicating measurements that are easy to perform on the ground, such as gauging how full the tank is or where the fluid is located in the tank, and how it will react if the tank is shaken or accelerated.  If that fluid is a super cold cryogenic substance like liquid oxygen, there are further questions involving phase change between gas and liquid. Engineers must develop computer models to predict this behavior so that the rocket stages and propellant storage depots of the future can be efficiently designed. Because of the expense and cargo limitations related to flying experiments in space, CubeSats, which are small and relatively simple satellites with a standardized footprint, can be used at a greatly reduced cost compared to traditional missions.

CC-1 is slated to fly in May 2015 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. With the knowledge gained from this first flight, it is hoped that a series of CryoCube satellites will follow to perform further experiments on low temperature fluids.

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