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Some Results of the Educational Experiment APIS (Cervantes Mission on Board ISS)

E.T.S.I. Aeronáuticos (UPM)
Publication Date
  • Aeronáutica
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Physics


Some results of the analysis of the pictures taken along the performance of the Análisis de Propiedades Inerciales de Sólidos, Analysis of the Inertia Properties of Solid Bodies (APIS) experiment carried out in the Cervantes mission on board ISS, are presented. APIS was an educational experiment devoted to take advantage of the unique conditions of absence of relative gravity forces of a space platform such as ISS, to show some of the characteristics of the free rotational motion of a solid body, which are impossible to carry out on earth. This field of experimental research has application to aerospace engineering science (e.g. attitude control of spacecrafts), to astrophysical sciences (e.g. state of rotation and tumbling motions of asteroids) and to engineering education. To avoid the effect of the ambient atmosphere loads on the motion, the test body is placed inside a sphere, which reduces the effect of the aerodynamic forces to just friction. The drastic reduction of the effect of the surrounding air during the short duration of the experimental sequences allows us to compare the actual motion with the known solutions for the solid body rotation in vacuum. In this paper, some selected, relevant sequences of the sphere enclosing a body with a nominal cylindrical inertia tensor, put into rotation by the astronaut, are shown; the main problems to extract the information concerning the characteristic parameters of the motion are outlined, and some of the results obtained concerning the motion of the test probe are included, which show what seems to be a curious and unexpected solution of the Euler equations for the solid body rotation in vacuum, without energy dissipation, when the angular momentum is almost perpendicular to the axisymmetry axis.

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