Physics Experiment GuidelinesIntroductionPhysics is one of the oldest academic disciplines known to humanity and seeks out answers to someof the universes most fundamental questions. It is the study of nature - of matter and energy and howeach interacts. Matter is anything that takes up space and has mass. Energy can be in the form ofmotion, light, electricity, heat, sound, mechanical, gravitational, and chemical. For millennia, the laws ofphysics have been studied within the confines of the Earths gravitational field and testing in microgravityfor sustained periods of time was impossible. That changed with the construction of the worlds mostamazing scientific laboratory - the International Space Station (ISS). Gravity on the ISS is effectivelycounterbalanced by the centripetal acceleration of the orbiting space station creating a weightlessenvironment. This allows scientists to observe how physical phenomena would behave without gravity,which is something we never get to see on Earth.Your ExperimentIf you come up with a physics experiment and it wins the competition, it will be performed by astronautson board the International Space Station. Remember, youre not being asked to actually do theexperiment -- youre just being asked to explain your experiment idea and how it would work (althoughif you want to show any prototypes or designs or diagrams in your video you can and that might helppeople understand your experiment better). All parts and materials that the astronaut needs to use forthe experiment must abide by the rules and regulations of the Space Agencies responsible for the ISS,which are in place to protect the astronauts and the space station itself. The winning entry will be adaptedon the ground into space flight materials, equipment and procedures deemed safe for space flight byexperts and tested. However for an entrant or team to successfully design a physics experiment that isacceptable and safe, it must take into account some basic safety rules listed below.Safety GuidelinesThings you cant useNo Sharp ItemsAstronauts are not allowed to interact with sharp items that could cause cuts, abrasions or serious injury.So knives, razor blades, pins, needles or sharp pieces of metal or plastic would not be eligible to fly to theISS. This also includes materials that could break easily and become sharp objects such as glass andsome types of plastics.
No Hazardous or Flammable Liquids or MaterialsHazardous or flammable liquids, even if contained, or materials may not be used on board the ISS.No Radio TransmittersThe use of radio transmitters is not allowed for this experiment.Other restrictionsContain Small Particles & LiquidsSmall particles and liquids will float away in all directions on the ISS because gravity is so reduced, sothey must be kept in sealed containers. There is no up or down. In space there is no “dropping” (so waterwill not drip) and there is no convection (heat will not rise).Small Magnets OnlyOnly small magnets with limited magnetic fields can be used on board the ISS. Larger magnets maycause interference with some of the equipment on board.Temperature RangeThere are facilities on ISS, that if the experiment requires, can heat or cool your experiment totemperatures between 4°C to 37°C, which is considered within safe to touch temperatures for theastronauts. Ambient temperature ranges between 22°C and 25°C and relative humidity is around 50%.Reasonable Noise LevelYour experiment may not produce a loud noise that could damage the hearing or interfere with regularcommunication on board the ISS.Powered ComponentsExperiments may only use electronics already certified for use on ISS. Adding powered components toyour experiment can be complicated, so contestants are encouraged to submit ideas that use unpoweredmechanical designs (e.g. using items such as rubber bands or exercise tubing). However, we haveselected a small (2W) motor that can be utilized, if necessary, for your design (limited to up to three ofthese motors per experiment).Stored Mechanical EnergyKeep in mind that experiments that utilize stored mechanical energy or that release energy must not beso great as to potentially cause injury or equipment damage. For example, a sling shot used to shoot asteel ball bearing across the station would not pass the safety regulations. Similarly, experiments maynot utilize high pressure devices that could shoot projectiles or high pressure gas throughout the ISS.LightingThere are sources of light on board the ISS. The astronauts have standard, small flashlights andheadlamps available to them that could also be used for your experiment.RotationIf you choose to utilize something that rotates in your experiment, the rotating portion must be less than20 cm in diameter, be enclosed and rotate less than 8,000 rotations per minute.Size and shapeThe entire contents of the physics experiment must not weigh more than 6 kg and must fit within a spacethat is equal to or less than 24cm x 20cm x 23cm so that it can be packaged and flown to the ISS. Thephysics experiment can be flown in parts so that it fits within the provided launch dimensions. Theastronauts will assemble the experiment once on board the ISS.Length of experiment
Assuming its a one off experiment, a reasonable amount of time to set up, complete and breakdown theexperiment is 60 - 90 minutes - and the maximum nonstop time an astronaut would be able to give isthree hours.Prototypes, Mock-Ups, Pictures & DiagramsMany ideas shine as concepts until they are proven impossible or infeasible with prototypes. For thisreason, it is optional but encouraged that contestants build and demonstrate mock-ups or prototypes ofthe devices needed to perform the experiment. This will make your entry more clear to the judges andvoting community. The most important aspect of a prototype is that it demonstrates the experiment’sfeasibility, or in other words, it shows that the experiment can be done. A prototype does not need tobe expensive or overly complicated; it is more important that the prototype demonstrates its functionrather than look nice. Experts will adapt the concept you demonstrate into hardware that meets all therequirements for space flight. Explanatory pictures, diagrams, and schematics that help to illustrate theexperiment concept are also encouraged.One of the best uses of a mock-up or prototype of the experiment is trying to measure the experimentvariable with it. If you can measure it well with your prototype, it is likely that an astronaut will be able tomeasure it on the flight experiment.Data CollectionThe experiment will be recorded by an astronaut using a high-resolution hand-held or fixed digital videocamera. The astronauts will pay attention to important aspects of the experiment and record what theysee. The astronaut will also have a stopwatch if its needed.