Jupiter and one of its moons, viewed by the New Horizons spacecraft as it flies by on its way to Pluto. ADL provided fuel-slosh testing on the launch vehicle. Photo: NASA

What ADL can do


  • Develop and test scale models to determine the effects of fuel slosh on spin-stabilized spacecraft and stages

  • Design and test tank baffles to suppress fuel-slosh effects

  • Provide a dedicated drop tower facility for microgravity experiments

  • Test and analyze propellant-migration induced instability for inertia ratios greater than unity (the wobble-amplification problem

Systems tested by ADL


  • Spacecraft/stages with multiple off-axis tanks

  • Stages with centerline tanks

  • Mono- and bi-propellant systems

  • Flexible propellant management devices (PMDs)

  • Large dynamic imbalances and migrating propellants

  • Tanks with flexible diaphragms

ADL's Data Acquisition 


  • Special high-bandwidth infrared telemetry system for drop tower tests

  • Space-qualified infrared telemetry system which flew aboard the space shuttle as part of a mid-deck experiment

  • Infrared telemetry system used in free-flying experiments aboard NASA's KC-135 ("zero-gravity") airplane

  • Micro-computer-based data storage system used aboard free-flying, rocket-propelled rockets

Reference Papers


  • Mercury Messenger: Discusses drop tests and baffle design conducted at ADL.

  • Deep Space One: Describes the modeling, analysis and testing of the diaphragm tanks done at ADL to determine the Deep Space One nutation time constant.

  • "Analysis of spacecraft nutation dynamics using the drop test method," by Jon V. Harrison, Space Communications and Broadcasting 5 (1987) 265-280.  

  • "Nutation Time Constant Determination of On-Axis Diaphragm Tanks on Spinner Spacecraft," by Marco B. Quadrelli, Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, Vol. 42, No. B. May-June: 2005. Presented as Paper 2009-0155 at the AAS/ATAA 13th Spacecraft Mechanics Meeting, Ponce, PR. 9-10 February 2008. Copyright 2004 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

  • "A Free Fall Technique to Measure Nutation Divergence and Applications," J. Harrison (consultant), S.C. Garg, N. Furumoto, Ford Aerospace and Communications Corp., Palo Alto, Calif, AAS/ATAA  Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, Lake Placid, NY., August 1988.

  • Circular Constrained Particle Motion in Spinning and Coning Bodies." D.L. Mingori, University of California, Los Angeles, and J. Harrison, Hughes Aircraft Co., El Segundo, Calif.; AIAA Journal, Vol. 12, No. 11, November 1974, pp. 1558-1558.