AtmoFlow - Investigation of Atmospheric-Like Fluid Flows Under Microgravity Conditions

  • F. ZaussingerEmail author
  • P. Canfield
  • A. Froitzheim
  • V. Travnikov
  • P. Haun
  • M. Meier
  • A. Meyer
  • P. Heintzmann
  • T. Driebe
  • Ch. Egbers
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Thirty Years of Microgravity Research - A Topical Collection Dedicated to J. C. Legros


The main objective of the AtmoFlow experiment is the investigation of convective flows in the spherical gap geometry. Gaining fundamental knowledge on the origin and behavior of flow phenomena such as global cells and planetary waves is interesting not only from a meteorological perspective. Understanding the interaction between atmospheric circulation and a planet’s climate, be it Earth, Mars, Jupiter, or a distant exoplanet, contributes to various fields of research such as astrophysics, geophysics, fluid physics, and climatology. AtmoFlow aims to observe flows in a thin spherical gap that are subjected to a central force-field. The Earth’s own gravitational field interferes with a simulated central force-field with the given parameters of the model which makes microgravity conditions of \(\mathrm {g}<10^{-3} \mathrm {g}_{0}\) (e.g. on the ISS) necessary. Without losing its overall view on the complex physics, circulation in planetary atmospheres can be reduced to a simple model of a central gravitational field, the incoming and outgoing energy (e.g. radiation) and rotational effects. This strongly simplified assumption makes it possible to break some generic cases down to test models which can be investigated by laboratory experiments and numerical simulations. Varying rotational rates and temperature boundary conditions represent different types of planets. This is a very basic approach, but various open questions regarding local pattern formation or global planetary cells can be investigated with that setup. A concept has been defined for developing a payload that could be installed and utilized on-board the International Space Station (ISS). This concept is based on the microgravity experiment GeoFlow, which has been conducted successfully between 2008 and 2016 on the ISS. This paper addresses the scientific goals, the experimental setup, the concept for implementation of the AtmoFlow experiment on the ISS and first numerical results.


Microgravity conditions Rotating convection Atmospheric flows Dielectrophoresis Dielectric heating 



The AtmoFlow project is funded by DLR Space Administration under contract numbers 50WP1709 and 50WP1809. The GeoFlow research has been funded by the ESA grants AO-99-049, by the DLR grants 50 WM 0122, 50 WM 0822, 50WM1644 and by the SOKRATES / ERASMUS- program LIA-ISTROF (CNRS-cooperation). Furthermore the authors thank the GeoFlow Topical Team (ESA 18950/05/NL/VJ) for intensive discussions. All simulations have been performed at the Northern German Network for High-Performance Computing (HLRN) and the Heraklit cluster (BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg).

Contents of this manuscript have been presented at the 69th International Astronautical Congress, 01–05 October 2018, Bremen, Germany, We refer to the conference proceedings (Zaussinger et al. 2018a) and Canfield et al. (2018).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Aerodynamics and Fluid MechanicsBrandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-SenftenbergCottbusGermany
  2. 2.Airbus Defence and Space GmbHImmenstaadGermany
  3. 3.Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.BonnGermany

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