Satellites make sure there's enough in the tank


By Kurt Kleiner HOW DO you measure the amount of fuel a satellite or space probe has left? Earthbound methods are non-starters in zero gravity. Now engineers at satellite maker Lockheed Martin in California and at Purdue University in Indiana have found a way. Knowing exactly what you’ve got left will extend a craft’s useful life, they say, saving satellite operators millions of dollars. Their trick is to use a computer program that models the surface tension of hydrazine fuel. This should give them a better idea of how hydrazine behaves inside the satellite’s fuel tank. “In automobiles,
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