I am not sure if this question would be appropriate on Physics.SE (or SE in general) so please redirect me if necessary.

I have been recently watching some of the International Space Station live stream and they appear to show some 'experiments' or 'tests' for most of the time.

For example they have been showing this for the past day: enter image description here

Where it looks like some liquid sphere that gets mixed around creating dots (really fast, then slow - similar to a snow globe). However I have no idea what they are doing. The day prior to this, there was a thin wire with 3 small blobs along it, and every once in a while 2 robotic 'L' shaped arms would get near one of the blobs for a bit, then pull away, and then the wire would move around.
Here is an image of the other example I mentioned:
enter image description here

I have been searching for a source to explain this, however it is hard search for what can't properly be described. Is there any source available where I can learn what they are showing/doing and that can explain its significance (that is updated close to real time)? Or is the information about what is happening 'classified' or meant to be unknown to the viewer only to be released afterwards if in some article (if it was important)?

Link to live stream: here (You are able to watch previous events from the stream in the video's tab.) Note, it is not always an 'active' stream (You can also search on google for 'ISS live stream' and that link should appear)

P.S - When viewing this I have no audio and there does not seem to be any available closed captioning.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can you post a link to this site? $\endgroup$
    – user46147
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ ustream.tv/channel/live-iss-stream To note, it is not always an 'active' stream (You can also search on google for 'ISS live stream' and that link should appear) $\endgroup$
    – Mark N
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


I haven't had time to link things exactly, but a chronological list of experiments (and their description) can be found at this link which contains information about experiments on the most recent (current) ISS mission.

That only helps a little bit... you would have to go and look at the individual experiment descriptions to see whether it matches what you observed. But maybe once you get a handle on it, you will know what key words to search for.

Another source of information is the ISS twitter feed: it recently posted a link to the "weekly recap of research" which might include the experiment you saw - although it looks like the date is off by a little bit. Maybe you have to be patient just a little bit longer.

UPDATE the photograph in your question was shown in a Twitter post:

enter image description here

And when you follow the link to the ZIN Technologies feed, you see this:

enter image description here

So yes, this is the "liquid crystal growth" experiment (OASIS: Observation Analysis of Smectic Islands in Space). NASA description here. Summary:

Observation and Analysis of Smectic Islands In Space (OASIS) studies the unique behavior of liquid crystals in microgravity, including their overall motion and the merging of crystal layers known as smectic islands. Liquid crystals are used for display screens in televisions and clocks, and they also occur in soaps and in cell membranes. The experiment allows detailed studies of the behavior of these structures, and how microgravity affects their unique ability to act like both a liquid and a solid crystal.

For the second picture you provided (with the 2 mechanical arms and the small droplets), it is mentioned on the page that:

Kelly spent the day before Independence Day replacing the damaged Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus (MDCA) Igniter Tip in the Igniter Base and the MDCA Fiber Arm. Once these repairs are complete, the ground team will perform checkouts and begin the next round of the Flame Extinguishment Experiment (FLEX-2). This investigation burns small droplets of fuel to study the spherical characteristics of burning fuel droplets in space. Researchers are examining how quickly fuel burns, the conditions required for soot to form, how the interactions of droplets in a fuel spray affect soot formation, flame extinction, burning rate, flame shape, size and color. Data from this investigation may help build more efficient engines that produce less pollution. Understanding these processes could lead to the production of a safer spacecraft as well as increased fuel efficiency for engines using liquid fuel on Earth.

  • $\begingroup$ @MarkN - I recognize that... so maybe you could tweet to the NASA people at the link I gave and ask them? $\endgroup$
    – Floris
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 19:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thank you for finding this answer. Hopefully the link you provided will continue to maintain up-to-date and relevant information towards the stream for the future. $\endgroup$
    – Mark N
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 13:24

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