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Acta Astronaut. 2004 Nov;55(10):829-54.

Short duration microgravity experiments in physical and life sciences during parabolic flights: the first 30 ESA campaigns.

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  • 1Microgravity Projects Division, Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity Directorate, European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), Noordwijk, The Netherlands.


Aircraft parabolic flights provide repetitively up to 20 s of reduced gravity during ballistic flight manoeuvres. Parabolic flights are used to conduct short microgravity investigations in Physical and Life Sciences, to test instrumentation and to train astronauts before a space flight. The European Space Agency (ESA) has organized since 1984 thirty parabolic flight campaigns for microgravity research experiments utilizing six different airplanes. More than 360 experiments were successfully conducted during more than 2800 parabolas, representing a cumulated weightlessness time of 15 h 30 m. This paper presents the short duration microgravity research programme of ESA. The experiments conducted during these campaigns are summarized, and the different airplanes used by ESA are shortly presented. The technical capabilities of the Airbus A300 'Zero-G' are addressed. Some Physical Science, Technology and Life Science experiments performed during the last ESA campaigns with the Airbus A300 are presented to show the interest of this unique microgravity research tool to complement, support and prepare orbital microgravity investigations.

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