CNES projects library

June 12, 2015

Parabolic flights

With the Airbus A310 Zero G, operated by its subsidiary Novespace, CNES possesses an ideal and inexpensive way to perform microgravity science. Experiments in microgravity conditions serve to test out systems and equipment before sending them into space.

The Airbus A310 Zero G operated by CNES subsidiary Novespace is no ordinary aircraft. It recreates weightless conditions for 22 seconds at a time, so passengers can observe physical and physiological phenomena that are otherwise masked by gravity on the ground, only at much lower cost than in space. For example, scientists can study how the human heart works, analyse fluid properties or observe how a material behaves at high temperature. Such experiments serve to test out systems and equipment before sending them into space.

To create these weightless conditions, the A310 Zero G flies a series of 30 bell-shaped parabolic trajectories on each sortie. Specially fitted out for this type of flight, the aircraft is used by CNES for its parabolic flight programme, initiated in 1988. Every year, CNES conducts two parabolic flight campaigns, each comprising three flights. Each flight carries a dozen science and technology experiments. The A310 Zero G also flies parabolas simulating lunar and Martian gravity conditions to prepare for future exploration missions to the Moon and Mars.

See also

Cadmos website