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Paris, 22 November 2004


The next series of parabolic flights organized by Novespace on behalf of CNES will be staged on 22, 23, 24 and 25 November out of Bordeaux-Mérignac airport, France. The flights will carry 14 experiments, including three devised for school projects.

The campaign will fly 11 science and engineering experiments prepared by research laboratories on the Airbus A300 Zero-g aircraft, covering a broad spectrum of themes:

- Operation of the PYROSOFT separation bolt, developed for CNES by French firm Etienne Lacroix to reduce shocks generated by pyrotechnic devices fired when deploying satellite appendages such as solar arrays, antennas and masts. This component is sensitive to gravity: during combustion, the pyrotechnic composition transitions from a solid to a liquid phase before solidifying. The experiment flown on the Airbus Zero-g intends to demonstrate that microgravity conditions close to those encountered in orbit will not affect the reliability of PYROSOFT.
D. Dilhan, CNES - Toulouse Space Centre.

- VEGA (Vaporisation et intEraction de Gouttes en Apesanteur) aims to establish numerical models of droplet vaporization and interaction in weightlessness for such applications as thermal power generation, recycling in incinerator ovens, aircraft construction and automobile engines.
C. Chauveau, LCSR combustion and reactive systems laboratory, CNRS, Orléans, France

- Study of vibratory phenomena in non-uniform media, evidencing the organization of non-uniform systems (granular gas, diphasic gas-liquid or solid-liquid systems, etc.) when subjected to mechanical vibrations; this area of research covers a vast range of applications as varied as materials science and planetary formation.
Y. Garrabos, CNRS - ICMC Bordeaux, P. Evesque, CNRS - Ecole Centrale, D. Beyssens, CEA, France

- PROGRA2 (PRopriétés optiques des GRains Astronomiques et Atmosphériques) is an experiment to determine the brightness and polarization phase function of dust samples. The phase curves obtained are essential for interpreting Earth-based observations of particles in the solar system (interplanetary dust, comet tails, atmospheric aerosols).
J.B. Renard, LPCE environmental physics and chemistry laboratory - CNRS (UPR 4010), Orléans, France

- Phase separation in mixtures of vibrated hard spheres, a study pursuing fundamental research into the physics of granular media flows. This experiment aims to visualize the organization of vibrated particles in microgravity, and to measure particle velocity distribution with a high-speed camera.
G. Bossis, University of Nice-Sophia-Antipolis.

- Study of particle separation processes in a fluid. Applications of this experiment are designed to separate blood cells and proteins from plasma.
M. Hoyos, ESPCI, Paris.

- Multidisciplinary zero-g programme, a cultural project supported by CNES’s Space Observatory. Choreographer Kitsou Dubois has drawn her inspiration from theories developed by research laboratories, which she applies freely to solid-body materials, group organization and dancers’ movements.
K. Dubois, Ki Productions

- Visuomotor coordination in microgravity, an experiment studying how internal models (physical laws of motion that aid us in predicting an object’s trajectory) adapt under weightless conditions. Such experiments help to improve our understanding of how the brain functions under normal and zero-gravity conditions, and can be applied to the study of diseases affecting human sensorimotor systems.
J. Mc Intyre, LPPA/CNRS, Collège de France, Paris

- Effects of microgravity on vestibular-cardiovascular reflexes: inputs from otolith receptors act on the human cardiovascular system. This experiment aims to demonstrate how the otolith system can account for some of the changes to cardiovascular parameters observed in microgravity.
P. Denise, H. Normand, Physiology Laboratory - Caen Medical School, P. Arbeille, Tours Medical School, France

- Planning of movements in microgravity: contrary to popular belief, movements are not always made easier in weightlessness, because we can no longer rely on our body weight to initiate and halt movements. This experiment will verify the central nervous system’s ability to plan movements and control inertia of body segments using muscular contraction alone.
T. Pozzo, ERM207/INSERM, Dijon, France

- Cardiac scan in parabolic flight: the experiment team has already studied the effect of fluid motions on the cardiovascular function and is now looking to interpret them in terms of cardiac baroreflex.
P. Vaida, Université Victor Segalen, Bordeaux 2, France

The Airbus A300 Zero-g will also be carrying three experiments designed by undergraduates and engineering school students:
- Conflict between the labyrinth and visual and proprioceptive cues to the neck in environmental perception under microgravity conditions, by Mont Saint Aignan teacher training institute.
- Study of fluid behaviour in microgravity, by ENSAE national aerospace school, Toulouse.
- Module orientation by moments of inertia, an experiment aimed at orienting a system in microgravity, for example a satellite, using momentum wheels to reduce power consumption, by ESO (Estaca Space Odyssey), an association at the ESTACA aeronautical and automotive engineering school, Paris.

Parabolic aircraft flights offer a cheap and easy way to conduct short experiments under microgravity conditions. They are of great value in physical (chiefly fluid mechanics) and life sciences (mainly human physiology and animal models), space equipment testing and preparation of human spaceflight missions (equipment testing, protocol validation, crew training). As well as providing a unique testbed for scientists and engineers, parabolic flights carry educational experiments illustrating young people’s interest in space and human spaceflight. The Airbus A300 Zero-g has so far clocked up 5,382 parabolic flight trajectories. CNES subsidiary Novespace is the aircraft owner. It manages and markets parabolic flight campaigns, organizing seven flights a year on average, two for CNES.

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Thierry Gharib, phone +33 (0)5 56 34 05 99, +33 (0)6 82 84 46 16