NASA Sponsors Reduced Gravity Technology Test Flights

WASHINGTON -- NASA recently sponsored a series of flights from Ellington Field in Houston to test technologies in reduced-gravity conditions. The flights marked the third year of operations for NASA's Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology program, called FAST.

The 16 research teams that participated were comprised of small businesses, university groups and NASA researchers from Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Texas and
California. The teams were selected competitively based on the value
of their technology to NASA and the potential to improve the
technology through testing in the unique, reduced-gravity environment.

"University students from Florida to California, private companies and
NASA centers all participated in this latest round of technology test
flights," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA
Headquarters in Washington. "This commercially-provided test platform
allows small technology innovators a unique way to test systems
before they reach the harsh and unforgiving environment of space,
providing a proving ground at the high frontier."

The FAST program is designed to help reduce the risk of using new
technologies during space missions. The flights also provide insight
into why some technologies may fail before deploying them on a costly
ride into the unforgiving environment of space.

The flights were on a Boeing 727 airplane operated under contract to
NASA by the Zero Gravity Corporation in Vienna, Va. They simulated
the weightless environment of space and the reduced-gravity
conditions of the moon. The FAST program paid for the flight time and
operations while each research team secured separate funding for
their technology development.

The aircraft provides a series of short periods of reduced gravity
lasting about 25 seconds. By repeating the maneuver, researchers
obtain approximately 15 minutes of cumulative test time during each
flight. Two flights with lunar gravity conditions and two flights
with zero gravity conditions were conducted with approximately 10
projects and 25 to 30 researchers on each flight.

The tested technologies addressed important capabilities such as using
resources on the moon, assembling structures, managing space
propellant depots and monitoring human performance in microgravity
conditions. Demonstrating these technologies in the reduced-gravity
environment helps improve their designs and reduces risk for their
use in future missions.

NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program has managed the FAST program
for the past three years. Beginning in 2011, it will be part of the
Flight Opportunities Program in NASA's new Office of the Chief
Technologist in Washington.

The FAST program will solicit proposals for reduced-gravity testing
opportunities for three or more flight weeks per year, pending the
availability of funding.

The Reduced Gravity Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston
supervised the test operations. NASA's Glenn Research Center in
Cleveland coordinated the preparations for the project teams.

For more information about FAST, including photographs and links to
video of flight testing activities, visit:



For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:


Source: NASA

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