Zero - G Airbus A300. Through this mission, arranged by the European Space Agency, they have carried out scientific experiments at low gravity.

Date: 08/01/2013

Authors: M. Maffioletti, S. Marconi

Channel: English

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Spatial research for ENEA's zero gravity mission

Luogo: Bordeaux
Data: 08/01/2014
Canale: English

ENEA's researchers and scientific teams across Europe have lived a unique experience on bord the flight Zero - G Airbus A300. Through this mission, arranged by the European Space Agency, they have carried out scientific experiments at low gravity.

Date: 08/01/2013

Authors: M. Maffioletti, S. Marconi

Channel: English

Bordeaux airport

The Airbus A300, which is operated by the French company Novespace, is ready to take off.

It will get to the troposphere,  at an altitude of 6.000 metres.

On board there are neither ordinary passengers nor luggage but researchers.

Instead of seats and compartments there is scientific equipment.

Because research is the purpose of this mission.

Research teams from across Europe have a place on the flight, in order to carry out a vast range of  experiments for Medicine, Engineering and Agriculture, to give an example.

But the Airbus A300 is not only a Research laboratory among the clouds.

It is much more than that.

On board this flight it is possible to experience zero gravity.

Giuseppe Zummo (ENEA) "We are on board the Zero-G Airbus A300 operated by the French company Novespace. My team and I will carry out an experiment focused on the study of heat transfer and fluid flow at microgravity for spacecraft and other space equipment".  


This is the name of ESA’s Flight Campaign.

The strict time schedule of the parabolic flight campaign, arranged by the European Space Agency, is quite heavy.

The flight will do 90 parabolas in 3 days.

This type of flight path, which looks like an elbow, allows the team to recreate the same microgravity conditions as in space, indoors.

But for a short time: just 20 seconds.

After years of absence ENEA has got on board the Zero-Gravity flight again.

The protagonists are four scientists, set off from Rome in a van for the safe transportation of MicroBo, the sophisticated experimental facility that they will take on the flight with them.

ENEA webTV’s reporter will film and take pictures of all the mission.

Before getting aboard the flight, the mission’s doctors give researchers an anti-sickness drug, that is called Scopolamine, and then, caffeine because it tackles the sleepiness that can occur after the anti-nausea drug kicks in.

Now they are ready to board the Airbus.

ENEA’s researchers have previously assembled the experimental equipment.

It is important to check that everything works properly.

Now their only thought is the take-off.

In a few minutes the flight will go beyond the clouds and will do its first parabola, then another and another, with a time interval of about 90 seconds, until it has carried out 30 parabolas per day.

The special passengers will start to fly weightlessly, like astronauts in the International Space Station.

The first parabola has now started.

Their feet leave the ground.

Now concentration is needed.

The researchers have only 20 seconds to undertake the scientific test.

All eyes are on MicroBo, ENEA’s test facility.
This scientific equipment belongs to the MANBO project, that is funded by ESA and in parternship with European universities and companies.

The test facility is very sophisticated.

For the experiment ENEA’s researchers use special test sections, made of pyrex pipes, which are covered by a thin layer of nanometric metal-oxide that both heats the fluid and allows the researchers to watch it boil.
Then, there are automation systems, microsensors and high speed video cameras in order to take pictures of the experiment.

Through MicroBo, ENEA’s researchers can reproduce the flow boiling phenomenon, that occurs in the space components and satellites’ heat exchangers.

The experiment can start. There is no time to lose.

On board the Airbus, ENEA’s researchers make the fluid boil and record the bubbles’ dynamics, which is affected by the low gravity level.
Under the same conditions on Earth, steam would rise while liquid phase would stay down.
At low gravity this balance is shifted. Both phases have the same weight and there is no stratification.

Data of heat flow transfer at microgravity will be crucial to designing heat exchangers for space equipment but also for terrestrial components, like electronic cooling.

Now the aircraft is ready to land.

On the faces of researchers Giuseppe, Antonio, Luca and César and ENEA webTV’s reporter, Massimo, there is no more tension.

ENEA’ researchers are satisfied with the results of the mission and they are just looking forward to getting on board the Zero-Gravity Airbus in 2014.

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