|NASA's MICROGRAVITY FACILITIES
NASA scientists are using microgravity experiments to study fluid physics,
material science, combustion science, biotechnology, and life science.
The microgravity experiments are conducted in several different facilities,
all of which depend on the experiment achieving a state of free-fall.
On the Earth, drop towers provide a few seconds of free-fall, while
aircraft and sounding rockets, following parabolic paths, provide
additional microgravity time. Experiments requiring extended time
in microgravity are conducted on spacecraft such as the Space Shuttle.
The astronauts appear to "float" in the Shuttle because
the Shuttle and the astronauts are falling towards the Earth as they
Image of an experiment in the 2.2
Second Drop Tower at the NASA Glenn
Research Center. Experiment packages are hoisted to the top of the tower
and dropped into an airbag 24m below.
Research aircrafts, such as the DC-9 or the KC-135 (pictured above),
were used as microgravity laboratories to provide about 20 seconds of
reduced-gravity during a parabolic maneuver. Currently, NASA uses the
Zero-G Corp’s 727 aircraft for reduced gravity research
Microgravity experiments are conducted on the International Space Station
when extended periods of reduced-gravity are needed