NASA Selects Reduced-Gravity Projects

FAST program offers opportunity to test how emerging technologies will perform in zero-or reduced gravity environments.

| May 29, 2009

Washington – NASA has selected 21 technology demonstration projects to fly on reduced gravity aircraft flights during the week of Aug. 10 through its Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology Development and Training program known as FAST.

The FAST program is designed to enable new technologies to be incorporated into NASA's flight programs and other commercial space applications. FAST provides an opportunity to demonstrate whether emerging technologies will perform as expected in the zero-gravity environment of Earth orbit or the reduced gravity environment of the moon or Mars. The selected projects will demonstrate new technologies from U.S. companies, universities and NASA laboratories located in 13 states.

These gravity conditions can be simulated for periods of 20 to 30 seconds at a time in an aircraft flying repeated parabolic trajectories. The FAST program can reduce the risk of using new technologies during space missions by providing those technologies with an opportunity to prove how they work in a reduced-gravity environment or understand why they do not work.

The technology demonstration projects will address important issues such as lunar regolith processing and handling, lunar dust mitigation, demonstration of new mechanisms, manufacturing in space, and validation of variable gravity phenomena. NASA's Innovative Partnership Program prioritized technology needs and selection of these projects through close collaboration with the agency's mission directorates.

NASA will provide reduced-gravity flight time for the tests at no cost to the selected project teams. The teams will be responsible for all other expenses. The flights will be conducted using commercially available services from the Zero Gravity Corporation, provided under a commercial contract with NASA. The aircraft will fly approximately 30 to 40 reduced-gravity parabolas per day for four consecutive flight days during the week of Aug. 10.

The Reduced Gravity Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston oversees the test operations, and NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland will provide technical support to the project teams.

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