UPC experiments with zero gravity at Sabadell Airport

The winners of the first edition of the Barcelona Aerobatics Zero-Gravity Challenge, organized by the Aeronautics and Space Research Center (CRAE) at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya ‘BARCELONA TECH’ (UPC), have had the opportunity to test their experiments at the Sabadell Airport (Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain) on Sunday, 31 October,2010.

The contest, led by Professor Antoni Pérez-Poch of the CRAE, challenged undergraduate and postgraduate students at the UPC to design and build a zero-gravity experiment in a limited amount of time.

The winner of this first edition of the contest was a project entitled “Perspective-Reversible Figures in Parabolic Flight,” developed by a team from the International Space University (ISU) led by microgravity research expert Gilles Clément of France. The other members of the team were Alexandra Kindrat, Heather Allaway and Alexander Melinyshyn of Canada, Jagruti Pankhania of the United Kingdom, and Jonathan Muller of France.

This contest was made possible by a collaboration agreement between the UPC, the flight school AeroClub Barcelona-Sabadell and the Barcelona Aeronautics and Space Association (BAIE). The second edition of the Barcelona Aerobatics Zero-Gravity Challenge will feature the participation of the Space Generation Advisory Council, an international association of students and young space professionals that advises the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

Platform for zero-gravity experimentation

Thanks to an agreement between the UPC and AeroClub Barcelona-Sabadell, the Sabadell Airport has become a platform for microgravity experimentation that is open to the European Low Gravity Research Association (ELGRA), as well as to university students. Since 2007, the airport has been the site of research led by Professor Pérez-Poch on the effects of zero gravity on the cardiovascular system.

This research, undertaken in collaboration with aerobatics pilot Daniel Ventura, has included the validation of NELME, a numerical model that simulates cardiovascular changes resulting from exposure to microgravity. It’s the first parabolic flight research campaign ever undertaken with single-engine planes.

Although single-engine airplanes offer shorter spurts of weightlessness—between five and eight seconds—these periods are long enough to allow experiments to be carried out under reduced gravity conditions.

The experiments carried out and the technologies being developed in this field have proved essential to our understanding of physical, chemical and physiological processes. One example is the discovery of a fundamental mechanism that helps to control the cells that produce red blood cells. This discovery stemmed from a study of “space anemia,” a common condition among astronauts.

Therefore, the Space Generation Advisory Council is organizing the Second Edition of the Barcelona Zero-G Challenge. Please stay tuned for more details! You can win the chance to fly your experiment in zero gravity in 2011!

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