Microgravity Research

What is Microgravity?

Microgravity is a unique environment where the effects of gravity are reduced or removed. This environment is created in freefall. In space, freefall is achieved by “falling around” the Earth in the International Space Station; on the Earth, freefall is achieved in special research aircraft that fly in parabola-like maneuvers.  Anyone can experience freefall simply by jumping in the air: the moment your feet leave the ground, you are in freefall and experience exactly the same sensation as astronauts floating inside the space station! Microgravity is very important in the study of Space Science because the processes and phenomena normally hidden by dominant gravitational effects become more easily observable. An example of a physical science experiment in freefall is the study of how a liquid occupies a partially filled container: on the ground, a liquid tends to pool at the bottom of its container, but in microgravity the liquid can behave strangely and may occupy both ends of its container with a void in the middle, creating new challenges in the design of spacecraft liquid fuel tanks and life support systems. IIAS studies microgravity sciences in partnership with the National Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Space Agency, and through IIAS research affiliates: Project PoSSUM and Project OTTER.

About Integrated Spaceflight Services

Integrated Spaceflight Services (ISS) was founded in 2010 in Boulder, CO with the intent to provide high-quality yet affordable microgravity flight services. Using a Falcon-20 aircraft, ISS specializes in the payload integration and certification process required to get an experiment ready for flight. Since 2015, ISS has integrated and tested a variety of equipment now in service on the International Space Station, including bio-monitoring and printing technologies. ISS also provides flight and integration support for IIAS research and education initiatives. Since 2015, ISS has partnered with Final Frontier Design to test, evaluate, and validate the space suit prototypes in analog environments.

ISS customers have included Leidos, SwRI, Final Frontier Design, Project PoSSUM, and the University of Maryland. Notably, IIS has particular expertise in microgravity ergonomic studies and other studies involving human performance and human-in-the-loop testing. Administered by scientists and engineers, ISS takes a novel integration approach that brings together primary research experiments with a variety of other research and education experiments to optimize each flight opportunity in terms of science and technology maturation.


IIAS Successful Microgravity Experiments:

IIAS has flown dozens of successful microgravity experiments. Here are some of the most recent:

PoSSUM Fluid Configuration Experiment

Pure liquid water and water vapor in sealed borosilicate cylindrical containers are used to study effects of g-jitter (random vibrations) on the configurational phase stability of water in low gravity. Observed to the right: Pure water in low gravity when exposed to g-jitter from the aircraft (left) and when free floating (right).

Solid Body Rotation Experiment

The Intermediate Axis Theorem is investigated using a device that imparts known angular velocities to objects in near weightlessness.Observed to the right: Solid Body Rotation Experiment with egg object.

PoSSUM Water on the Moon Experiment

Experiment to study the fluid dynamics of water in a lunar gravity environment. Observed to the Right: IIAS experimenter pours water in lunar gravity.

PoSSUM AR/VR in Weightlessness Experiment

Experiments to test out various head-mounted display units (HoloLens, Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift S, Google Glass) to test augmented and virtual reality scenarios in freefall. Observed to the right: Oculus Quest testing in near weightlessness.

PoSSUM Perception of Facial Features in Space Experiment

A doctored picture of a person is shown beside the unaltered picture and the flight participant attempts to identify differences between the two pictures when in near freefall. Can you spot the differences between the two pictures of Col. Chris Hadfield?

PoSSUM Satellite Deployment Experiment

Egyptian payload testing the deployment of satellite solar panels in near weightlessness.

PoSSUM 13 Oil and Water Emulsion Experiment

Mixing of water and oil in reduced gravity. Contributed from PoSSUM 13 student team from Mexico.

PoSSUM Biomonitoring Technologies Experiment

Smart garments, harnesses, and sensors are used to monitor suited and unsuited participants in support of human spaceflight. Technologies include Zephyr, Equivital, Muse, Hexoskin and Astroskin. Observed to the Right: Testing of the Muse brain sensing headband.

PoSSUM 13 Vection and Makeup Experiment

An experiment to recognizing cognitive change in near weightlessness, perceived motion, and impact on applying makeup in space!

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