The Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology (FAST)

    For information on 2011 Opportunities for Technology Testing on Reduced-Gravity Parabolic Flights go to:

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    FAST Program Overview

    The Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology Development and Training (FAST) provides opportunities for emerging technologies to perform testing in the space environment.
    • Technologies that support NASA's missions but are not yet mature enough for adoption into on-going programs (see Technology Maturity below)
    • Technologies that might not otherwise be tested due to lack of funding:
    • Small businesses and individuals
    • Universities and research institutions
    • NASA projects in early development
    FAST utilizes commercially available flight test capabilities such as the Zero Gravity Corporation aircraft for parabolic flights. The current focus is on testing in micro-gravity, reduced-gravity or variable-gravity conditions on parabolic aircraft flights.

    In the future the FAST program expects to provide opportunities to test technology on suborbital and orbital flights when those services are commercially available.

    Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Definitions
    emerging technology arrow bridging the gap up to technology adopted by programsTRL 9: Actual system "flight proven" through successful mission operations.
    TRL 8: Actual system completed and "flight qualified" through test & demonstration (ground or space).
    TRL 7: System prototype demonstration in a space environment.
    TRL 6: System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment (ground or space).
    TRL 5: Component and/or breadboard validation in relevant environment.
    TRL 4: Component and/or breadboard validation in laboratory environment.
    TRL 3: Analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof-of-concept.
    TRL 2: Technology concept and/or application formulated.
    TRL 1: Basic principles observed and reported.

    The goal for FAST is to help emerging technologies move from TRL 4-5 to TRL 6-7. Managers typically consider TRL 6 to be the minimum level of maturity for incorporating new technology in a major development program. The key factor in "bridging the TRL gap" is testing in the space environment.

    Parabolic Aircraft Flight Testing

    NASA has been flying parabolic flights on NASA-owned KC-135 and C-9B aircraft for decades out of Ellington Field under the management of the Johnson Space Center's Reduced Gravity Office. Those flights have made numerous contributions to scientific advancement and technology development. The aircraft can provide about 25 seconds of near-zero-gravity conditions during each parabolic maneuver. It can provide variable gravity levels between zero and one, including 0.16 g for lunar conditions and 0.38 g for Mars conditions. An increased gravity level of up to 1.8 g can be provided for up to one minute.
    Maneuver Time in Seconds, Altitude in Feet, plane with 45 degree nose high at approximately 15 seconds and 20 degrees nose low at approximately 67 seconds
    Microgravity Services Contract
    NASA awarded a contract to the Zero Gravity Corporation in January 2008 to provide commercial parabolic aircraft flights to simulate variable gravity environments for research and development work. Each flight includes 40-60 parabolic trajectories. NASA Flight Weeks will generally be conducted out of Ellington Field in Houston, Texas.

    plane ascending and descending, people in a zero g environment

    › View 2010 Call For Proposal (for reference only)
    › View Press Release: NASA Moves 'FAST' For Reduced-Gravity Flight Testing Tech Projects
    › View Press Release: NASA Offers 'FAST' Opportunities For Zero-G Technology Testing
    › View Information of 2008 and 2009 FAST Flight Weeks