Post-Flight Comments From FAST Participants
September 8-10, 2008
On September 9 and 10, 2008, five NASA SBIR companies tested technologies on-board the Zero-Gravity Corporation aircraft in the inaugural flights of the FAST program. The aircraft flew parabolic trajectories to generate zero-gravity and lunar gravity conditions. Here are comments from some of the participants.
Pneumatic Mining Under Lunar Gravity Conditions
This was a great experience on both personal and research level. During our first day we performed preliminary tests and later that day did some trouble-shooting to improve measurements. Our second day was almost perfect. We achieved 90% of the test requirements and we were on our way to achieve 100% on the 3rd and 4th days. We will have to run some tests at 1g to determine the effect of lower g's, but from the first impression it looks like lower gravity does have a positive effect on the efficiency of pneumatic soil transfer. Having this two-day experience of reduced-g flights, we are now much more experienced and know exactly how to prepare ourselves and experiments for the next flights.
Honeybee Robotics, New York, NY
Nanofluid Coolant Testing
During our second flight we obtained high quality data that showed that the thermal conductivity of nanofluids remained high at all gravity conditions measured. This was the validation that we were looking for and will increase the technology readiness level of our technology.
nanoComposix, Inc., San Diego, CA
Microgravity Flight-testing of Self-deploying Shells
During one day of testing, Mevicon Inc. measured the deployment of about 25 different roll stowed shells in various gravity conditions. Parameters such as shell prescription, material, and repeatability were assessed. The data, when compared to ground test results for similar shells, will help us refine models by including the effect of the absence of gravity on our membrane shell deployment, thereby preparing the way for their potential use in space applications. It was also seen that 0.3m shells maintained their shape even when fully deployed in the 2-G environment.
We thought both the Zero-G folks and the NASA folks were very professional and helpful. If we get the chance to fly again, we would really welcome that. Now that Jim and Travis were actually in the microgravity environment we have already envisaged relatively minor changes to the test approach that would enhance throughput.
Mevicon Inc., Sunnyvale, CA
Virtual Sensor Test Instrumentation Operations
The experience is exciting and helping us tremendously to confirm the operation capabilities of the smart sensors. We also gained new knowledge for designing our next phase product in order to enhance transmission and sensor interfaces.
Mobitrum Corporation, Silver Spring, MD