On 12 and 13 September, four students of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft will test the instruments they designed for measuring mass during periods of weightlessness. The tests will be conducted in a special aeroplane. The plane will carry out a number of free falls, resulting in periods of weightlessness of about 20 seconds.

The Delft students, an international team comprised of two Dutch and two Belgian students, were the winners of a European competition organized by the European Space Agency.

An ordinary scale relies on the presence of gravity and does not work in space. Even the international space station, ISS, currently being built, does not yet have a scale onboard. The students, united under the name ‘Weightless Weight Watchers’ tackled this problem by designing an instrument that uses vibrations to determine the mass of random objects between 50 and 500g to within 1%. The instrument, which was designed together with the NLR (Nationaal Lucht- en Ruimtevaartlaboratorium), TNO, and their own faculty, performed beyond expectations during tests on the ground.

On earth, weightlessness can only be achieved and studied during a free fall. In a parabolic flight the plane pulls up steeply, after which the pilot lets the plane drop in a controlled manner. The trajectory of the plane is parabolic, hence the name. During 20 seconds of this flight the plane and everything in it is weightless. ESA organises two professional parabolic flight campaigns each year for scientific research. A special campaign for students is also organized to give them the chance to do research under circumstances of weightlessness. During every flight there are about thirty periods of weightlessness.

Reference URL : http://www.tudelft.nl

For further information, please contact:
Maarten van der Sanden
Delft University of Technology
+31 15 2785454