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Weightless Drexel Engineering Students Return to Earth

July 22, 2011

NASA Space Plane After testing their self-designed and constructed experiments on-board a gravity-defying aircraft, five students from Drexel University College of Engineering are busy evaluating their data after experiencing weightlessness at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston. 

Todd Bickel, Matthew D’Arcy, Jesse Ellis, Reuben Krutz and Elizabeth Santangelo participated in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program (RGEFP), which gives teams of undergraduate students from across the nation the opportunity to propose, design, build, fly and evaluate a reduced gravity experiment. The team was selected from more than 70 proposals based on scientific merit and education outreach potential.

The team tested their experiment aboard NASA’s “Weightless Wonder,” a microgravity aircraft that can produce periods of weightlessness lasting 18 to 25 seconds at a time by flying a series of about 30 parabolas – a steep climb followed by a free fall – over the Gulf of Mexico. 

The student team flew their experiment, Characterizing the Performance of the CubeSat Deployable Boom in Microgravity, at Ellington Field from July 7-15, 2011. This experiment accomplished Observing the efficiency of the attitude control device in zero gravity.  On one reduced gravity flight, the CubeSat model was bolted down to the aircraft floor, while on the next flight the model was in free float for a more realistic simulation. The team will issue a final report to NASA three months after the flight analyzing the experiment’s effectiveness, scientific findings and the conclusions that were drawn from the results. 

For more information, please visit the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program website.