Parabolic flights treat passengers and experiments to a rollercoaster ride, flying angled at 49º 20 times per flight. They are used to conduct short-term scientific and technological investigations in microgravity and reduced gravity, to test instrumentation before use in space, to validate operational and experimental procedures, and to train astronauts for spaceflight.
The Progra2 experiment is creating clouds of matter and recording how light is scattered by micrometre-sized particles. The carbon-based dust is chosen to resemble the clouds found in our Solar System such as around asteroids and comets. Knowing how light is scattered by these particles in microgravity will help interpret observations made from telescopes and increase our understanding the Universe.
The experiment is linked to the ICAPS experiment that is looking at what happens next when dust clouds interact in space – how they clump together to form larger bodies such as planets.