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Schedule 2009 campaign

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ESA / Education / Fly Your Thesis!

The application and selection process will include various steps:

A.0. Project definition for all applicants

During this phase, the applicants will compose their team, find an endorsing professor or academic supervisor and start to think about their project. They will write a Letter of Intent that will give all the details of their project definition. This document will pave the way for the Scientific Proposal.

  • Documents expected: Letter of intent (LOI)
  • Deadline: 31/08/2008

A.1. Review of the LOI and first selection of up to 20 teams.

The Review Board will be composed of experts from ELGRA, HME Directorate and ESA Education.

  • Results will be announced by the end of September 2008;
  • All the selected teams are then assigned a mentor from the European Low Gravity Research Association (ELGRA).

B.0-1. Writing of scientific proposal by selected applicants

After defining their project, the students must consider in detail how the experiment will be realised. At the end of this process, they will be expected to have a very accurate knowledge of the scientific theory related to their project, as well as the way they will realise their experiment – both in a qualitative and quantitative way. Further selection will be based on two documents that are required from all teams that participate in ESA Parabolic Flight Campaigns.

The first document, the Scientific Proposal, will focus on the scientific and theoretical aspects of the project. Through this document, the students will show that they have a very good knowledge of their project topic, using references to bibliography and scientific literature in the field and giving the details of the results expected. Supervised by their mentor, they will learn how to meet the requirements of the writing of a Scientific Proposal.

The second document, the Experiment Safety Data Package (ESDP), is a report on all the technical aspects of the experiment rack: size, mass, nature of all the components, resistance to shocks, behaviour in zero-g, electrical requirements, etc. All those aspects will be assessed during the Safety Review (Step B.2.).

As a conclusion to this preparation phase there will be a workshop at ESTEC (Step B.1.). During this workshop, the teams will present their projects to the Review Board. This workshop will include tours of ESTEC and ESA’s European Astronaut Centre (EAC) facilities.


  • Documents expected: Scientific Proposal, first version of Experiment Safety Data Package (ESDP)
  • Deadline: 30/11/2008

B.2-3. Review by prime contractor and review board

The first version of the ESDP will be evaluated by Novespace, who will rank all the applicants, based on safety and feasibility. The Review Board will then, select the three or four best experiments to fly on the Microgravity Research Campaign, and possibly choose up to four others in order to offer them the possibility of performing their experiment on gravity research facilities, such as the Large Diameter Centrifuge (this last point is currently under assessment).


  • Final selection of three or four teams expected in January 2009.
  • 4 optional teams to be offered opportunity on gravity research facilities.

C. Experiment preparation

Based on the Scientific Proposal, the selected teams start to implement and build their experiment rack, helped by qualified professionals and their Mentor. The cost of the building will be partly supported by ESA Education. The teams will send on a regular basis updated versions of their ESDP to have it reviewed by the Novespace Engineers.

D. Parabolic flights campaign

Selected teams will fly during ESA’s 51st Microgravity Research Campaign in autumn 2009. The two week long campaign will take place in Bordeaux, France. The teams will participate in three flights of 30 parabolas each, one parabola lasting approximately 20 seconds.

E. Analysis of results

The teams will analyse the results obtained during the flights and eventually write a scientific paper co-authored by the ELGRA mentor. As a conclusion to the programme, a workshop may be organised. Some students will also be sponsored to attend international conferences (such as the ELGRA Biennial Symposium) and present their results to the scientific community.

Please note that the dates and deadlines detailed above are subject to change without prior notice.