The Large Diameter Centrifuge
In order to understand and describe the influence of gravity in systems, the observation of behaviour in microgravity and at 1g (where g is the gravitational acceleration at the surface of the Earth) is not sufficient. A broad gravity spectrum has to be explored to complete the scientific picture of how gravity has an impact on a system: samples have to be exposed to a variety of acceleration values above 1g (hypergravity).
A Large Diameter Centrifuge (LDC) has been developed recently by ESA, allowing the acquisition of measurement points in the range from 1 to 20 g. This instrument can provide a hypergravity environment for cells, plants and small animals, as well as physical science and technological experiments. The LDC is part of the Life and Physical Sciences Instrumentation and Life Support Laboratory (LIS) at ESTEC (the Netherlands), dedicated to serving the science and technology user communities throughout Europe.
A wide range of hypergravity experiments can be performed in the LDC facility, including biological, biochemical, microbiological, opto-physical, physical, material and fluid sciences, geology and plasma physics.
The diameter of the LDC is eight metres. It has four arms, each of which can support two gondolas with a maximum payload of 80 kg per gondola. In practice, six gondolas are available, plus one gondola in the centre for control or reference experiments. The rotation of the LDC then creates the hypergravity field at the experiment site inside each gondola.
The LDC is flexible in terms of experiment scenarios, duration and possible equipment to use. This means that the system is able to execute and manage experiments that last from one minute up to six months, without stopping.
More detailed information can be found in the LDC Experimenter User Manual.