ALTEC - Neutral Buoyancy Test Facility (NBTF)

The ALTEC Neutral Buoyancy Test Facility

ALTEC - Advanced Logistics Technology Engineering Center, is the Italian national center of excellence for the provision of services to support the International Space Station and other space systems; ALTEC is a public-private joint venture between Thales Alenia Space, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and a public consortium of local entities and Finmeccanica Group. ALTEC, premises are located in Turin, Northern Italy and host the Neutral Buoyancy Test Facility (NBTF), developed and used to support space H/W and operations development, and at disposal of the European science community as a powerful tool to carry out research on physiology and neuroscience studies on topics like equilibrium, locomotion, perception of space, posture, control of physiological parameters, decoupling of visual and proprioceptive cues in perception of gravity, gravity models, underwater medicine and other.

Neutral Buoyancy Test Facility (NBTF)

Neutral Buoyancy allows simulation of weightlessness conditions.

The Neutral Buoyancy Test facility is also available for other needs, like testing activities on equipment, protocols, and procedures needing to be assessed under conditions of simulated microgravity or underwater - as space hardware or diving equipment - shooting of movies and commercials in the aquatic environment. Many other areas of scientific application, technology or business may be suggested by potential users.

Neutral Buoyancy allows simulation of weightlessness conditions, thanks to the balance between the force of gravity and the buoyancy of water, obtained by combining appropriate weights and flotation devices. Human subjects and objects, even of big dimensions, can be perfectly balanced and move as if they were in zero gravity, apart from the effect of water resistance.

The water tank is completely off the ground with a depth is 5 meters.

Specific characteristics make the ALTEC NBTF a unique item: this is the greatest pool completely out of the ground in Europe. Its four huge windows - one facing on a dedicated control room connected to subjects via audio and video links - allow a complete monitoring of the subject / experiment scenario.

The NBTF was developed and used in ALTEC for engineering support activities (design optimization of the International Space Station pressurised modules, development and verification of flight operations, astronaut training with simulations of activities internal and external to modules).

A control room is located at one of the four transparent walls.

The NBTF is composed of:

  • A water tank completely off the ground; depth is 5 meters. The pool is octagon-shaped with opposite walls at a distance of 9.3 meters. Four walls are equipped with large transparent windows to allow front observation of the subjects inside the pool. The volume of the tank is of 340,000 liters;
  • A control room is located at one of the four transparent walls and from here you can manage and control all stages of execution of the experiments, thanks to the direct front view of the subject and the test scenario, and by means of audio / video links;
  • Communication Systems Audio: two independent systems (one-way submerged speakers, and two-way links via dedicated helmet) allow the connection between control room and the diver;
  • Video Communication System equipped by one fixed camera and a mobile one; video recording capabilities;
  • A dedicated medical room allows to perform pre-dive and treat emergencies; when the NBTF is in use a physician is on duty, to verify the physical condition of the divers and to intervene as necessary;
  • Two dressing rooms with bathrooms and showers;
  • A crane for hoisting, move and submerge heavy objects, (up to 12.5 tons)meeting room, adjacent to the control room;
  • Water Treatment System; allows continuous recycling of water and automatic physicochemical control. Water temperature is controlled between 27 and 29 degrees Celsius and the pH is maintained at 7.5; these characteristics exclude hypothermia problems, while reducing contaminants growth, minimizing the effects of corrosion of submerged materials and models.

Technical Data

The facility has a crane for hoisting, move and submerge heavy objects.
  • Depth: 5 m
  • Octagon-shaped section
  • Opposite walls distance: 9.3 m
  • Four large transparent windows. (Allow front observation of the subjects inside the pool)
  • Volume: 340,000 lt.
  • Control room
  • Communication Audio Systems: one-way audio system (submerged speakers) plus two-way audio system via dedicated helmet
  • Video Communication System: one fixed camera and a mobile one (optional)
  • Video recording capabilities
  • Support areas
  • Physician, technicians, divers, safety staff available as options
  • Outreach capabilities.

Contact person/address

To agree experiment protocols with ALTEC staff, please contact ALTEC at the address below.
The Facility is open to agencies, research institutes, commercial companies and other potential users.

Dr. Mario BENASSAI
Program Manager Space Medicine and Biotechnology Applications
ALTEC S.p.A.
Advanced Logistics and Technology Engineering Center
Corso Marche 79
I - 10146 Torino
Italy
Tel.: +39-011-7430-078
Fax: +39-011-7430-064
E-mail: mario.benassai@altecspace.it

Contact person/address

To agree experiment protocols with ALTEC staff, please contact ALTEC at the address below.
The Facility is open to agencies, research institutes, commercial companies and other potential users.

Dr. Mario BENASSAI
Program Manager Space Medicine and Biotechnology Applications
ALTEC S.p.A.
Advanced Logistics and Technology Engineering Center
Corso Marche 79
I - 10146 Torino
Italy
Tel.: +39-011-7430-078
Fax: +39-011-7430-064
E-mail: mario.benassai@altecspace.it

Last update: 23 January 2012

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