Parabolic Flight Campaign

Airbus A300 Zero-G Characteristics

The main technical characteristics of the Airbus A300 Zero-G cabin for prospective investigators are:

  • A 20 x 5 x 2.3 cubic metre (L x W x H) equipment test area;
  • All equipment must be loaded through a normal passenger door (i.e. 1.93 metres x 1.07 metres);
  • A cabin pressure of approximately 800 mbar and temperature range of 18 to 25 degrees C;
  • Electrical power is available as: 220 V AC at 50 Hz (single phase); 28 V DC; and 115-200 V AC at 400 Hz (three-phase);
  • A ventline is provided for the purging of gases and liquids from the aircraft during flight;
  • Continuous in-flight lighting;
  • Protective white foam padding covering internal surfaces to prevent injury to flight personnel.

Detailed information on the aircraft and the applicable procedures for parabolic flights may be found on the Novespace's website ( Please also see the Parabolic Flights chapter of the European Users Guide (pdf file ~ 5.8 MB).

Parabolic Flight Manoeuvre

From a steady horizontal flight, the aircraft gradually pulls up its nose and starts climbing up to an angle of approximately 45 degrees. This "injection" phase lasts for about 20 seconds, during which the aircraft experiences an acceleration of around 1.8 times the gravity level at the surface of the Earth, i.e. 1.8g. The engine thrust is then strongly reduced to the minimum required to compensate for air-drag, and the aircraft then follows a free-fall ballistic trajectory, i.e. a parabola, lasting approximately 20 seconds, during which weightlessness is achieved.

Alternatively, for reduced gravity parabolas, the engine thrust is reduced sufficiently to a point where the remaining vertical acceleration in the cabin is approximately 0.16g for approximately 23 seconds or 0.38g for approximately 30 seconds.

At the end of this period, the aircraft must pull out of the parabolic arc, a manoeuvre which gives rise to another 20 second period of 1.8g on the aircraft, after which it returns to normal level flight attitude.

These manoeuvres are flown repeatedly, with a period of 3 minutes between the start of two consecutive parabolas, i.e. a 1 minute parabolic phase (20 seconds at 1.8g + 20 seconds of weightlessness + 20 seconds at 1.8g), followed by a 2 minute "rest" period at 1g. After every group of five parabolas however, the rest interval is increased to 4 to 8 minutes.

Throughout the flight, all personnel are kept continuously informed of the flight status, i.e. indication of how many seconds to the next parabola, number of minutes of rest period, etc.

Last update: 3 June 2010

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