ETH - Free Fall Machine

Full Description

The FFM has been invented and patented by D. Mesland (D.A.M. Mesland, A.H. Anton, H. Willemsen, H. van den Ende. The free fall machine – a ground based facility for microgravity research in life sciences. Microgravity sci. Technol. 9, 10 (1996) at ESTEC and constructed by CCM, Nuenen, NL. The principle of the instrument is based on the gravity-driven free fall of a samples fixed to a carriage sliding along a vertical 1 m high guiding bar. At the bottom of the bar a thrust of compressed air bounces the carriage to the top of the rod. The FFM produces periods of free-fall conditions lasting approx. 800-900 ms which are interrupted by an acceleration of about 20xg for 20-80 ms. It is assumed that the perception time of the organism under study is longer than the duration of bounce and shorter than the duration of the free fall. If this is true, the organism is like in a status of “permanent lasting microgravity. Circulating water pumped from thermostat (0-40°C) controls the temperature within the case.

Free Fall Machine. Left: Closed case with control panel. Right: Open case showing the guiding bar and sample carriage.

Technical data

Cycle time: maximum 900 ms
Reverse time: 20-80 ms
Free fall time / cycle time: 86-98%
PC user interface with dedicated control software
On line data collection of facility performance
Experiment interfaces:
Switchable 5 / 12 volt power line
Maximum experiment mass to be accommodated 2 × 750 gram.
Maximum experiment dimensions: 80 ×150 × 60 mm (h×w×d)

The laboratories of the Space Biology Group are equipped with 2 laminar flow benches, CO2 incubator, space bioreactor, several centrifuges, autoclaves, fluorescence microscope with photo device, cell counter, gas chromatograph. The offices – one especially for guests – are equipped with PC’s and Macintosh all connected to the Internet.More information, especially on the space bioreactor is available on our web page:

Last update: 23 January 2012

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