Parabolic flight safety and health regulations

The safety of personnel and equipment are of paramount importance during all ESA campaigns. Parabolic flights are considered as test flights, and therefore particular precautions are taken to ensure that in-flight operations are made safely, and that all participants in the flights are adequately prepared for repeated high and low gravity phases.

Prior to an individual campaign, support is provided to researchers in their equipment design and safety aspects. All experiments are reviewed by experts during visits to the investigators' home laboratories. Two independent safety processes are followed in parallel. All experiments characteristics are assessed by ESA experts on one hand and by Novespace and CEV experts on eth other hand. A safety review is held one month prior to the campaign, where the integration of all equipment is discussed and the overall safety aspect of the campaign is assessed. Finally, a safety visit is made in the aircraft prior to the first flight to verify that all flown equipment complies with the applicable safety rules.

All researchers selected by ESA to participate in parabolic flights must pass a medical examination (JAR FCL3 class 2, which is valid for one or two years, depending on age).

On-board researchers must wear special ESA flight suits, provided on loan during the campaign.

For experiments proposed to be conducted on human subjects, medical protocols submitted by the researchers are reviewed by relevant Medical Boards to ensure that the proposed research is conducted according to established ethical and safety rules.

During the flights, specialised personnel supervise and support the in-flight experiment operations. A Flight Surgeon participates in all flights to supervise the medical aspect of in-flight operations, and to assist flying participants in case of sickness. Due to the association of low and high gravity flight phases, motion sickness is quite common among participants to parabolic flights, sometimes hampering them to conduct their tasks. Prior to the flights, anti-motion sickness medication is made available to all participants on request.

Last update: 2 June 2010

Copyright 2000 - 2014 © European Space Agency. All rights reserved.