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Parabolic flight 2015

© Mars Society Deutschland

The MIRIAM-2 team took part in the 63th ESA parabolic flight campaign from Oct. 26 to Nov. 3, 2015 in Bordeaux. The balloon deployment system was mounted in the aircraft - the A310 from Novespace - in the first week of the campaign. The flight then was performed in the following week on Nov. 3rd, 2015 and 31 parabolas were flown.

The A310 is waiting for us

Preparation week

The preparation week is meant to integrate the experiment equipment in the aircraft, make last changes and also to undergo several safety checks by Novespace to make sure the equipment is safe to fly without hazards for the aircraft or any of the experimenters.

Our test rig is integrated, but a lot of things are still missing

Certification of our test setup by Novespace

What was left was to make adjustments of the cameras, of course to write checklists and the training of the experiment performance. The last you need on a zero-g flight is a failure of the experiment due to wrong handling! We of course wanted to rule out this possibility.

View into the experiment area toward the cockpit, our experiment is way at the front on the left side

The flight team: left to right Bernd, Tanja, Thomas and Steffen

The flight

The day before the flight all flight participants need to take part in a safety briefing. Whoever is not attending will not be flying!

During the briefing, the concept of parabolic flight is explained

Here you can find a detailed explanation of the maneuvre. The flight day itself is densely packed, and means especially one thing: getting up early!

Schedule of the flight day

This is how the test rig will look during most time of the flight:

Testrig in safety mode

We also had some fun floating around, after all we had a lot of time to spare during most time of the flight...

Here I have tried to describe the feeling after my first flight in 2002. This still holds true today, only that now I have more experience with zero-g...

Presentation of our experiment

The briefing was done, the big day could now come. More so as there were three first-time flyers in our team.

Last work being done on the setup

It will look like this right before the test starts:

All safety means are removed

The test (parabola 29 and 30)

You can see in the video that without help the balloon only comes out of the container by a few cm after triggering the deployment mechanism. The whole thing only moves after manual help, but even then does not fully leave the container. The container itself did not move at all as intended.

Only in the following parabola, by pushing at the bottom of the balloon container, the container with the balloon moves out to the full extent. It should look like this later on in space, but it should have looked like this without manual help. Therefore the test sadly is failed...

We are also listed in the ESA Erasmus Experiment Archive.


The test result means for the MIRIAM-2 team that we have to improve the deployment mechanism. To achieve this, we have to do some measurements and ground tests. At the end of this test series, when the ground tests have shown satisfactory results, another zero-g flight is planned, currently in the timeframe spring 2017.

The MIRIAM-2 project has meanwhile been accepted into the ESA GSTP (General Support Technology Programme), which means that we have no problems to finance the Repetition of the parabolic flight test in 2017 and the necessary technology developments for the MIRIAM-2 sounding rocket flight.

Leisure activities

Of course a few leisure activities were on the schedule as well, since we were in Bordeaux over the weekend and did not want to spend this in the hotel. Here are some impressions.


Bordeaux at night, Place de la Bourse

Pont de Pierre

Pyla dune near Arcachon:

Panoramic view from the dune

Falling tide patterns in the sand

Sunset at the ocean

View over the village

Parabolic flight 2017

The dune

Wine village St. Emilion:

Wine stores everywhere