Microgravity Testing Platform: Data Acquisition and Communication Team

Gonzales, Jesse
Lindblom, Grant
Laughlin, Kaitlin
Zayed, Mohamed
Currently, NASA uses several methods to replicate a "microgravity" environment on earth. The two most popular include reduced-gravity aircraft and drop facilities. A reduced-gravity aircraft is a plane that flies in a parabolic path. On the negative sloping arcs of the flight path, the contents of the plane will be in free fall for approximately 20 seconds. Drop facilities are like giant vacuum tubes. The air will be pumped out of the shaft. This provides a low-pressure environment for which to drop test packages, and achieves approximately 2 seconds of free fall. Our goal is simple. We want to provide an additional earth-based method for which to simulate microgravity. We are using a weather balloon to tow a test package to 100,000 feet. Once the package is at 100,000 feet, we will detach the package from the weather balloon and allow it to fall for 20 seconds before deploying a parachute for recovery. At this height, the air resistance is so low that an object in free fall will fall extremely close to the acceleration of gravity. This is the goal of every earth based microgravity project, and one we will meet. The data acquisition and communication team is responsible for building a system for just that. This system allows us to communicate with that package via radio. The system includes instruments to measure GPS location, temperature, acceleration, and pressure. This data transmits to a team on the ground. The communication system also allows us to issue commands to drop the test package and deploy the parachute.
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