9. June 2021

From parabol­ic flights to the ISS – tech­nol­o­gy tests in mi­cro­grav­i­ty for 'Cos­mic Kiss' mis­sion

Retinal microcirculation in microgravity
Reti­nal mi­cro­cir­cu­la­tion in mi­cro­grav­i­ty
Image 1/6, Credit: Nicolas Courtioux/Novespace

Retinal microcirculation in microgravity

Mi­cro­cir­cu­la­tion is the part of hu­man blood cir­cu­la­tion that is found in the small­est blood ves­sels. At this lev­el, gas ex­changes and the de­liv­ery of vi­tal nu­tri­ents take place. In the ex­per­i­ment, de­signed by Düs­sel­dorf Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tal, these small­est blood ves­sels in the eye, or more pre­cise­ly, the vas­cu­lar net­work of the back of the eye, are vi­su­alised.
Experiments inside the aircraft
Ex­per­i­ments in­side the air­craft
Image 2/6, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Experiments inside the aircraft

Dur­ing the 36th DLR parabol­ic flight cam­paign, eight ex­per­i­ments from the fields of hu­man phys­i­ol­o­gy, tech­nol­o­gy and physics will be on board, as well as sev­er­al tech­nol­o­gy tests for the ‘Cos­mic Kiss’ mis­sion to the In­ter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion (ISS).
Experiment on the stabilisation of attitude control systems
Ex­per­i­ment on the sta­bil­i­sa­tion of at­ti­tude con­trol sys­tems
Image 3/6, Credit: Nicolas Courtioux/Novespace

Experiment on the stabilisation of attitude control systems

As part of the 36th DLR parabol­ic flight cam­paign, the at­ti­tude con­trol prop­er­ties and the in­ter­ac­tion of Flu­id Dy­nam­ic Ac­tu­a­tors (FDAs) will be in­ves­ti­gat­ed us­ing a cube-shaped free-fly­ing mod­el mea­sur­ing 13 cen­time­tres on each side. The free-flight ex­per­i­ment can then be used to gain fur­ther in­sights in­to the use of FDAs as at­ti­tude con­trol ac­tu­a­tors for satel­lites.
'Retinal Diagnostics' technology test
'Reti­nal Di­ag­nos­tics' tech­nol­o­gy test
Image 4/6, Credit: Nicolas Courtioux/Novespace

'Retinal Diagnostics' technology test

'Reti­nal Di­ag­nos­tics' is one of the tech­nol­o­gy tests that Matthias Mau­r­er will con­duct dur­ing his mis­sion on the ISS. The project, de­signed by the DLR In­sti­tute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, will in­ves­ti­gate pos­si­ble changes in the op­tic nerves dur­ing space mis­sions.
Airbus A310 ZERO-G – ready for the 36th DLR parabolic flight campaign
Air­bus A310 ZE­RO-G – ready for the 36th DLR parabol­ic flight cam­paign
Image 5/6, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Airbus A310 ZERO-G – ready for the 36th DLR parabolic flight campaign

The 36th parabol­ic flight cam­paign or­gan­ised by the Ger­man Space Agen­cy at DLR is tak­ing place from 4 to 11 June 2021. Dur­ing the cam­paign, var­i­ous tech­nol­o­gy tests for the ‘Cos­mic Kiss’ mis­sion to be flown by Ger­man ESA as­tro­naut Matthias Mauer will be car­ried out un­der mi­cro­grav­i­ty con­di­tions, as well as oth­er ex­per­i­ments.
At the airport in Paderborn
At the air­port in Pader­born
Image 6/6, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

At the airport in Paderborn

The Air­bus A310 ZE­RO-G is once again tak­ing off from Pader­born. The air­port there of­fers the best con­di­tions for car­ry­ing out the re­search flights, even un­der COVID-19 con­di­tions.
  • The 36th parabolic flight campaign organised by the German Space Agency at DLR is taking place from 4 to 11 June 2021 at the airport in Paderborn.
  • In addition to eight experiments from the fields of human physiology, technology and physics, technology tests will be conducted for the ISS mission 'Cosmic Kiss'.
  • Topics include healthcare during space missions and gender-specific medicine.
  • Focus: Spaceflight, research in microgravity

The 36th parabolic flight campaign organised by the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is taking place from 4 to 11 June 2021 at the airport in Paderborn. During the campaign, various technology tests for the 'Cosmic Kiss' mission to be flown by German ESA astronaut Matthias Mauer will be carried out under microgravity conditions, as well as other experiments. The technology tests are 'Retinal Diagnostics' for astronaut eye health and 'Thermo-Mini' for measuring human body temperature during space missions. Maurer will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in autumn 2021. "In addition to the two technology tests, there are once again many exciting research topics on the parabolic flights," says Katrin Stang, Parabolic Flight Programme Manager for the German Space Agency at DLR "We have eight experiments from the fields of human physiology, technology and physics on board."

Retinal Diagnostics and Thermo-Mini – healthcare during space missions

Among the technology tests that Matthias Maurer will conduct during his mission on the ISS is 'Retinal Diagnostics', a research project on the eye health of astronauts from the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne. An alteration of the optic nerves is one of the most serious changes that someone can experience on a space flight. In the experiment on the ISS, the optic nerve head of an astronaut will be monitored by means of a very small, lightweight camera for preventive and diagnostic purposes. This should make it possible to track changes and also to determine the effectiveness of any countermeasures that are employed. In future, with the help of artificial intelligence, the device will be able to determine whether such a change is taking place in an astronaut's eye.

Another technology test for the 'Cosmic Kiss' mission is 'Thermo-Mini'. This system can be used to continuously record the core body temperature of a human. To date, it has been established that staying in space and the activities carried out there can lead to a significant and even harmful increase in core body temperature. The exact causes of this are still unknown but the rise in temperature poses a potential danger to astronauts. The miniaturised hardware can be worn comfortably as a headband. During the parabolic flights, the new model will be tested solely for the correct functioning of its technology.

Gender-specific medicine with the STRONG experiment

With the STRONG project, a team of scientists from the LMU Klinikum in Munich is conducting an experiment related to gender sensitivity in medicine, which considers gender-specific differences in everyday medical practice. This branch of research aims to change the common practice in which medicines, medical diagnoses and treatment approaches are primarily oriented towards male patients.

The LMU Klinikum team has previously investigated the stress reactions of male participants during a parabolic flight, resulting from the change of their apparent weight from that experienced on Earth to that in gravity that is twice as strong and in microgravity. With the STRONG experiment, the scientists are now specifically investigating hormonal and immunological reactions in the female body to the stress caused by altered gravity conditions.

German-French cooperation on TEKUS

As part of a German-French cooperation, experiments are being carried out in the TEKUS project to investigate heat and mass transport in a fluid under microgravity conditions. Scientists from the University of Cottbus in Germany and the University of Le Havre in France are creating a controlled flow in a fluid by applying an electric field and a temperature difference. The findings from the experiments can be used, for example, to optimise heat exchangers. While gravity-driven flow movements interfere with investigations on Earth, the effects can be observed undisturbed under microgravity conditions during parabolic flight and then compared with computer models. The experiments will be carried out using a new type of measurement technology and represent important preliminary investigations for another experiment that will fly on the TEXUS-57 sounding rocket in autumn 2021.

The next DLR parabolic flight campaign will take place from 14 to 24 July 2021 at the airport in Paderborn with 10 experiments from the fields of human physiology, biology, physics, materials science and technology.

DLR parabolic flights

Since 1999, the German Space Agency at DLR has organised regular parabolic flights for biological, physiological, physical, technological and materials science research. The research aircraft, the A310 ZERO-G operated by the French company Novespace, is used once or twice a year for scientific campaigns run by DLR, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French space agency CNES (Centre national d’études spatiales). A DLR parabolic flight campaign usually consists of three flight days with approximately four flight hours each day, during which 31 parabolas are flown. During each parabola, microgravity conditions prevail for approximately 22 seconds. In total, there are around 35 minutes of microgravity during a flight campaign – in between periods of normal gravitational acceleration and acceleration almost twice as great – which researchers can use for their experiments. Up to 40 scientists can take part in a flight, with between 10 and 13 experiments on board.

Contact
  • Diana Gonzalez
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Ger­man Space Agen­cy at DLR
    Strat­e­gy and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: +49 228 447-388
    Königswinterer Straße 522-524
    53227 Bonn
    Contact
  • Katrin Stang
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Ger­man Space Agen­cy at DLR
    Re­search and Ex­plo­ration
    Königswinterer Straße 522-524
    53227 Bonn
    Contact
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