Go ‘Zero G’ with the SRA
(Suborbital Research Association)
Suborbital flights take shape by means of rocket-airplanes. This frequent access to microgravity opens up promising prospects for the progress of scientific research and technological development. The Suborbital Research Association (SRA), which has just been created in Brussels, wants to bring it closer to the international community of researchers and engineers.
Space is not only the infinitely large. It is a great stimulant of gray matter, with the questioning of phenomena and processes in physics, chemistry, biology… It is the microgravity or weightlessness that offers opportunities for creativity and innovation for research and technology. Weightlessness is permanent, once in orbit, as on the ISS (International Space Station) or on recoverable capsules or automatic platforms. But the price to gain access to these systems is very high.
Aircraft parabolic flights allow to obtain conditions of microgravity for only 20 seconds, which is not long enough to study complex phenomena.
An alternative exists in the form of a long parabola which, with a suborbital trajectory to an altitude of 100 km, allows a continuous microgravity environment for a few minutes, and this for an attractive cost. The rise of space tourism with suborbital flights at the edge of space will make this alternative possible.
Created in Brussels last June, the SRA (Suborbital Research Association) wants to raise awareness of Europe, its institutes and laboratories, to the possibilities of suborbital flights for scientific and technological purposes. The goals of the Association, supported by engineers, scientists, professors, lawyers, are to encourage, to assist, to facilitate and to promote research on suborbital airplanes flying to more than 100 km of altitude, with valuable and useful minutes of microgravity. The SRA has established contacts with the protagonists of suborbital flights having spacecraft under development: XCOR Aerospace (USA), Virgin Galactic (USA), S3 (Swiss Space Systems). The first two announce regular flights from 2015 onward. The community of researchers and engineers should be made aware of the opportunities offered by the advent of suborbital flight systems.
October 14, at the Palace of the Nation, in the wing of the Belgian Senate, proponents of the SRA officially announced the creation of their association, at a meeting with the media at the occasion of the EISC (European Interparliamentary Space Conference). Belgium, with Senator Dominique Tilmans, chairs this year this conference which is used to exchange ideas and experiences on the European efforts in space, particularly in the field of education to high technologies. It is an opportunity for the SRA to expose its strategy and to propose its services so that European research and technology continue to grow by making use of a more frequent and cheaper access to weightlessness with suborbital flights.
The SRA, which is open to all forms of cooperation, has set its objectives:
“- to encourage, to assist, to facilitate and to promote suborbital scientific research;
– to give the necessary assistance, within the possibilities of the Association, to the practical realization of fundamental and applied scientific research in suborbital environment, independently and in a complementary manner to existing structures;
– to organize or to participate in the organization of promotion events of scientific research in suborbital flights to the general public, the youth and the students;
– to disseminate all information, works or documents concerning the aims of the Association. »
For its activities, the SRA follows with great interest the on-going developments of the XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx (1st flight in 2015), of the SS2 (SpaceShipTwo) of Virgin Galactic (1st flight in 2014), and of the SOAR (Reusable Suborbital Aircraft) of S3 (1st flight in 2017).
XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx is of particular interest for scientific research activities. In addition to the possibility of embarking experiments in the cabin, the Lynx can accommodate experiments in two containers (or canisters) located at the rear of the Lynx that can be used to launch small satellites of the cubesat type. The SRA is in discussion with XCOR Aerospace for the organization of a first flight at the end of the flight test phase, in early 2015.
The first on-going project of the SRA is twofold:
– to organize a first scientific flight in spring 2015 with the Lynx space plane of XCOR Aerospace to perform scientific experiments;
– to launch a contest for Belgian secondary schools students, inviting them to submit proposals for experiments to be conducted during this flight.
To learn more about the Suborbital Research Association and the contest for Belgian students:
Dr. Pierre – François Migeotte – firstname.lastname@example.org