Aircraft Parabolic Flight Campaigns for Microgravity and Student Experiments

Tuesday 2 October 2018, 14:45 – 15:45

Location: Bremen Conference Center – CCB Hansesaal


Aircraft parabolic flight is well known as test opportunity for experiments in zero-g and partial-g conditions since many years.

Aircraft parabolic Flight covers the areas of fundamental research, spaceflight equipment test, human spaceflight training as well as educational purposes. The film industry uses zero-g aircraft for special effects and meanwhile even private individuals can book tickets for zero-g flights.

A few nations provide parabolic flight opportunities with large aircraft (Boeing, Airbus) mainly paid and organized by space agencies (ESA, DLR, CNES, NASA, etc.). In addition there are several providers with smaller aircraft.

Aircraft parabolic flight is a perfect example of international and global cooperation and networking since the number of providers worldwide is rather low. Student campaigns are highlights in national and international education programs and are very attractive. Last not least the growing commercial space market can benefit from zero-g and partial-g flight opportunities.

The panel discussion will address the following topics:

  • The past, the present and the future of parabolic flight
  • Student programs: What can be learned with parabolic flight programs?
  • What makes parabolic flight attractive as test platform for scientific research and testing
  • The perspective of parabolic flight in a changing “space market” – chances for private enterprises

The panel consists of speakers from space agencies, program managers, scientists and providers.

Organized by:
IAF Microgravity Sciences and Processes Committee


Vladimir Pletser

Space Operations Training Director,

Blue Abyss,



Full Bio

Vladimir Pletser (PhD, MSc, MEng) is currently Director of Space Training Operations at Blue Abyss, a company in UK proposing a new approach for astronaut training.

He was previously Visiting Professor and Scientific Adviser from 2016 until 2018 at the Technology and Engineering Centre for Space Utilization of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China, supporting Chinese Space Station and aircraft parabolic flight microgravity experiments.

From 1985 until 2016, he was senior Physicist-Engineer at the European Space Research and Technology Centre of the European Space Agency, managing ISS microgravity payload development and ESA parabolic flight programme. He logged 7350 parabolas at 0g (equivalent to 39h 30m of weightlessness, or 26 Earth orbits), at Mars-g (53 min) and at Moon-g (53 min) on 12 airplanes (Guinness world record) during 90 campaigns on European, US and Russian aircraft, supervising 1000 experiments and participating actively in 175 physical and life sciences experiments. He was Flight instructor for public Discovery Parabolic Flights from 2013 till 2017.

Astronaut candidate for Belgium, he spent two months in training in 1995 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and was Astronaut Training Instructor for parabolic flights and Spacelab missions. Selected in 2001 by The Mars Society, he participated in three Mars mission simulation campaigns in the Arctic in 2001 and the Utah Desert in 2002 and as Crew Commander in 2009.

He is visiting Professor in 20 universities in Europe, USA, Canada, Africa, Israel, and China. He has more than 600 publications, including 16 books or chapter in books, 60 articles in refereed journals and 132 articles in international conferences proceedings.

He is member of the International Astronautical Academy and of several other academies and scientific organizations.



Markus Braun

Head of Space Life Sciences Programme,

German Aerospace Center (DLR),


Full Bio

Dr. Markus Braun studied biology at the University of Bonn, Germany. He received his PhD in 1984 in biology with special focus on gravitational biology and gravity sensing mechanisms. From 1994 to 1999 he conducted studies on gravitropic signaling pathways and the role of cytoskeletal elements in gravity-sensing cell types as a Research Assistant at the Australian National University, Canberra, and at the Institute of Plant Molecular Cell Biology at University of Bonn, Germany. In 1999 he was appointed University Bonn Faculty Scholar (Habilitation) at the Institute of Plant Molecular Physiology and Biotechnology in Bonn, Germany. He earned the Thora Halstead Young Investigatory Award of ASGSB in 2002. In 2006 he joint Space Administration of the German Aerospace Center DLR as Project Manager for Space Life Sciences activities. Since 2014, he is Head of the German Space Life Sciences Programme at DLR Space Administration. He also serves as Germany´s delegate of the Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration Programme Board (PB-HME) and the Exploration and Utilization Board (EUB) of the European Space Agency ESA.


Derek Gawanlock

Test Flight Engineer,

National Research Council,



Full Bio

Mr. Derek (Duff) Gowanlock is a Qualified Flight Test Engineer within the Flight Operations group at the Flight Research Laboratory. A graduate of the National Test Pilot School and the University of Tennessee (M.A.Sc in Aerodynamics), Derek has 20+ years of experience in flight test and certification working on a diverse number of programs within the Royal Canadian Air Force. He has led flight test teams in a variety of different programs including the development of a new fly-by wire helicopter, in-the-field development and compliance testing of large UAVs, and the airworthiness certification of newly acquired jet aircraft. Since joining the National Research Council, Derek has led the Council’s Microgravity Research activities and is currently the Facility Manager for the Falcon 20 Microgravity Research Aircraft.


Jean-Baptiste Renard


The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS),



Full Bio

Dr. Jean-Baptiste RENARD, 53 years old, is a senior scientist at the LPC2E-CNRS laboratory, Orléans (France). He works on the optical properties of solid aerosols and dust in the Earth atmosphere and in the solar system. He has developed several instruments dedicated to the laboratory studies and to the in-situ detection in atmosphere of such particles. In particular, he conducts measurements with the imaging polarimeter PROGRA2 instruments during parabolic flights since 1993, to retrieve the scattering function of dust at different wavelengths ( He has participated to 60 parabolic flight campaigns with CNES and ESA and has done more than 4200 parabolas.


Hanns Selig

Project Manager MIGROP Parabolic Flight,




Full Bio

After his degree in physics and astrophysics at the University of Hamburg and some work at the Observatory Hamburg-Bergedorf and DESY, he moved to Bremen to work on payload tests for the MICROSCOPE space mission and to improve the microgravity quality at the Drop Tower at ZARM / University of Bremen. Since 2017 he is employee at GERADTS GMBH – an aerospace company in Bremen – as head of a new department (MIGROP – Microgravity Operations) which develops new zero-g and partial-g  flight opportunities in the frame of an EU funded project.


Nigel Savage

Programme Coordinator for Gravity-Related University Student Experiments,

European Space Agency (ESA),

The Netherlands



Full Bio

Nigel Savage is a Cell Biologist and Immunologist who has published over 25 papers, two of which in Nature.  Between 1992 and 2011, Nigel’s academic career was spent in several universities, namely Manchester University, Imperial College London, Edinburgh University, Washington University in St Louis, USA and Leiden University in the Netherlands.  Since 2011, Nigel has worked at the European Space Agency on the educational programmes and payloads on the International Space Station and for the past 4 years on gravity-related university student experiments.  In this latest capacity, Nigel coordinates all the aspects of ESA Academy programmes that involve hands-on gravity-related research which include the following programmes: Spin Your Thesis!, Drop Your Thesis!, Spin Your Thesis! Human Edition, Orbit Your Thesis! and the student parabolic flight programme Fly Your Thesis!.