The company ZERO-G
offers the general public the opportunity
to experience weightlessness at relatively
low cost by providing rides on their plane
as it travels a series of parabolas. As
shown on the plot below, as the plane "falls"
on the downward side of the parabolic trajectory,
passengers will experience weightlessness
for about 20 seconds or so. On the upward
side, they will feel the other extreme of
double their normal weight.
The Northop-Grumman company began a program
a few years ago in which it sponsors rides
on the ZERO-G plane for US science teachers
in middle schools. The Weightless
Flights of Discovery program has
been quite popular and is continuing this
The goals include rewarding teachers for
their crucial role in introducing science
and technology to young minds. It's also
hoped that the flights will reinvigorate
the teachers' enthusiasm for their work.
For the students, the hope is that seeing
their very own teachers taking part in such
amazing experiences will be exciting and
bring a sense of real involvement with what
would otherwise seem dry and abstract.
Below is an example of a teacher presenting
videos of her weightlessness experience
to an assembly of students, who appear captivated
and thrilled by what they see.
After several years in development, the
Racing League this year has begun a
series of exhibitions events. On April 24th,
the new Mark III X-Racers
made their public debut at the Tulsa
Air Show. Two of the vehicles flew at
the same time, though they did not race.
Their Ethanol/Liquid Oxygen rocket engines
were built and integrated into Velocity
airframes by Armadillo
The first actual races are not expected
until 2011. The RRL will experiment with
different race formats during the exhibitions
this year, looking for the best way to excite
audiences and involve them in the events.
A key aspect of the races will be the Raceway
in the Sky in which virtual gates are
seen on TV while spectators at the races
will see them on giant Jumbotron screens
set up near the stands. The pilots will
also see the gates via displays on their
Virtual gates in a 3-D raceway
in the sky will be visible on TV and on
Jumbotron screens at the events. This screen
capture of a demonstration
at the Tulsa show shows a gate reacting
with a fireworks display after a
vehicle goes through it.
The X-Racers will push liquid fueled rocket
engine technology towards very high reliability
and robustness like that of jet engines.
The larger goal in turn is to benefit development
of rocket vehicles for spaceflight that
operate with the reliability and fast turnaround
capability of jet aircraft.