Fly Your Thesis!

The Fly Your Thesis! (FYT) programme gives master and PhD candidates the opportunity to fly their scientific experiment or technological research in microgravity conditions. The experiments can be related to fluid physics, chemistry, biology, material sciences, heat transfer, astrophysics, etc. The parabolic flight campaign takes place on the Airbus A310 Zero-G, which is operated by Novespace from Bordeaux, France. [ESA_72nd-PF-Campaign_ter] Each campaign consists of a series of three flights of 31 parabolas, which individually provide about 22 s of microgravity. 

The aircraft is a two-engine modified Airbus A310 Zero-G aircraft, with an overall length of 46.4 m, a wingspan of 43.9 m and a maximum mass of 157 tonnes. The aircraft provides a testing volume inside the cabin of 20 x 5 x 2.3 m3 (L x W x H) with a total mass of up to 4000 kg for all experiments, allowing a maximum of 40 experimenters or approximately 12 teams to perform their experiments. The FYT programme offers up to 4 teams the possibility to join this campaign.  

The programme launches a call for proposals once a year, which then stays open for approximately six months. During this phase, student teams of 4 to 6 students together with an endorsing professor from their university are encouraged to send their proposals for experiments tailored for parabolic flight. 

ESA’s Education Office makes a first selection and the preselected teams are then invited to the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), the Netherlands, to present their proposal to a Review Board. The Review Board is composed of experts from European Low Gravity Research Association, ESA’s Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration Directorate and ESA’s Education Office. Based on this presentation and the required documents, up to 4 teams will be selected. These teams will be given the opportunity to participate in a two-week campaign that will take place in Bordeaux, France. Each team therefore has about 9 months to develop and build their experiment, with the support of ESA Education Office and Novespace engineers. After the campaign is over, the results will need to be processed and documented within 4 months. A more detailed timeline can be found in the 2021 Schedule.

FYT is a unique opportunity for students to conduct their experiments in microgravity conditions. Moreover, ESA strongly encourages students to publish their research results in peer-reviewed journals as well at international conferences. 

Are you interested in participating in the next Fly Your Thesis! campaign? You can access all the information about this programme at the very bottom of the Fly Your Thesis! website.


Craig Orrock

Craig is an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Heriot-Watt.

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