The microgravity period provides a particularly useful environment by neutralising any gravity induced fluid flow and buoyancy in the system of interest. Using a modularised in-situ X-ray monitoring experimental rack, custom built by the Swedish Space Corporation, UCD senior lecturer Dr David Browne and PhD student Andrew Murphy were able to successfully perform a number of significant and unique solidification experiments through consecutive periods of hypergravity and microgravity.
The 58th ESA parabolic flight campaign launched from Novespace headquarters in Bordeaux, France, from the 4th to the 6th of June, 2013, with approximately 40 scientists from all over Europe monitoring 12 experiments on board a specially converted Airbus A300 jet airliner. Parabolic flights offer up to 22 seconds of microgravity (weightlessness) and up 48 seconds of hypergravity (twice Earth gravity) per parabola, allowing scientists to observe how dynamic systems react under varying gravity levels.
The results of these experiments provide valuable insight into the effect of varying gravity level on metallic solidification, which is of critical interest in furthering scientific understanding of solidification. Preliminary analysis of the in-situ data has already been accepted for publication and presentation at the upcoming Solidification & Gravity conference in Miskolc, Hungry, at the end of the year. These experiments also form the initial preparation phase of a future UCD led sounding rocket microgravity campaign, designated MASER 13, which is scheduled to be launched by the Swedish Space Corporation from northern Sweden early in 2015.