Parabolic Flight Campaign in Switzerland

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Parabolic Flight


Call for Experiments 2016

1. Objective

Parabolic flights are aircraft flights conducted with specific mission profiles using specially converted aeroplanes. These aircraft execute a series of manoeuvres, called parabolas, each providing up to 22 seconds of reduced gravity or weightlessness, during which scientists are able to perform experiments and obtain data that would otherwise not be possible on Earth.

Novespace, subsidiary of the French Space Agency (CNES), is organizing a Parabolic Flight Campaign (PFC) in October 2016, which will be conducted from Dübendorf Airport, Switzerland, with the Airbus A310 ZERO-G. Prof. Dr. Dr. Ullrich (University of Zürich) will act as organiser of this campaign for Novespace, following the successful conduct of the first Swiss Parabolic Flight by the University of Zürich from Dübendorf in September 2015 (for more information: To support this initiative and based on the priorities identified in the Swiss Space Implementation Plan, the Swiss Space Office (SSO), of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation of the Swiss Confederation (SERI), will provide an initial and subsidiary financial support for researchers interested in conducting scientific experiments and/or technology demonstrations in micro-gravity in the 2016 PFC. The financial support is aimed at the development of unique flight hardware that is needed to conduct the experiments on board the airplane. This Call for Experiments is designed to make a select proposal to be funded, as per the procedure described below.  

2. Key requirements

The present Call for Experiments is open to any experiment that can be performed on board the Airbus A310, operated by Novespace, that is uniquely equipped for parabolic flights. It can include experiments in the areas of physical and fundamental sciences, biology and life sciences, ranging from cell biology to human physiology.  

The key requirements are the following:

a) Relevance to Switzerland
The proposed experiment shall contribute to the advancement of Swiss capabilities and, in particular, it shall allow for increasing key technological competences and building up knowledge in Switzerland with regard to microgravity experiments.

b) Scientific excellence or technology demonstration
The proposed experiment shall

  • be based on an advanced scientific excellence (scientific benefit), 
  • utilize the uniqueness of the PFC to achieve the relevant scientific results. The need for microgravity for the proposed experiment has to be clearly described,
  • demonstrate novel technologies or advance existing technologies relevant for future space exploration endeavours,
  • address a scientific and/or technological question, which can be investigated and/or tested during a parabolic flight of 15 parabola.

The proposer shall also provide information about the potential to conduct the experiment on other microgravity platforms (drop tower, sounding rockets) and ultimately on board the  International Space Station in the future.

c) Technical and operational feasibility
The proposed experiment has to comply with Novespace design requirements (RQ 2015-03), experiment guidelines (GDL-2014-06) and standard primary structure designs (STSPS-2015-04). All applicable documents can be found at the bottom of this page.

d) Partnership and cooperation
Cooperation and partnership schemes between industry and academia should be envisaged.
Further and with a longer-term view, the involvement of young engineers/scientists in academia-industry cooperation should be promoted (educational benefit). 

e) Timeline
The experiments shall be ready to be flown on the PFC planned in October 2016 from the airport in Dübendorf (CH). Final design review of selected experiments will be completed on 15th of July 2016. 

3. Who may apply

Only proposals submitted by academic entities based in Switzerland (natural persons being excluded) will be considered (ETH, University or University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule)). In case the proposed experiment is intended to be developed in cooperation with foreign entities, their role must be clearly indicated.

4. Financial support

For each of the selected experiments a maximum amount of 50’000 CHF will be allocated. The SSO reserves the right to allocate smaller amounts to certain experiments if considered appropriate. The funding shall be used exclusively to pay for the development of experiment hardware. No management or administrative costs are foreseen under this scheme. It is expected that the flight fees (up to 8500 CHF/person on board during the flight) are covered by the institution of the applicant.
The financial support being a public subsidy, the Value-Added Tax (VAT) does not apply
(Swiss law on the VAT: MWSTG/LTVA/LIVA Art. 18).

5. Duration of the experiment development

The proposed experiments shall be ready for the PFC in October 2016 and last for a maximum of 8 months from the kick-off to the delivery of the Final Report (see section 7 below).

6. Meetings/reviews

The following reviews are planned at contractor premises or by teleconference:

  • Kick-Off meeting (June 2016).
  • Progress Meeting 1 (July 2016).
  • Progress Meeting 2 (September 2016).
  • Date of flight (October 2016).
  • Final Presentation (February 2017). The final presentation will be internal and

therefore not a public presentation.

7. Deliverables

The deliverables are:

  1. the Final Report, to be delivered after successful performance of the experiment on the PFC, but at latest 8 months after the kick-off date, and
  2. presentations given during the 3 meeting/reviews as specified in section 6 above.

The Final Report shall provide a complete description of all the work done during the activity and shall be self-standing. It shall cover the whole scope of the activity, i.e. a comprehensive introduction of the context, a description of the experiment and report on the development activities performed and the main results achieved.

All the deliverables shall be provided in electronic format (PDF).

8. Format of the proposal

1) Cover letter

2) Scientific proposal incl. administrative information (15 pages max)
The technical & administrative proposal shall be structured according to the following main sections:

  • Motivation for the proposed experiment (Why?)
  • Description of the proposed experiment set-up (What?)
  • Work Breakdown Structure (How?)
  • Work Package description
  • Structure of the team, experience of the bidder(s), key personnel
  • Financial aspects, including amount of public funding being requested, details of the beneficiary, own and any third-party funding and the payment plan (in principle 50% at kick-off, and 50% after reception of all deliverables). 

Please note that detailed costing based on ESA PSS standard is not required.

3) Technical and safety information about the proposed experiment (Pre-ESDP)

  • Description of the experimental equipment, in-flight-products, technical specification, electrical system, structure, operational procedures, hazard overview
  • Please fill out the Pre-ESDP form as far as possible according to the status of the experiment design. If some details are not specified yet, the final design has to be agreed with Novespace on 15 July 2016 latest. 

9. Evaluation procedure and confidentiality

The Swiss Space Center will perform the scientific evaluation by setting up an internal evaluation board. The technical feasibility will be evaluated by Novespace before the final selection of the experiment. The main criteria will be the ones listed in the section 2 (Key Requirements) of the present document. If needed, and in consultation with the Swiss Space Office, the evaluation board may contact external experts for recommendations. Finally, anyone involved in the evaluation process and not member of the Swiss public administration will sign a non-disclosure agreement to ensure confidentiality of the projects proposed in the frame of this Call. The final evaluation and decision will be made by the SERI.

10. Intellectual property rights

The intellectual property rights (IPR) will entirely belong to the authors of the experiments. The developed hardware will entirely belong to the proposers. 

11. Schedule

  • 4 April 2016:                 Publication of the present Call for Experiments
  • 29 April 2016:               Deadline to submit the proposals to the Swiss
                                         Space Center
  • 11 May 2016:                Evaluation of proposals by the SSC
  • 20 May 2016:                Evaluation of proposals by Novespace
                                         (technical feasibility)
  • 31 May 2016:               Final selection of the funded experiments by the
                                         Swiss Space Office, Information of selected
                                         bidders, Issuing of formal Decision
  • June 2016:                   Kick-off meetings / start of development
  • End of Oct. 2016:         Parabolic flight 
  • February 2017:             Final report

12. Submission of the proposals

Only proposals received by Friday 29 April 2016 at midnight will be accepted for evaluation. Each proposal, written in English, shall be submitted in electronic format (PDF) to the following address:

     Swiss Space Center

     Grégoire Bourban

     Tel: +41 (0)21 693 66 65+41 (0)21 693 66 65


13. Questions and requests for clarifications

Any questions related to this Call for Experiments shall be submitted to Grégoire Bourban by with copy to Prof. Dr. Dr. Oliver Ullrich, University of Zurich,

All applicable information will be published on this page.

Any questions related to the parabolic flight platform and the technical and operational conditions incl. ground infrastructures and available support shall be submitted to Prof. Dr. Dr. Oliver Ullrich with copy to Grégoire Bourban.

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