003.National operators

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NASA’s current Reduced Gravity Aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas C-9 , is based at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. NASA’s Microgravity University  – Reduced Gravity Flight Opportunities Plan, also known as the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, allows teams of undergraduates to submit a microgravity experiment proposal. If selected, the teams design and implement their experiment, and students are invited to fly on NASA’s Vomit Comet.

The European Space Agency  flies parabolic flights on a specially-modified Airbus A300  aircraft, in order to research microgravity. The ESA flies campaigns of three flights on consecutive days, each flight flying about 30 parabolas, for a total of about 10 minutes of weightlessness per flight. The ESA campaigns are currently operated from Bordeaux – Mérignac Airport  in France  by the company Novespace , while the aircraft is operated by the Centre d’essais en Vol  (CEV – French Test Flight Centre). The first ESA Zero-G flights were in 1984, using a NASA KC-135 aircraft in Houston, Texas. As of March 2006, the ESA has flown 43 campaigns. Other aircraft it has used include the Russian  Ilyushin Il-76  MDK and French Caravelle.

Novespace, subsidiary of the French National Space Center (CNES) created in 1986, owns and operates the Airbus A300 ZERO-G. Novespace organizes in-flight tests and research activities for customers worldwide mainly in parabolic flights. Parabolic flights provide a very flexible access to microgravity for a large range of scientific experiments and technological tests. As compared to other microgravity access facilities (sounding rockets, drop towers, orbital flights…), parabolic flights offer a much bigger experimentation area and give the researchers the possibility to work in situ directly on their experiment at a significant lower cost. CNES and the European Space Agency (ESA), partners of the parabolic flights program, share the cost of the heavy maintenance of the aircraft. Novespace relies on Sogerma Services for the aircraft maintenance activities and on the flight test center of the French defense procurement agency (DGA) for the flight operations.

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The Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE) and the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency (EXA) announced today that they have jointly developed the first and only plane in latin america capable of performing microgravity flights. EXA designed and built the device that allows the planes recreate the microgravity, called MGCP or Multivectorial Gravimetric Computing Platform, which is the key for this type of flight, the device was installed on both missions on board FAE planes, the device was designed by Nader and and built in the country by EXA engineers. FAE put the experience of their pilots, the planes and the technical personnel needed to modify the planes and install the MGCP, FAE now becomes the only air force in the region to have pilots trained in microgravity flight. The plane is a modified T39 Sabreliner, rechristened FUERZA-G UNO – CÓNDOR.