A team of students from Missouri University of Science and Technology is flying high this week, ready to defy gravity while welding.
While onboard NASA’s recently acquired Boeing 727, S&T students will weld aluminum and study its behavior with a goal of improving the speed of space construction. Meanwhile, the aircraft will create a temporary environment of near weightlessness by flying in parabolic patterns. The plane’s choreographed zero-gravity flight maneuvers will create several periods of weightlessness, each lasting less than a minute.
“The team hopes to collect data that will lead to a better understanding of how to weld in space,” says team leader Michelle Rader, a senior in aerospace engineering from Marshfield, Mo. “We have updated our electronics to a computer-based system that will control the robotic system that moves the weld gun across the test strip. Students on the aircraft will start and stop the welding process using a touch-screen monitor.”
The eight-member team is one of 14 given a special invitation by NASA to test the Boeing 727’s ability to support a variety of microgravity projects at Johnson Space Center. This will be the S&T weld team’s fifth trip to Houston, having previously conducted experiments on NASA’s famous “Weightless Wonder” aircraft as part of the agency’s Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program.
Team members plan to leave Jan. 7. Miners in Space Weld Team members include: