Parabolic flights are surging in demand as commercial astronauts, disability advocates and scientists are booking zero-gravity flights to conduct research without going into space.
Zero-G, alluding to zero gravity, is an American company which operates weightless flights from US airports that uses a specially modified Boeing 727 arcing in 15 or more parabolas across the sky, allowing customers to experience weightlessness for about 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Essentially, parabolic flights reproduce gravity-free conditions in an aircraft by alternating upward and downward arcs interspersed with level flight.
@Steveboxallphotography catching amazing photos of our passengers!— Zero-G (@GoZeroG) June 23, 2022
Although he makes it look easy, it can be harder than you think to take pictures in zero-gravity.
Oftentimes to those unaccustomed, looking through the lens can be especially tricky pic.twitter.com/Wp4YYii1OM
“There is a wonder that comes out in people’s faces, where they become child-like,” Allison Odyssey, Zero-G’s chief operating officer, told Space.com, referring to the moments when clients float in the air like astronauts. Odyssey was one of Zero-G’s first employees in 2004 and stayed for three years, before departing for other space ventures. She returned to the company in 2020, after the space industry started showing signs of considerable expansion.
2. Training opportunity
The Zero-G parabolic flights are inviting the new breed of private astronauts who need training in order to endure the conditions of orbiting in microgravity. These include ventures like the Inspiration4 mission of 2021 or the Polaris Dawn flight set to launch this year, both financed by billionaire Jared Isaacman, or the commercial company Axiom Space that sends private astronaut missions to the International Space Station. All of these launches are using, or will use, SpaceX rockets and spacecraft.
The Zero-G Experience® is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience true weightlessness. It’s not a simulation—it’s real life, minus gravity.— Zero-G (@GoZeroG) June 21, 2022
15 parabolas, including lunar and zero gravity
Zero-G flight suit
Flight completion pin
Photos and videos pic.twitter.com/ueoN1Jdzb1
The experience also allows for disabled people to move their bodies in very different ways than they experience on Earth. AstroAccess, a non-profit organization has been paying Zero-G for “disability inclusion” flights. “I feel like we change lives and open eyes all the time, but it’s especially important for people that don’t necessarily get to be included in everything,” Odyssey said.
3. Commercial experience
With space taking up a new hype, new types of people are seeking access to microgravity, even if it’s just for a few seconds at a time. Customers experience almost double the normal force of Earth’s gravity during the ascent, when getting to the parabola-flying altitude. Ticket prices start at about $9,000, a tiny fraction compared to the $450,000 a Virgin Galactic customer would pay for a brief flight to suborbital space.
Zero-G is preparing a new business line involving offering in-flight studio recording for musicians. For this segment, the US company will need to modify its 727 accordingly. There’s ample space available already to carry musical instruments, Odyssey said, but the company plans to blanket the plane in an advanced material that promotes good sound and heat insulation.