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Engineering mechanics students fly on NASA "Vomit Comet"

Teams of engineering mechanics students are back from a wild ride on modified KC-135A reduced-gravity aircraft nicknamed the "Vomit Comet." The KC-135A is a modified Boeing 707 used to fly parabolas in order to investigate the effects of "zero" gravity. Sponsored by NASA and administered by the Texas Space Grant Consortium. This program provides a unique academic experience for undergraduate students to successfully propose, design, fabricate, fly and assess a reduced-gravity experiment of their choice over the course of eight months. That experience includes scientific scholarship, hands-on test operations and education/public outreach activities.

Students ride Vomit Comet

Engineering Mechanics students experience near zero gravity on board a modified KC-135A. (large image)

Engineering mechanics students Patrick McKenna and Suzannah Sandrik, advised by Engineering Physics Professor Daniel C. Kammer, flew an experiment called "GOFER" (Guided Orbital Flight EVA Robot). GOFER is a device designed to provide a more efficient method for storing and transporting the tools and items needed to complete extravehicular activity (EVA) mission objectives.

Students ride Vomit Comet

Two teams of COE students took experiments aboard a the Vomit Comet. (large image)

A second team advised by Engineering Physics Professor Wendy C. Crone and MS&E Professor John H. Perepezko included engineering mechanics students Jeremy Hart, Betsy Reinecke, Nichole Mattson, Jeremy Marr, biological systems engineering student Janice Frias, and mechanical engineering student Kirk Lambert.

Their experiment examined how particle-reinforced composite materials formed in microgravity differ from those formed in a gravitational environment. In their abstract, the students cited the increasingly vital role of composites in many modern technologies that require materials with superior strength, stiffness or corrosion resistance. "Improving the techniques used in composite formation would be of significant benefit to many industries, particularly aerospace," the team said.