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Photo Credit: Daniel Heißelmann (TU Braunschweig)
On this page you can read a summary of the progress we are making in designing, constructing and testing the experiment. We have also included a list of media coverage, including newpaper articles, radio interviews and television coverage. At the bottom of this page you can read a press release about the experiment.
News and Progress

7 November 2006 - The two racks and the three boxes with our equipment have returned to the Technical University at Braunschweig.

2 November 2006 - The university papers Mare (University of Leiden) and Universiteitskrant (University of Groningen) bring news coverage on the safe return of the students. Mare on page 1, the Universiteitskrant on page 5 with a reportage by one of the students.

26 October 2006 - Today was the THIRD and final zero g flight for the 45th edition of ESA's parabolic flight campaign. Photos are available via the Gallery link. Video will be available soon too in the blog. Immediately after the flight yesterday, the experiment was packed up and readied for shipping back to Germany. The team will spend tomorrow reviewing the data and backing it up.

25 October 2006 - Today we completed our SECOND zero g flight. We've updated the blog, but we will continue to update the website this evening with new pictures in the Gallery and video links in the Blog.

24 October 2006 - Today we completed the first zero g flight of the 45th ESA flight campaign. We obtained some excellent results at first review of the data. More updates will follow soon, including pictures, video, and an update of our blog. Please stay tuned.

24 October 2006 - A press release by Leiden University can be found here and the text copied locally here.

23 October 2006 - SRON press release, reprinted here.

19 October 2006 - We have created a blog to follow our activities in more detail during the campaign. Check out the Blog link to read more about our first few days in Bordeaux. More to come very soon.

19 October 2006 - Press in Scotland from Strathclyde University in the recent news with the text copied here. In addition, a short news link appears in the Research Newsletter of the Department of Physics University of Strathclyde for October 2006.

18 October 2006 - With a few requests for additional safety sheets, the team and the experiment pass ESA's safety inspection.

17 October 2006 - ESA's 45th Professional Parabolic Flight Campaign begins officially today.

16 October 2006 - Yesterday we arrived at Bordeaux. Some photographs can be found on the Gallery Page.

5 October 2006 - Today the experiment was picked up by our shipper. Some pictures can be found here.

4 October 2006 - The experiment is being prepared for pick-up and shipping to Bordeaux on Thursday, 5 October 2006. Additional updates will follow shortly.

2 October 2006 - The BBC One's SKY at Night programme, which received permission from ESA to profile our project during the campaign in Bordeaux, is no longer able to cover this particular flight due to current restrictions on dangerous filming activities following a recent, near-fatal accident with a BBC correspondant at work on another project.

18 September 2006 - The Piston Control Unit is repaired.

15 September 2006 - Novespace's representative, Frédéric Gai, visited the experiment in Braunschweig and made no complaints. Safety concerns were cleared and we agreed on essential modifications of preparation procedures. Unfortunately, this afternoon one part of the piston control unit failed during preparation for a collision test which should have been run this weekend. The control unit is expected to be repaired on monday.

8 September 2006 - Some modifications to improve the vacuum quality have been made by the workshop in Braunschweig. A vent hole was drilled through the brass thread of the coliseum. In addition to that the electric heaters which broke during the first test period in Leiden have been replaced. Images of the damaged heaters can be found here.

6 September 2006 - Cooling test results performed in Leiden (29 Aug) and now in Braunschweig (6 Sep) are available here. Initial results were excellent! Our goal was to keep the experiment temperature below 150 K for at least 3 hours (the duration of the flight). Our first test showed that this was possible for up to 14 hours!! This could save us valuable time on the morning before each flight if we are, as a result, able to load and prepare the experiment the night before. We are still investigating the possibilities.

4 September 2006 - After connecting the experiment chamber and the pistons at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow the setup has returned to Braunschweig where it is now tested and configured. Vacuum and cryo tests will be done. In addition to that the experiment control software will be implemented and tested. Next week the experiment setup will be examined by Novespace.
Some images of the piston assembly in Glasgow can be found here.

1 September 2006 - The whole experiment is in Scotland now, and it is shown that the pistons, which will shoot the particles towards each other, fit and work perfectly. See a picture of the complete setup.

28 August 2006 - All the parts have been put together into the vacuum chamber, after which a cooling test has taken place. In three hours time the whole chamber has been cooled down succesfully to a temperature of 80K and the vacuum has been sustained for a whole day. The motor which turns the particle chamber works, for now, only manually.

24 August 2006 - Manufacturing of the Top Flange at the Technical University at Braunschweig has been finished and the viewports, the pressure sensor and the turbo melecular pump are mounted. Some pictures of the flange and the constructions can be found here.

21 August 2006 - Leak testing of the Vacuum Chamber in its current state looks excellent. One large leak was found due to an incorrectly sized O-ring on the chamber. This was replaced. A much smaller leak in the chamber was also corrected with some re-welding work by the Fijn Mechanische Dienst in Leiden. The setup during the leak tests looked something like this.

18 August 2006 - With the help of students from Strathclyde University (Scotland), who were visiting Leiden University this week, the thermocouples have been attached to the side flanges. The feedthroughs for these temperature sensors have been tested and integrated with a LabView control program to monitor the experiment and make cryogenic temperature readings during flight. Pictures of the setup, which is currently located at the Fijn Mechanische Dienst in Leiden, can be found here.

17 August 2006 - The Bottom Flange is complete aside from attachment of the motor, which will turn the coliseum housing the particle samples. Images of the bottom flange can be found here. The Gear Mechanism has also been complete and additional images of this major part are here.

16 August 2006 - The Copper Tubing has been completed around the base of the cooling block. The tubing will control the flow of the pre-flight liquid nitrogen that will be used to achieve cryogenic temperatures. The liquid is pumped in on one end, and flows out in gaseous form through the other end. Find images here.

15 August 2006 - The Experiment Rack is ready for integration of the chamber with the experiment. The manufacturing of the top flange is expected to be finished by the beginning of next week.

09 August 2006 - The workshop at Braunschweig starts building the Top Flange. Viewports for the cameras and the strobe and connections for the vacuum pump and the pressure sensor will be welded on.

28 July 2006 - Completion of the Copper Cooling Block, also known as the heat sink for the experiment. This piece will be used to keep the ice and dust particles at temperatures ranging from 50 - 150 K for the duration of the flight. The block will be cooled down prior to each flight using liquind nitrogren. For safety reasons, liquid nitrogen will not be allowed on board the flight and so this alternative solution for our temperature regime was devised. Pictures of the block can be found here. Compare these to the drawings on the Experiment page.

28 July 2006 - ICES in Colombian news. View or download the PDF.

26 July 2006 - BBC One's SKY at Night programme received permission from ESA to film during the parabolic flight campaign in Bordeaux (France), as well as on board the plane during our second flight day. They will capture images of the ICES flight team while performing the experiment in microgravity. This is the longest running television programme in the world, and it is broadcast on BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 4, BBC World and BBC America. Footage from our project will also be available online for viewing.

20 July 2006 - Preparation and cleaning of the vacuum chamber is done. Before and after images can be found here. Construction of the flanges is ongoing. This vacuum chamber was provided for this experiment by the University of Nijmegen (NL) and Cor Sikkens.

19 July 2006 - The team has a meeting in Leiden to discuss the timeline of the project. Furthermore, the team has a first look at the especially manufactured rotor that will be used to lift the colliseum with the dust and ice particles during microgravity. View or download a short movie (Quicktime, 20.6 MB) of the rotor here. The video shows the inner workings of the experiment, specifically the double gear system that will turn the copper thread, which rotates the coliseum that houses our samples.

5 July 2006 - The team has received the tentative list of experiments for the 45th ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign. The ICES project is scheduled to participate in Bordeaux from the 16-27th of October.

1 July 2006 - The construction of all the different parts of the experiment is started in the Workshop in Leiden.

1 June 2006 - The design of the experiment is finished. And all the material that is needed is ordered.

18 November 2005 - Press release stating the students have been selected for the Professional Parabolic Flight Campaign and have found supervision from Helen Fraser and Juergen Blum to realize this ambitious project.

Media Coverage

The Netherlands

26 October 2006 - RTV Noord at 07:40. Live radio interview with student team member, Guido van der Wolk.
26 October 2006 - Radio 2 Ontbijtradio. Live radio interview with Frank Molster.
24 October 2006 - Wereld omroep. Live radio interview with Frank Molster, advisor to the student team.
11 January 2006 - OOGradio, Groningen city. News flash of 1 minute.
11 January 2006 - RadioNOORD, Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe. News flash of 1 minute.
24 December 2005 - VLOK Radio, Katwijk and Valkenburg region. 10 minute interview with team member Guido van der Wolk.
20 December 2005 - 105.7 FM Holland Centraal, Leiden and surrounding area. 20 minute live interview with team member Guido van der Wolk.

30 October 2006 - TVNoord, Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe. News item of 2 minutes, including interview with team member Guido van der Wolk and footage of Van der Wolk and Salter in a state of weightlessness.
11 January 2006 - TVNoord, Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe. News item of 2 minutes, including interview with team member Guido van der Wolk.

Newspaper and Journal Articles
2 November 2006 - Mare, Leids Universitair Weekblad, Stofdeeltjes schieten in vallend vliegtuig
2 November 2006 - Groningse Universiteitskrant, Thirty, fourty, injection
26 October 2006 - Dagblad van het Noorden, Tien minuten van sensationele gewichtloosheid
25 October 2006 - NRC Next. Studenten maken beginnetje planeet
25 October 2006 - Reformatorisch dagblad.
9 March 2006 - Leidsch Dagblad, Experimenteren in de ultieme achtbaan: Leidse studenten verliezen tijdelijk hun gewicht.
13 January 2006 - Groninger Gezinsbode, Sterrenkunde student gewichtloos.
February 2006 - Nederlands tijdschrift voor Natuurkunde, jaargang 72, nummer 2. Studenten sterrenkunde worden gewichtloos.
12 January 2006 - Groningse Universiteitskrant, RuG student gewichtloos.
11 January 2006 - Dagblad van het Noorden, Astronautje spelen in een misselijkmakend vliegtuig.

Press releases
28 October 2006 - NOVA - Nieuws, Onderzoek planeetvorming in vliegtuig
26 October 2006 - SRON press release here. We have a copy on our site as well.
24 October 2006 - Leiden University press release here. We have placed a copy of the text on our site as well.
20 December 2005 - Leidse studenten sterrenkunde gewichtloos

United Kingdom

1 July 2006 - BBC1, News item, including interview with team supervisor dr. Helen Fraser.

Press releases
19 October 2006 - Strathclyde University recent news headlines. The text is also here.



24 February 2006 - Asociacion Colombiana para el Avance de la Ciencia, Volumen XIII No. 2, Un colomiano en gravedad cero: estudiando la formacion de planetas, by German Chaparro.

Press releases

Student Team to Experience Zero-G

Demerese Salter, 18 November, 2005

A microgravity experiment proposed by a team of Astronomy students in Leiden and Groningen has been selected to participate in an ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign for professional experimenters to take place next Autumn in Bordeaux, France. For the student team and their supervisors, this means a chance to experience weightlessness while pursuing a scientific study of the aggregation properties of ice and dust in planet forming regions.

The following students, all of whom hope to obtain an Astronomy Masters degree in the coming academic year, will participate in the project with varying degrees of involvement: Berry Holl, Dave van Eijck, Demerese Salter and German Chaparro of Leiden University, and Guido van der Wolk of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. This international team of students will be supervised by an equally international team of experienced researchers: Prof. Dr. Jurgen Blum of the Institute for Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics at the Universitat Braunschweig in Germany, and Dr. Helen J. Fraser of the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, whom previously held a post-doctoral position in Leiden. The project will investigate the interactions between dust, ice and icy dust aggregates in microgravity where the team can achieve the best simulation to date of the conditions in a proto-planetary disk where planets are likely to form. Existing Earth-bound experiments on particle interactions, specifically the clumping of these smaller grains into larger agglomerates, are limited by short free-fall timescales where gravitational effects then begin to overshadow weaker processes. The necessary velocity realm to observe these weaker processes remains, at present, unachievable without the aid of parabolic flight. Thus, the project team is set to fly in microgravity in order to study collisions of small agglomerates of dust and ice at low velocities in a vacuum environment.

Before selection for the Professional Parabolic Campaign, the experiment was submitted to ESA's educational department in January 2005 for consideration in ESA's annual summer Student Flight Campaign competition. The project received excellent feedback on the science case, but the technical nature and complexity of the experiment delayed the project until ESA accepted it to the Professional Campaign. The project team, alongside sponsors and supporters from industry (including ESA-ESTEC, Dutch Space and Kayser-Threade), recently wrapped up an official Kick-Off meeting in Leiden. In the coming months, the students will work with Dutch Space and ESA-ESTEC to design, develop and test one of the critical components of the experiment setup.

Interested parties will soon be able to find up-to-date details on the teams's activities via the website: www.strw.leidenuniv.nl/~parabolic. Requests for additional information can be addressed to the entire student team, advisors and all interested parties (sponsors, etc) through our combined email alias: parabolic@strw.leidenuniv.nl