Space

NASA aircraft inspires what could be the world's first zero-gravity roller coaster

Astronauts training aboard the KC-135 aircraft, which inspired the proposed Zero Gravity Roller Coaster (Photo: NASA)
Astronauts training aboard the KC-135 aircraft, which inspired the proposed Zero Gravity Roller Coaster (Photo: NASA)
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Zero Gravity Roller Coaster is inspired by NASA's astronaut training aircraft the KC-135 (Image: Nick Kaloterakis)
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Zero Gravity Roller Coaster is inspired by NASA's astronaut training aircraft the KC-135 (Image: Nick Kaloterakis)
The "Shuttle Launch Experience" simulator at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (Image: BRC)
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The "Shuttle Launch Experience" simulator at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (Image: BRC)
BRC's "Shuttle Launch Experience" simulator
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BRC's "Shuttle Launch Experience" simulator
The ride would give passengers the sensation of floating within a stable chamber (Image: Greg Maxson)
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The ride would give passengers the sensation of floating within a stable chamber (Image: Greg Maxson)
Astronauts training aboard the KC-135 aircraft, which inspired the proposed Zero Gravity Roller Coaster (Photo: NASA)
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Astronauts training aboard the KC-135 aircraft, which inspired the proposed Zero Gravity Roller Coaster (Photo: NASA)

It appears that BRC Imagination Arts, a Southern California design firm, has a zero gravity roller coaster proposal that's waiting for a US$50 million investment. According to PopSci, BRC's proposed theme-park ride is inspired by NASA's astronaut training aircraft the KC-135 (aka "Vomit Comet") and would give riders the sensation of floating within a stable chamber.

During a 2-3 hour NASA training flight, the KC-135 aircraft performs 30-40 parabolic plunges that create 20-25 seconds of microgravity - the sensation astronauts are expected to experience when traveling in space. In an attempt to recreate this experience, BRC's anti-gravity roll coaster would speed up a track, reaching a top speed of 100 mph (161 km) before it would then suddenly decelerate, jolting the passengers out of their seats and leaving them in suspended air - they would still be loosely belted into their seats, however. This is then maintained for several seconds as the coaster begins it backwards drop from the top of the tracks. A programed computer system ensures that the coaster matches the speed of the falling passengers, thus creating the sensation of weightlessness.

With such a high-speed free falling experience, this would be a ride to be taken on an empty stomach! But just in case it should cause a "Vomit Comet" effect, drains allow the coaster cabin to be hosed down at the end of the ride. As for the passengers - well I guess that's just the price you pay for a space-like experience of this kind.

BRC is the also the design firm behind the Shuttle Launch Experience simulator, which is currently available for passenger rides at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. BRC interviewed 27 space shuttle astronauts, to create this multisensory thrill-ride that recreates the experience of traveling into space.

BRC's "Shuttle Launch Experience" simulator
BRC's "Shuttle Launch Experience" simulator

Source: PopSci, BRC

2 comments
donwine
Isn\'t it a lot cheaper to stand on your hands and do cart wheels? Or this just another way to empty your pockets?
Tim Bailey
NASA has not used a KC-135 aircraft for parabolas since 2004. Most people (>95%) do NOT lose their breakfast on the flights. A commercial company, Zero Gravity Corp (\"Zero G\"), has been providing parabolic flight services to NASA since 2008. 1.5-2 hours is a typical mission for 30-40 parabolas. Zero G also sells charter flights and individual seats to the general public at http://GoZeroG.com
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