Welcome to the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative’s course on project development, prototyping, and deployment readiness for parabolic flights.
This course supports an annually chartered research flight. Admitted student teams will be offered project-deployment slots on the Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative’s Spring 2021 parabolic flight. We're opening a call for projects and people to fly! All ideas are welcome, across the spectrum of art, science, engineering, design and community engagement.
This course will cover three main topic areas:
Rapid prototyping and engineering skills to prepare projects for operation in microgravity
Logistics, training, and safety pre-approval steps to meet flight readiness requirements and pass a Technical Readiness Review (TRR)
Creative and technical lenses for the future of space exploration, exploring the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative’s design and prototyping approach, MIT parabolic flight research examples across Science, Engineering, Art, and Design, and across departments.
Weekly sessions will rotate between providing direct preparatory steps for the parabolic flight, building skills towards project development and testing, and providing background knowledge and relevant real-world examples via guest lectures. Recitations will be offered throughout the course, to support prototyping and project development outside of class hours. Students are expected to attend recitations, but can opt-out if they can demonstrate prior mastery of the skill in question. Short problem sets will be assigned, associated with the Mechanical Design, Sensing & Electrical Design, and Manufacturing lecture content. Limited readings will be required, with short reading responses and project page documentation submitted via the PubPub course website.
By the end of the class, we expect student projects to be ready to pass an internal Critical Design Review (CDR) with an accompanying, mature prototype. Students will be expected to use the intervening time over IAP to finalize a flight model and submit final paperwork to the parabolic flight provider, with MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative guidance.
This class is not intended to teach the fundamentals of mechanical design, embedded programming & circuits, and rapid prototyping from scratch. On most topics, we will assume prior knowledge. If you are new to these skills, we recommend taking “How to Make (Almost) Anything” in parallel.
Please refer to the Syllabus below for course topic and schedule details, and to the Admissions Criteria for details on the application process. Each student will be expected to maintain a Pub project page documenting their project progress throughout the class.
Not sure if you want to apply but are still interested and want to learn more? Please fill out this form so we can share the link to our first class. We may also host an info session prior to the first class.
Important Notice: The class will be filmed, and the footage may be made public.
Questions? Please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The below embedded webpage for the syllabus is also available here. A PDF version is also available (below the embedded version), but may not be as current.
Zero gravity flights generate short, 20-30 second periods of alternating microgravity and hypergravity by following a parabolic flight path, all while remaining at normal "cruising" altitudes. Our flight will include 20 such parabolas, with a mix of lunar (1/6 g), martian (1/3 g), and zero gravity. This is a rare opportunity to experience true weightlessness and varying gravities without going into orbit! The company we've chartered with (ZERO-G) provides the zero gravity research flights for NASA, and has flown everything from MIT research payloads to Stephen Hawking!