PaleBlue Runs Zero Gravity Experiments with ESA

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In this picture: Pascal Serrarens (PaleBlue) and Herve Stevenin (ESA). Image copyright NoveSpace.

PaleBlue, together with the European Space Agency, has conducted a Zero Gravity experiment onboard a series of parabolic flights.

PaleBlue has entered a contract with ESA on the development of a VR system for astronaut training and design reviews. This is the third phase in a series of projects between ESA and PaleBlue and kicked off with a Parabolic Flight Campaign, a series of special flights onboard an airplane aimed to recreate the state of weightlessness.

The campaign was run at NoveSpace, a French company based in Bordeaux, specializing in parabolic flights.

The PaleBlue team, together with members of the ESA, embarked on a complex microgravity topic: running a virtual environment in free fall. Despite the difficulties encountered during an intense first week of preparation and a challenging second week of flights in a totally new environment, the team showed professionalism and complied with requirements! As Novespace’s technical coordinator, it was a pleasure to work with the team on this challenge! Good job!Alexis Jolion, Parabolic Flight Engineer at NoveSpace
In this picture: Live Heggem Kirkeslett (PaleBlue), Pascal Serrarens (PaleBlue), Herve Stevenin (ESA). Image copyright NoveSpace.

PaleBlue and ESA spent two weeks on site, first preparing and then running a series of experiments. The experiments were set up to test various configurations of VR and XR headsets specially instrumented by PaleBlue for work in Zero Gravity. The end goal was to find a configuration for XR that could be used at the International Space Stations and other manned spacecrafts in the future. Testing of Meta Quest, HTC Vive, and Varjo VR and XR headsets have been performed in Zero Gravity, along with custom additional hardware and software, to enable tracking in such a special environment.

In this picture: Pascal Serrarens (PaleBlue), Felix Gorbatsevich (PaleBlue), Andrea Casini (ESA), Martial Costantini (ESA).

Another set of experiments was dedicated to performing movement rehearsal and capture, comparing the results of hand-body coordination and movement in real zero gravity and a simulated environment.

PaleBlue worked together with a crew from ESA’s Astronaut Centre (EAC), led by the astronaut instructor Herve Stevenin. The joint group of PaleBlue and EAC, consisting of eight crew members, took roles of test subjects, equipment operators, and safety operators during the three days of flight experimentation.

These experiments are crucial in the understanding and calibration of the Zero-G simulator in VR to mimic the true look and feel of microgravity conditions. In addition, we know by experience that commercial tracking for VR headsets are subject to drift or worse loss of tracking in zero-G. Thus, were those tracking test essential in progressing in this domain.Lionel Ferra, Crew Technologies & XR-Lab lead at ESA EAC
In this picture: Herve Stevenin (ESA) and Pascal Serrarens (PaleBlue) test Varjo XR-3 headset in Zero G conditions. Image copyright NoveSpace.

The results of experiments will be used by PaleBlue in the virtual reality development project to improve the modeling and simulation of virtual zero gravity engine, as well as prepare hardware configurations for the work at the International Space Station.

In this picture: Pascal Serrarens (PaleBlue), Felix Gorbatsevich (PaleBlue), Andrea Casini (ESA), Martial Costantini (ESA). Image copyright NoveSpace.
This set of experiments has been central in ensuring the highest possible quality of modeling zero gravity conditions for a virtual human spaceflight. It has been great working with ESA for their expertise in this field, and with NoveSpace for the parabolic flight operation.Felix Gorbatsevich, CEO of PaleBlue


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About PaleBlue
PaleBlue is a simulator technology company, which has established a unique set of capabilities within 3D, VR, and multi-user experiences, used in simulation training environments. The company builds on a 20+ years experience track of building 3D and training simulation systems for the energy industry, including crane training, underwater robot simulators, drilling operation simulators, and more.

About NoveSpace
Novespace, a subsidiary of the French Space Agency (CNES), owns and operates the Airbus A310 Zero Gravity, the largest parabolic flight aircraft in the world. Novespace organizes weightless flights for scientific research and for the general public through our AirZeroG activity.

About ESA
The European Space Agency is an intergovernmental organization of 22 member states dedicated to the exploration of space. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, the launch and operation of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science and telecommunication, designing launch vehicles, and maintaining a spaceport.