Space Simulation in the Neutral Buoyancy Test Facility
Various methods have been used to simulate reduced gravity environments for space systems research and development. Neutral buoyancy has been the most universally used simulation of zero-g. This paper describes the facilities, personnel and experimental work that are associated with the Neutral Buoyancy Test Facility (NBTF) at NASA Ames Research Center (ARC). This facility provides a unique underwater environment for the researcher to simulate reduced gravity activities and evaluate the performance of space-related equipment. The NBTF's small size gives it several advantages over larger water facilities. First, a smaller crew ensures a lower overhead. Second, the facility is used for research purposes only, eliminating any scheduling conflicts with astronaut training. Lastly, the small volume of water allows the researcher to more easily vary the water temperature. This feature is ideal for investigations of astronaut thermal comfort and regulation.