Lufthansa Technik has added weightlessness and flying telescopes to the portfolio of special missions of large commercial aircraft now inducted in its overhaul or modification hangars.

French national space centre (CNES) subsidiary Novespace has contracted Lufthansa Technik to modify a former German air force Airbus A310 from a VIP configuration into a test and research platform for zero gravity experiments. At the same time, the A310 is also undergoing a heavy maintenance check by Lufthansa Technik.

The completed aircraft will use parabolic flight trajectories to simulate weightless outside the Earth’s gravitational field, with experiments planned by CNES, Germany's DLR aerospace research centre and the European Space Agency.

Lufthansa Technik also is overhauling a Boeing 747SP used by NASA and DLR as the stratospheric observatory for infrared astronomy (SOFIA).

Launched in the late-1980s as a replacement for a NASA Lockheed C-141-based flying observatory, the Sofia project faced a long series of budget and technical delays. It finally flew for the first time in 2010, showcasing its unique door that opens in flight to reveal a massive infrared telescope.

It was finally declared operational in 2014, but immediately faced a new budget crisis. NASA threatened to retire the aircraft unless the DLR increased its level of support. The crisis was finally resolved and the DLR and NASA assigned Lufthansa Technik to perform a “major overhaul” of the platform before continuing its research missions.

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Source: Flight Daily News