Tissue-engineered cartilage was cultivated under conditions of simulated microgravity using rotating bioreactors. Rotation randomized the effects of gravity on inoculated cells (chondrocytes) and permitted their attachment to three-dimensional (3D) synthetic, biodegradable polymer scaffolds that were freely suspended within the vessel. After 1 week of cultivation, the cells regenerated a cartilaginous extracellular matrix (ECM) consisting of glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and collagen types I and II. Tissue constructs grown in simulated microgravity had higher GAG contents and thinner outer capsules than control constructs grown in turbulent spinner flasks. Two fluid dynamic regimes of simulated microgravity were identified, depending on the vessel rotation speed: (i) a settling regime in which the constructs were maintained in a state of continuous free-fall close to a stationary point within the vessel and (ii) an orbiting regime in which the constructs orbited around the vessel spin axis. In the settling regime, the numerically calculated relative fluid-construct velocity was comparable to the experimentally measured construct settling velocity (2–3 cm/s). A simple mathematical model was used in conjunction with measured construct physical properties to determine the hydrodynamic drag force and to estimate the hydrodynamic stress at the construct surface (1.5 dyn/cm2). Rotating bioreactors thus provide a powerful research tool for cultivating tissue-engineered cartilage and studying 3D tissue morphogenesis under well-defined fluid dynamic conditions. © 1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.