About Drop Your Thesis!

ZARM Drop Tower in Bremen

The Drop Your Thesis! programme gives university students, from Bachelor’s to PhD level, the opportunity to perform scientific or technological research in microgravity conditions. The gravity levels that are obtained in ZARM Drop tower experiments are as low as 10-6 g and last for about 5 to 10 seconds. This is the same level that is attained for experiments on the International Space Station, and is enough for a multitude of scientific research opportunities.

As a direct result of the research conducted during the Drop Your Thesis! campaigns, student teams have already presented their results in many theses, at international conferences and/or published papers in renowned scientific journals.

Gravity plays a large role in many natural phenomena and technological processes, ranging from human development, biological and chemical reactions, to mechanical aspects, such as the deployment of antennas on spacecraft. Low gravity research can lead to an increased insight in many natural phenomena and contribute to a plethora of technological improvements.

ESA has the capabilities to conduct research on several low gravity platforms. One of these platforms is the ZARM Drop Tower, located at the University of Bremen. Drop towers offer the best microgravity conditions for Earth-based systems, and have additional benefits, such as relatively fast turnaround times. This makes multiple experiment runs easy, and significantly simplifies troubleshooting.

The ZARM Drop Tower is 146 metres high. An experiment capsule can be inserted in an evacuated tube and released from 120 meters, providing around 4.74 seconds of microgravity.  As of  2007 a catapult mode is also offered, in which the experiment capsule is launched from the bottom of the tube. This essentially doubles the duration of microgravity to 9.3 seconds.  At the end of the experiment the capsule  is decelerated rapidly  to 50 g. This setup allows for a wide range of microgravity experiments to be performed in the Drop Tower.

With the Drop Your Thesis! programme, ESA provides university students with the chance to perform experimental research in facilities not usually accessible to students. The programme usually opens a call for proposals once a year in September, which then stays open for three months. During this time, students, together with the endorsing professors from their universities, are encouraged to submit their proposals for experiments in the ZARM Drop Tower. These may be in various fields, as long as relevant research is being done. ESA will select a team that will be given the opportunity to perform a 2 week campaign with the Drop tower, resulting in 5 launch opportunities. A team usually consists of 2 to 4 people, and the development of the experiment, after selection, will last around 6 months. After the experiment is performed, the results need to be processed and documented.  A more detailed timeline can be found here.

Quick Facts

Project: Drop Your Thesis!
Level: University
Status: Next call for proposals opens in September 2014
Contact: Natacha Callens, dropyourthesis @ esa.int

Drop Your Thesis! video

Drop Your Thesis!
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