Microgravity research for students

Gravity is so fundamental to all processes on Earth that removing it can offer unique perspectives into nearly all processes. Research topics that can greatly benefit from using microgravity platforms include:

  • Fluid physics: dynamics, change of phase, films, interfaces, bubbles and droplets.
  • Fundamental physics: gravity research, Bose-Einstein condensates.
  • Combustion: gaseous flames, droplet ignition and combustion, wall fires.
  • Biology: bio-sensors, single cellular organisms, osmosis, organic compounds, seeds, bioprocessing.
  • Material sciences: alloys, foam, granular systems, porous media, rapid undercooling, polymerisation, sol-gel processes.
  • Heat transfer: evaporation, condensation, convection, conduction, etc.
  • Astrophysics: cosmic dust, plasmas, planet formation, etc.
  • Chemistry and biochemistry: proteins, chemical patterns, etc.

Technical constraints

While defining their projects, applicants should keep in mind the following constraints that apply to the experiments:

  • Experiments are remotely controlled via the capsule computer system.
  • The overall height of the experiment may not exceed 953 mm (short capsule) or 1,718 mm (long capsule).
  • The maximum experiment mass is 264.4 kg (drop mode) or 161.5 kg (catapult mode) for the short capsule. Only the drop mode is available for the long capsule and the maximum experiment mass is then 221.2 kg.
  • The distribution of mass should be even.
  • For catapult experiments the deviation of the centre of gravity must be smaller than 1 mm in relation to the vertical axis.
  • Experiments are mounted on platforms of 700 mm diameter. Platforms are fixed by four stringers, with a payload diameter between stringers of 600 mm.
  • Each platform may be loaded with a point load of 50 kg (100 kg evenly distributed).
  • The overall weight of a platform (including 15.5 kg for the platform itself) may not exceed 100 kg.
  • The experiment must be able to withstand the maximum deceleration forces of 50 g. With a duration of 200 ms, the deceleration can be regarded as a steady load rather than as an impulse. This means that holders of any item must be designed to cope with at least 50 times their normal load. A safety factor of two must be foreseen.
  • Catapult experiments must be able to withstand a peak acceleration of 30 g at the beginning of the experiment.
  • The power supply is provided by rechargeable battery pack with a nominal voltage of 24 V DC (max. 40 Amp). Experimental hardware directly connected to the power supply needs to match the operation voltage limitation with a range of 22.6 V to 30 V DC.
  • The mechanical set up should be prepared by a professional workshop technician.

For further details on the technical constraints, please refer to the ZARM Drop Tower User Manual.

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