Gravity plays a critical 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. Microgravity research can lead to an increased insight in many natural phenomena and contribute to a plethora of technological improvements.
The Drop Your Thesis! (DYT) programme gives university students, from bachelor to PhD level, the opportunity to perform scientific or technological research in such microgravity conditions. The gravity levels that are obtained in ZARM Drop tower experiments are as low as 10-6g and last either 4.74 seconds (when the drop tower is used in drop mode) or about 9 seconds (when catapult mode is used). 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 previous DYT campaigns, students have presented their results in many theses, at international conferences and/or published papers in renowned scientific journals.
The ZARM Drop Tower is 146 metres high. The experiment is integrated into a capsule and released from 120 meters height in a near vacuum providing approximately 4.74 seconds microgravity. There is a relatively fast turnaround time between experiment launches and this allows multiple experiment runs during the campaign and significantly simplifies troubleshooting. As of 2007, a catapult launch mode is also possible, in which the experiment capsule is launched from the bottom of the tower. This essentially extends the duration of microgravity to 9.3 seconds. At the end of the experiment the capsule is decelerated rapidly to 50g. 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.
During this time, students, together with their endorsing professors, are encouraged to submit their proposals for experiments in the ZARM Drop Tower.
The experiments proposals may cover various disciplines which will be selected based on scientific and technological merit by a team of scientists and experts in that field. Up to two teams will be selected and asked to develop their experiment within 6 months of being selected after which they will be granted access to the ZARM Drop Tower for two weeks resulting in 5 launch opportunities. A team typically consists of 2 to 4 students. After the campaign is over, the results will need to be processed and documented. A more detailed timeline can be found here.
DYT is a great opportunity for students to conduct their experiments in microgravity conditions. Moreover, their research results can be published in papers and journals and can also be presented at international conferences.
Are you interested in participating in the next Drop Your Thesis! campaign? Please check the links on the left side of this page, under Application, and see how you can propose an experiment.