The Drop Your Thesis! programme is targeted towards university students ranging from bachelor to PhD level. Its purpose is to stimulate and advance space-related scientific and engineering research among students giving them the opportunity to perform scientific or technological research in microgravity conditions.
Below is a detailed description of the yearly programme and its schedule. It is intended to give insight into what the programme entails, what is expected, and to provide an indication on when to apply.
A. Project definition and writing of the proposal by applicant
During this phase, the applicants will identify the members of their team, find an endorsing professor/academic supervisor and start to think about their project.
After defining their project, the students must consider in detail how they will realise their proposed experiment. At the end of this process, they will be expected to have an accurate plan of the intended method and set-up of their experiment as well as a sound understanding of the scientific theory underlying it – both in a qualitative and quantitative way.
The teams should think carefully about which drop tower mode to choose. Although the catapult mode may appear more attractive, the implementation of the experiment is more complicated and may not even be feasible. Reading the ZARM Drop Tower User Manual document is mandatory.
The experiment proposal should focus on the scientific and/or technology-related objectives of the project and on the technical details for the implementation of the experiment. In other words, participants are invited to explain what they intend to investigate and how they are going to implement their experiment. Students should show that they have very good knowledge of their project topic using references to bibliography and scientific literature in the field and giving the details of the results expected.
Documents expected: Experiment proposal
Deadline: Autumn / Winter
B. Review of the experiment proposal and selection of the winning team
The proposals will be evaluated by a review board composed of experts from the European Low Gravity Research Association (ELGRA), ZARM, ESA’s Human Spaceflight and Operations Directorate and ESA’s Education Office.
The selected teams will be offered support from an ELGRA mentor.
C. Experiment preparation
Students of the selected teams will then start to build their experiment assisted by qualified professionals and their ELGRA mentor (if applicable). The cost of building the experiment will be partially supported by ESA's Education Office. The students should prepare the experiment with reference to the ZARM Drop Tower User Manual (list of documents) and in close consultation with ZARM engineers.
During the preparation phase, the students have to fill in some parts of the Experiment Report document. This document serves both as a reference document through the preparation and the execution of the experiment as well as the final report once the programme ends.
The experiment is expected to be fully equipped with all necessary subsystems. In certain circumstances it may be possible for the team to use special equipment (e.g. CCD cameras, heating/cooling devices) available from the drop tower operator. This must be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may carry associated costs for the team.
ZARM and the University of Bremen have technical laboratories and other facilities available for hire upon request. For more information on this, please contact the drop tower operators.
Documents expected: Experiment report
Deadline: Three versions will be delivered to ESA’s Education Office and ZARM engineers before the campaign.
D. Education Drop Tower campaign
Students of the selected teams will carry out their experiment in October-November. The two-week-long campaign will take place in Bremen, Germany. The first week will be dedicated to integration and ground testing of the experiment in an attempt to reduce the probability of experiment failure. In the second week, the selected team will be allocated 5 launch opportunities for its experiment. Either the drop mode (giving 4.74 s of microgravity) or the catapult mode (9.3 s) can be used, depending on the requirements and the feasibility of accelerating the experiment.
A few weeks after the campaign the team is required to submit a feedback report on the experiment opportunity as supplied by the ESA Education Office.
Documents expected: Feedback report
E. Analysis of results
Students of the selected teams must analyse the results obtained during the campaign and provide ESA's Education Office with the final version of their report within 4 months of performing their experiment. Later on, the students will write a scientific paper, co-authored by the ELGRA mentor (if applicable). Some of the students may also be sponsored to attend international conferences (such as the ELGRA Biennial Symposium) in order to present their results to the scientific community.
Documents expected: Final version of the Experiment report
Deadline: Four months after experiment campaign
Please note that the schedule detailed above is subject to change.