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ZARM Drop Tower

ESA is looking for students to Drop their Thesis!

30/09/2013 3245 views 12 likes
ESA / Education / Drop Your Thesis!

Dropping your experiment from a height of 146-metres and letting it fall to the ground without a parachute may not seem like the best thing to do. Yet for some university students it will assist their thesis and ESA is determined to help.

ESA’s Education office has just opened a new call for proposals in its Drop Your Thesis! programme. University student teams from across ESA Member and Cooperating States will be offered again the chance to run their experiments five times in the world-class drop tower situated at the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) by University of Bremen, Germany.

The ZARM drop tower has been referred to as Germany’s anti-gravity machine. It can provide up to 9.3 seconds of microgravity conditions, as if the experiment had been taken into space.

When an experiment is dropped from the top of the tower, the duration of weightlessness is 4.74 seconds. A unique catapult system can almost double the duration of weightlessness by shooting experiments up the tower, before they fall.

The Drop Your Thesis! Programme, now also open to undergraduate university students, has proven to be a popular initiative with five previous cycles of activity. So far, it has allowed 12 students from 4 different universities in 4 Member States access to the world-leading facility. They have conducted a spectrum of experiments from those involving the pure sciences of biology, chemistry, physics, to technological tests.

Granular Anisotropic Gases experiment
Granular Anisotropic Gases experiment

This year’s team is called the Fall of Fame. Four bachelor degree students from the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany) will perform their experiment at ZARM from 4 to 15 November. 

The Fall of Fame experiment will investigate how collections of granular material tend to segregate rather than mix when they are agitated. Particles of differing size, shape and material all react differently. This phenomenon is of enormous importance in industrial applications.

In 2012, research students from Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg (Germany) conducted the GAGaDropT experiment into ‘granular gases’. These are agitated collections of grains that are found in a variety of physical environments, from sandstorms to avalanches, from the asteroid belt to the rings of Saturn.

At the conclusion of their time at ZARM, team member Sandra Wegner said, “This has been a great chance to learn more about the facilities with which one can simulate microgravity. It was also an opportunity to learn more about how a project is managed.”

Interested teams from ESA Member States* should register for the 2014 campaign on the ESA Education Office's project portal and upload their completed application by 3 March 2014. Proposals from ESA’s Cooperating States are also encouraged.

The winning team will be announced in March and the experimental campaign will take place in the autumn of 2014. The students are then expected to submit a final report on their project’s results  four months later.


The proposals received will be evaluated by a review board, which will select the winning team. The selected student team will be supported by ESA’s Education Office, ZARM engineers and members of the European Low Gravity Research Association (ELGRA). ESA will offer financial support to cover part of the cost of the experiments, travel and accommodation.

* ESA Member States in 2013
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Canada (Associate Member).
European Cooperating States
Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia, Latvia
Cooperating States
Cyprus, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia