The Drop Your Thesis! (DYT) programme gives university students, from bachelor 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 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 thus providing high quality 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, with an average acceleration about 18 g with a peak value at 30 g. This essentially extends the duration of microgravity to 9.3 seconds. This setup, doubling the microgravity conditions duration, allows for a wide range of microgravity experiments to be performed in the Drop Tower. At the end of any drop, the capsule undergoes an average deceleration of 25 g with a peak that can reach 50 g.
With the Drop Your Thesis! programme, ESA provides university students with the chance to perform experimental research in facilities not commonly accessible to students.
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 8 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 core member students. After the campaign is over, the results will need to be processed and documented.