Drop tower

The ‘Physics in microgravity conditions’ student experiment

The experiment is a software-supported demonstration of many physical effects and phenomena in microgravity conditions. Enlighten Sciences GmbH runs the experiment and develops it in conjunction with DLR_School_Lab.

Origin of the experiment

The ‘Physics in zero-gravity conditions’ experiment came about in the course of research at the Zentrum für angewandte Raumfahrttechnologie und Mikrogravitation (Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity; ZARM), conducted on parabolic flights and on board the International Space Station (ISS).


After a short preliminary talk, students assemble various small probes in a drop capsule, which constitutes the most important element of the experiment. Together with an experiment object that can easily be changed to cover a range of topics, the capsule contains a sturdy camera designed for use in sports (an ‘action cam’), which provides high-resolution images with a high frame rate. The drop capsule also contains sensors for measuring gravitational acceleration or air pressure. After making these preparations, one of the students hangs the capsule at the top of the tower and retreats to a safe distance. The experiment is started by a simple click in the software, whereupon the sensors and video recording are activated and the retaining lock on the drop capsule opens. The drop capsule goes into freefall and thus a state of weightlessness. After landing, the data is transmitted wirelessly to the PC and can be played back in slow motion.

Special uses and work in schools

This mini drop tower gives students the opportunity to observe in minute detail how the small probes behave in microgravity conditions. By assembling the objects themselves and carrying out the experiment, they have hands-on involvement and are able to experiment interactively during class time. The ‘Physics in microgravity conditions’ experiment teaches physics principles in an exciting way within the context of current science and space research. Many interesting Physics topics can be covered here, such as adhesion, cohesion, the capillary effect, magnetism, heat convection, conservation of momentum, accelerated motion, air friction, thread pendulums, centrifugal and pseudo forces, and, of course, gravity and weightlessness.

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Christian Ritschel · E-Mail: christian.ritschel@dlr.de ·  DLR.de/en