Microgravity Science and Technology

, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 663–673 | Cite as

The 2.5 s Microgravity Drop Tower at National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD), Indian Institute of Technology Madras

  • Nikhil V.V.
  • Abhilash Nair
  • Niketh P
  • Amit KumarEmail author
  • Muruganandam T.M.
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Interdisciplinary science challenges for gravity dependent phenomena in physical and biological systems


Space missions involving humans require a better understanding of various phenomena happening in space environments. A number of experiments need to be conducted in microgravity for addressing various issues encompassing safety (primarily fire) and better understanding of fluid and material behaviour. Of the various methods used for obtaining microgravity conditions, drop towers offer ground based microgravity platform. They provide a cost effective platform for doing short duration, repeatable, high quality microgravity experiments. This paper describes key factors that influence the design of a drop tower. The salient features of 2.5 s microgravity tower set up at National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD), IIT Madras (IITM) are discussed. Primary features of the three critical elements, namely the drop capsule, the release unit and the decelerator unit are described along with review of these elements in existing drop towers. The IITM drop tower operates in ambient atmospheric conditions to minimise the cost of operation. In order to achieve good quality microgravity levels, a dual capsule configuration is adopted. The shape of the outer capsule is arrived at by detailed transient computational fluid dynamic analysis of the drag shield under free fall condition over the drop height. A pneumatic mechanism is used for capsule release and brought to rest at the end of fall in a carefully designed decelerator unit. The decelerator unit consists of an airbag with controlled air outflow for smooth deceleration.


Microgravity drop tower Drop tower design Dual capsule Smooth deceleration 



American Society of Mechanical Engineers

cDAQ -

Compact Data Acquistion


Chinese Academy of Sciences

DC -

Direct Current


Department of Science and Technology

GoI -

Government of India


Grams per Square Meter


Hokkaido Aerospace Science and Technology Incubation Center


Indian Institute of Technology Madras


Indian Space Resesarch Organisation

LeRC -

Lewis Research Center


National Aeronautics and Space Administration


National Center for Combustion Research and Development


National Microgravity Laboratory China


Polyvinyl Chloride


Space capsule Recovery Experiment


Zentrum für Angewandte Raumfahrttechnologie und Mikrogravitation


Zero Gravity Research Facility



The authors acknowledge the financial support provided by the DST(GoI) to National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD) towards the development of the microgravity drop tower facility. Further, the authors are grateful to Mr Christian Eigenbrod and Dr. Thorben Könemann of ZARM, Prof. Osamu Fujita of Hokkaido University and Prof. Satoshi Okajima of Hosei University for their valuable suggestions and to Manu N M, Arjun B J, Sabarish V N for their valuable contributions in the preliminary stages of this endeavor.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nikhil V.V.
    • 1
  • Abhilash Nair
    • 1
  • Niketh P
    • 1
  • Amit Kumar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Muruganandam T.M.
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Aerospace EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology MadrasChennaiIndia

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