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ElectroMotive Drop Tower Initiative

Proposed Facility Overview

Conceptual depiction of the ElectroMotive Drop Tower
Conceptual depiction of the proposed Electro-Motive Drop Tower (EMDT) facility that would modify/replace the Zero Gravity Research Facility

The Electro-Motive Drop Tower (EMDT) is a proposed upgrade to the existing Zero Gravity Research Facility (ZGF) – NASA GRC’s 5.2-second drop tower. The initiative aims to improve the ZGF; increasing test throughput, low gravity duration, and providing intermediate gravity levels, such as lunar and Martian gravity. The concept is similar to what has been built at Leibniz University in Hannover Germany. The feasibility of constructing an Electro-Motive Drop Tower in the ZGF shaft has been studied extensively during the past few years.  The rail guided, linear motor driven EMDT concept shows promise for nearly doubling the facility test time, increasing facility test throughput by an order of magnitude, and offering the possibility of performing tests in alternate gravity levels; all important to advancing NASA’s mission.


Payload vehicle for the conceptual Electro-Motive Drop Tower
The conceptual payload vehicle rides along a vertical rail system and is driven by linear synchronous motors. The vehicle will be capable of carrying payloads roughly the size of a large refrigerator and having a mass of approximately 455 kg.

To provide inexpensive, reliable, and flexible access to 10 seconds of zero-gravity or partial-gravity to facilitate fundamental research, technology development, and flight hardware risk mitigation testing.


Convert the existing 5.2-second GRC Zero Gravity Research Facility to a state-of-the-art 10-second, 0 to 0.5g, test facility using a vertical rail and linear synchronous motor system to provide a revolutionary capability in testing at low and partial gravity at a significantly lower operating cost.  It is estimated that the cost per test will be reduced by 90% compared to the current facility. And the annual facility costs will be reduced by an estimated 20%

View a video of the proposed ElectroMotive Drop Tower

Target Metrics


Physical Sciences

Life Support

Life Science

In-Situ Resource Utilization  (ISRU)



Zero Gravity Research Facility
Facility Manager: Thomas Hoffman

Low-Gravity Exploration Technology Branch
Branch Chief: David Urban

ISS and Human Health Office
Project Manager: Daniel Brown

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