Drop tower has business opportunities

Drop tower has business opportunities

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PHOTO COURTESY OF PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY

A new drop tower that simulates a weightless environment at Portland State University isn’t just a cool toy for researchers. There’s also opportunity for business applications.

“The tower is the research side of it, and the application side is companies,” says PSU engineering professor Mark Weislogel. “It will be for people designing cooling systems for aircraft, for companies involved with space tourism — the suborbital rocket industry is blossoming.”

The 102-foot-tall Dryden Drop Tower, which debuted earlier this summer, is outfitted with high-speed cameras that observe how dropping objects behave when their drop time is slowed by 2.2 seconds. The $300,000 tower is one of only three in the nation and the first to operate outside of NASA control.

This tower is also the most efficient, according to ZGF Architects principal John Thompson. He and associate Craig Briscoe donated several hundred hours to consulting on the tower’s design, which is capable of 10 to 12 drops per hour. Other towers average two per hour.

Howard S. Wright Construction project executive Dan Pelissier agrees that the tower will attract business interest. His Portland firm donated about $20,000 worth of time and effort to the project.

“It puts that whole program on the map, because there are very few [towers] in the nation,” Pelissier says.

ROBERT SEITZINGER