space race has arrived in Brisbane, and it’s thirsty! The latest in
beer technology was flowing — and free falling — at Queensland
University of Technology’s (QUT) new zero-gravity research facility on
April 7, 2011.
at the microgravity “drop tower” have been testing the effect of
zero-gravity on the carbonation and palatability of the popular
beverage’s behavior in space, fuelling the quest to quench the thirst of
the burgeoning space tourism industry. Alongside more serious
experiments for NASA and other international research organizations, the
beer trials replicate the behavior of the special brew in space,
without having to leave Earth.
microgravity tower is the only one of its kind in the southern
hemisphere and one of only a few world-wide that is able to simulate the
low gravity level present in space, here on Earth. QUT’s research
facility director, Professor Ted Steinberg, a former NASA researcher who
continues to undertake studies for the space agency at the new drop
tower, said the facility is helping to advance reduced-gravity research
by making it affordable and accessible to researchers in many diverse
disciplines from fluid dynamics to biology.
said researchers, government agencies and businesses, like private
space research company Saber Astronautics Australia and Sydney’s 4-Pines
Brewing Company (the companies behind the new space brew) were using
the tower as a replacement for, or stepping stone to, sending their
experiments into Earth’s outer atmosphere.
beer experiments, undertaken with the help of the tower’s technical
director, Martin Castillo, prepared the space beer for the world’s first
“space beer taste test” aboard a parabolic trajectory microgravity
flight out of Cape Canaveral, FL, operated by Zero Gravity Corporation.
During the flight, the astronaut drank six 150 ml samples of “space
beer” which passed the taste and carbonation tests.
said experiments at the microgravity drop tower were loaded into a
400-kilogram metal capsule, winched 27 meters to the top of the tower
and then released, allowing the experiment to freefall and experience
two seconds of microgravity prior to bringing it to a rest at the bottom
of the tower.
seconds may seem like a little time, but it is a lot for studying a
very large variety of phenomena in reduced gravity, such as combustion
of metals, fire safety, certain biological processes and fluid
dynamics,” Steinberg said.
example, many metals burn more easily in reduced gravity, liquids
behave differently, both of which have important implications for safety
and the way machinery and equipment operate in spacecraft and space
stations. The beer experiments assisted in determining the correct level
of carbonation, so that it can, in the future, be appropriately enjoyed
by humans in reduced gravity.”
said the microgravity tower was making significant contributions to
knowledge in a variety of fields, including the invention of new
materials produced without the effects of gravity.
microgravity, it is possible to make better materials for use on Earth
or in space, such as unique metals, nanomaterials with more surface area
and high-strength glass,” he said.