ESA Training Program
ESA Training Program for YGT (Young Graduate Trainees) from Universities
The Young Graduate Trainee program offers a one-year experience at ESA and is a launch pad for many exciting opportunities in aerospace, research institutes or in international organizations such as ESA. 1)
Are you about to take your finals? Or do you already have your Master's degree? If so, then you can apply to ESA as a 'Young Graduate Trainee' (YGT). This high-caliber program lasts for one year and gives successful applicants an opportunity to gain valuable experience in the development and operation of space missions.
Table 1: The application procedure
Some reports from Trainees & from Workshops and Program Announcements
Studying wound healing in hypergravity
• October 6, 2021: A team of students from the SCK•CEN (Belgian nuclear research centre) located in Mol, Belgium, began their hypergravity research campaign at ESA's Large Diameter Centrifuge (LDC) at ESTEC on 27 September and successfully completed their experiment on 1 October. 2)
- The LDC boasts a diameter of 8 m and is capable of generating hypergravity environments from 1 to 20g due to the centripetal forces as the centrifuge rotates. The LDC provides a scientific platform for scientists to examine relationships between varying levels of gravity and their experimental results. This can be paired with microgravity research to explore a broader spectrum of gravitational effects.
- The team is researching in which capacity hypergravity can be used to speed up wound healing in tissue samples that have been exposed to simulated microgravity. Over the course of the Spin Your Thesis! (SYT) program the team learned how to design, build, and operate an experiment within an ESA facility. Furthermore, the team performed the coordination, logistics, and project management required to perform their experiment effectively. The culmination of these aspects results in an extraordinary learning experience for the students involved.
- The team is composed of three students, two PhD and one master's level. The team explored the effects of hypergravity on the healing of damaged fibroblast monolayers. Initially cells undergo a simulated microgravity treatment. This is done using an RPM (Random Positioning Machine) with the addition of the stress hormone cortisol to mimic stress levels in astronauts. After this the cells are exposed to hypergravity at 10 g and 20 g. The team hopes to find a connection between the speed of wound healing and the exposure of hypergravity to the cells.
- With the campaign complete, the team passed a monumental milestone and this excitement is noticeable. "It was an experience we will never forget", said a team member on the last day of the campaign. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. The data collected during the hypergravity experiment need to be analyzed and documented.
- The employees working at the LDC and at ESA Academy enjoy working with the students and watching their projects grow from initial designs through to completion, and publication. "Every year, Spin Your Thesis! brings new students who are so eager to perform top-quality science on this centrifuge", said Nigel Savage, Program Coordinator for university student experiments. "Their boundless enthusiasm is contagious, and we do everything to help them achieve their goals. We are confident that their first ‘professional' encounter was positive for them and that they will pursue their career in gravity related research."
- With FORTE wrapping up their experiment over the next few months, the SYT! 2021 campaign comes to a close. Currently the call for proposals for the upcoming SYT! 2022 is open. If you have an experiment you would like to perform in hypergravity as part of a SYT campaign, click here to apply fo a chance to perform your investigations at the LDC.
Figure 1: The FORTE team with staff supporting the Educational Campaign Spin Your Thesis! (image credit: ESA)
Figure 2: Team FORTE working long hours into the night preparing their cell samples (image credit: ESA)
Online CubeSat Design Training Week 2021 combines lectures and group projects to enhance university students' learning
• October 1, 2021: ESA Academy's pilot version of CubeSat Design Training Week went fully online, in response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 3)
- CubeSats are miniature satellites that can fit in the palm of your hand. Despite being small and light, they carry advanced payloads and conduct valuable science. At the same time, they are effective educational tool that offers hands-on experience in the development phases of a spacecraft. ESA is keen to equip future scientists and engineers with the skills necessary to help develop CubeSats through courses like this Online CubeSat Design Training Week.
- Experienced ESA experts delivered a series of CubeSat-themed lectures spread across the training week. Covering various aspects of a mission ranging from System Engineering, Mission Analysis, CubeSat Configuration, Electrical Power System, Attitude Determination and Control System, On-Board Data Handling, Communications and Spacecraft Operations.
- Working in parallel to these lectures, the university students were split into groups of six and challenged to design their own CubeSat mission during project sessions supported by the team behind Fly Your Satellite! – the ESA Education program that supports university student teams in the development of their own CubeSat. Each group first had to choose a mission area, such as Earth Observation, Space Observation, or Astronomy and Science. Students were then given objectives and limitations for their CubeSat missions. Theoretical information gained from the online lectures proved invaluable.
- "The Online CubeSat Design Training Week 2021 was a great experience for me as a CubeSat rookie," said a Czech student from Brno University of Technology. "The lecturers gave us a deep view on the approach to CubeSat mission and subsystems design. All the new information was also immediately applied within the group project sessions, where we developed our own mission proposal. I would not hesitate to recommend this training to any of my colleagues and I am grateful for the opportunity to participate.''
- The first week culminated in the students practising their presentation skills, gaining valuable feedback for the eventual final group presentations. Each group also had the chance to share the progress of their CubeSat Design project with the other students, pooling ideas and lending each other a helping hand.
- Week two began with a virtual tour of ESA's CubeSat Support Facility, where EIRSAT-1, one of the teams participating in the Fly Your Satellite! program, was carrying out an environmental test campaign on their CubeSat. Through the livefeed, the students could directly interact with the EIRSAT-1 student team and ask questions about design and testing processes. It was enlightening for the students to see the procedures and challenges of CubeSat development for a real mission.
- The final day each group presented their CubeSat designs to the other students and the tutors. Innovative solutions were offered to a myriad of challenges, and it was evident that the content of the lectures had helped the students to think creatively about how to best complete their mission objectives! The students' performances were evaluated, meaning that participants received a certificate of participation and transcript, which in turn can be used to request ECTS Credit(s) from their respective universities.
- The students are now able to apply the knowledge and skills gained during the training week for CubeSat projects at their home universities, and perhaps as future Fly Your Satellite! applicants – or even, eventually, as professionals within the space sector!
Figure 3: Running over nine afternoon sessions between 13 – 23 September 2021, in virtual attendance were 30 Bachelor, Master, and PhD students in science and engineering-related fields, drawn from 15 ESA Member States and Canada (image credit: ESA)
- ‘'These nine days have been an outstanding experience to learn new ideas, assimilate previous concepts, and meet incredible people from across the globe interested in space and satellites," summarized a Spanish student from Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC). "Even though it was an online version, it kept us all engaged and focussed as if we were all in the same room thanks to the dedication of ESA Academy's staff and lecturing experts. Ultimately, totally unforgettable!''
Online Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations Training Course 2021 wows students with live satellite pass
Figure 4: The Online Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations Training Course 2021 ran across 10 afternoon sessions, spread over two weeks (30 August to 10 September 2021), and featured an impressive finale! Participating were 30 university Bachelor, Masters, and PhD students in science, space, aeronautics and engineering-related fields from 13 different ESA Member States and Canada – all attending virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
- Unlike many disciplines, spacecraft operations is not often taught in university. The course's primary aim was to train students on the fundamental concepts and required mindset for spacecraft operations.. Content was delivered by a senior ESA Engineer from Advanced Mission Concepts and Management Support Office from ESA's European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
- "This was a unique experience," said a Greek student from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. "It offered a completely new point-of-view on the concept of space missions by unravelling the challenging beauty of actual in-orbit spacecraft operations. The high-experience educational methods of the trainers, and the flawless organization by the ESA Academy team gave me the chance to feel part of an operational team and motivated me in the best of ways to think out of the box. I will definitely pursue a future career as a Space Operations Engineer!"
- The course began with an introductory session giving students an overview of spacecraft operations, and learning how to identify the main psychological pitfalls encountered when dealing with day-to-day operational issues.
- Students then progressed to online lectures that adopted the "Ladybird approach", teaching key principles, concepts, and theories in an accessible manner using real-life examples supplemented with easy-to-understand diagrams. The purposeful absence of complex maths and physics meant that students with broader backgrounds could still understand and fully participate in the course. Every session throughout the course was interactive, with student challenged to put themselves into an operator's shoes, thinking about how to best react to issues that a spacecraft could face during its mission.
- Additional sessions served to provide students with wider contextual understanding. Guest lecturers from ESEC-Redu gave a talk about their site, delving into how they support the PROBA missions. The students were then delighted to receive an insider's view of Galileo, Europe's global navigation satellite system comprising 30 satellites, able to provide high-accuracy location services across the globe.
- At the end of the course, participants were given a group challenge. Putting everything the students had learnt into practice, they were taking the role of spacecraft operators, executing all planning activities required for day-to-day operations of OPS-SAT – a miniature satellite used to test new systems and techniques.
- The students then had an amazing opportunity to see what they had learnt in action, as the course concluded with an exciting finale: a live pass of OPS-SAT, giving students the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe operators problem-solving challenges in real-time during a live mission! "Following the flight control team during a live spacecraft pass was very insightful," enthused a Dutch student from Delft University of Technology, "and demonstrated really well what we had learned just days before!"
Figure 5: A view on the operations during a live pass of OPS-SAT (image credit: ESA)
- Upon completion of the course participants were evaluated via an online test, leading to a certificate of participation and transcript of achievement. These can be used to request ECTS Credit(s) from their respective universities. "I just wanted to thank you for running this course," fed back a British student from the University of Strathclyde. "I have really enjoyed the entire experience and it was so well organized! I learned so much in a short space of time, but the teaching never felt rushed. The ESA trainer's [stories that went along with each section were a great way to tie everything together, and it was so interesting hearing about all of his past experiences. It was an incredibly enjoyable and informative two weeks, and I have already recommended the course to several of my friends if it is run again. It's the type of knowledge that you don't really get from a degree, and I am very thankful for the opportunity."
Moon rock class in session
• September 9, 2021: School is also back in session for ESA astronaut Andrea Mogensen (right) and NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins. Together with European Astronaut Centre engineer Robin Eccleston (far left), the trio are taking part in this year's Pangaea field training campaign to become better field scientists. 5)
- With all eyes set on the Moon, the three-week campaign has increasingly focussed on lunar geology. Now in its fourth edition, the course kicked off this week with background lessons by top planetary scientists on identifying rock samples of interest for exploration.
Figure 6: In this image Andreas and his fellow students use a microscope to analyze samples (image credit: ESA, A. Romeo)
- Later, the class went on a field trip to the Bletterbach canyon in the Italian Dolomites. The eight-km long and 400-m deep gorge contains around 10 billion tons of rock transported to the valley since the end of the glacial age, around 18,000 years ago.
- The gorge is the result of sedimentary processes quite similar to those found on Mars and is an ideal site to put classroom knowledge into practice.
- In later sessions, the trainees will also visit the Ries Crater in Germany and the volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote, Spain, to unravel not only lunar but also martian features on Earth. They will use more sophisticated tools that will allow them to explore their geography from the microscopic to the macroscopic level.
- The participants will wear a virtual reality headset to immerse themselves in a real martian landscape. Together with images and dozens of 3D maps, the trainees will see a combination of ground truth information and satellite images with the PLANetary MAPping project (PLANMAP) running behind the scenes.
Students successfully complete Space Systems Engineering Training Course 2021
• August 6, 2021: From 12 to 20 July 2021, ESA Academy's Training and Learning Program teamed up with ESA experts in the field of Space Systems Engineering to run the second edition of the Space Systems Engineering Training Course . The goal was to offer university students an overview of the different aspects of Space Systems Engineering while also affording them the opportunity to gain hands-on experience through group exercises. Held fully online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in (virtual) attendance were 30 university students from 11 different ESA Member States and Canada. 6)
Figure 7: Despite being held online, the students still developed the sense of camaraderie that typifies ESA Academy's training sessions (image credit: ESA)
- 'The course was well organized, even in an online setting," explained an Italian student from the Delft University of Technology. "The alternation between theoretical lessons and practical exercises was well balanced and allowed me to better learn the concepts of Systems Engineering, which is now a career path that I want to pursue.''
- The course began with an introduction to Space Systems Engineering, along with discovering the duties and responsibilities of a System Engineer. Following on from this strong start were a fascinating series of lectures on Space System Requirements and Specifications, the Design of a Space Mission, and the Development and Verification Approach. Students also got to grips with Quality Management, Risk Assessments, and Commissioning & Operations - all crucial in the later phases of a space project, including after launch.
Figure 8: Students presenting the results of their exercise to ESA experts, who were impressed with the hard work shown (image credit: ESA)
- In my opinion, it was a priceless experience to learn from and talk to ESA experts who are themselves working in Systems Engineering," said an Austrian student from the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt. "I got excellent insights into this specialized and complex job, learned about its tasks and tools, and am sure that this course will help me in my future career."
- ESA Academy training sessions are not restricted to traditional lecture-style lessons, but actively embrace a wider range of educational experiences. Attendees of this course had the chance to participate in three large group exercises challenging the students to use documents and data from real missions.
- The first focussed on the specifications and requirements of a complex Space Projects system. The second was centered on mission architecture, beginning with the design phase and progressing all the way through to budget finalization through multiple iterations. The third exercise was about project management from a Systems Engineer's point of view. This took the form of a board game that allowed the students to tackle issues relating to project scheduling and resource management.
- During the course's second week, participants were delighted to attend a live session seeing the final preparations of Fly Your Satellite! student project LEDSAT. Working in a clean room prior to their satellite being packed and sent to the Centre Spatial Guyanais in French Guiana, the LEDSAT team gave a short presentation to the Space Systems Engineering students. They provided eye-opening insight into how they are undertaking the final steps before their satellite is launched into orbit!
- Upon completion of the course, the students have now a much greater appreciation of Space Systems Engineering, and this knowledge should serve them well in their future endeavors within the space sector ‘'Participating in ESA Academy's Space Systems Engineering training course with fellow young engineers and scientists from around Europe was a truly unique experience," enthused a Greek student from the National Technical University of Athens. "Thanks to the practical aspect of the course and the guidance of the experts I was able to grasp the essence of Space Systems Engineering and acquire valuable knowledge for my studies and future career.''
ESA and ELGRA collaboration results in successful Gravity-Related Research Summer School 2021
•July 28, 2021: ESA's Education Office and the European Low Gravity Research Association (ELGRA) have successfully teamed up to organize the ESA/ELGRA Gravity-Related Research Summer School 2021. Running from 22 June to 2 July 2021, the course was held entirely online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Logging on were 31 university students from 14 different ESA Member States and Slovenia, hosted by a team of international experts from both ESA and ELGRA. 7)
Figure 9: The Summer School's goal was to offer an overview of current research under microgravity and hypergravity conditions in both Life and Physical Sciences, as well as explaining the benefits of performing research and technology demonstrations in altered gravity (image credit: ESA)
- The very first day set the pace with a series of lectures on the key aspects of gravity, including an overview of current gravity-related research and the experimental platforms available to simulate altered gravity. This was followed by a lesson on how to develop gravity-related experiments, highlighting the multitude of aspects a researcher needs to keep on top of, from identifying a novel research question and select the best suited experimental platform, to data analysis and communication of results.
Figure 10: Participating university students were encouraged to think about the lecture content through some fun quizzes (image credit: ESA)
- "We have been involved in a unique learning experience," said a Romanian student from the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), "collaborating with students with diverse backgrounds while international experts shared their first-hand experience. All in all, altered gravity research may be complex and extensive, but I am sure the ESA/ELGRA course will help our ideas take off."
- Over the following several days, the schedule was filled with fascinating lectures on a wide variety of topics, including:
a) Gravity Machines and Animal Models
b) Mass and heat transport in fluids in microgravity
c) Space Medicine
d) Use of Microbes to Support Humans in Space
e) Technology Demonstrations in Microgravity
f) Signalling Mechanisms of Bone Loss in Weightlessness
g) Space and the Vessel
h) Multiphase Thermal Management Research in Microgravity
i) EVA Training
- These were supplemented by talks given by former students of ESA Academy's hands-on programs, who enthusiastically shared stories of their experiences along with tips and tricks.
- The Summer School's second week was mostly earmarked for team projects. Working in small groups, the students were challenged to design their own gravity-related research experiment and investigate its feasibility. Each team was assigned two tutors from relevant fields of study. The tutors supported the students in their endeavors, offering guidance and the benefit of their real-life experience. The topics chosen by the students were both fascinating and diverse:
A) Understanding crystal growth in microgravity to enhance optoelectronic properties of solar cell materials using ISS ICE Cubes.
B) Determining surface properties of the ground from a single acceleration collision during landing on an asteroid using Gravitower.
C) Biomining using ISS KUBIK.
D) Hypergravity effect on neurocognitive activity using Short Arm Human Centrifuge.
E) Effect of altered gravity on white adipose tissue using Large Diameter Centrifuge and Random Positioning Machine.
F) Cardiorespiratory fitness evaluation in microgravity using Parabolic flights.
Figure 11: Experienced researchers advised all teams during the preparation of their experiment proposal (image credit: ESA)
- "Being part of a multidisciplinary team to create a gravity-related research project was both challenging and rewarding as I learned so much from my peers and mentors about their respective fields," explained an Irish student from Leiden University. "I am grateful to ESA Academy for organizing this summer school and helping me realize the exciting gravity-related career possibilities available for me to pursue after my studies."
Figure 12: University student team presenting the experimental setup of their project (image credit: ESA)
- Team project time was punctuated by additional workshops on project management and systems engineering & requirements definition. Students quickly realized the importance of these sessions, aiding them in the successful completion of their projects, and ultimately boosting their chances of obtaining the best possible experimental data.
- The students were then delighted by a guest lecture given by former ESA astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy. He captivated his audience with stories of his past adventures and views on the future of human spaceflight. This inspired the students and motivated them to push on with their projects, while also keeping in mind future career aspirations.
- The Summer School's final day was given to the team presentations. Students explained their projects to a panel of tutors, who were very impressed with the quality of the work, especially given the short timescales.
- Upon completion of the summer school, a Spanish student from the University of Edinburgh summarized their thoughts: "I applied for this programme to get an idea of what kind of research is being performed in microgravity/hypergravity, and hopefully get some inspiration for future research projects. The ESA/ELGRA research summer school has been fantastic to get creative and develop new ideas, and learn from the experts and my teammates. The range and diversity of people and disciplines made every day interesting and exciting, and I learned so much about areas that I had never even thought about before! It was an excellent opportunity to learn not only about how rigorous, challenging and rewarding putting a project together is, but also to be inspired and learn how to work together as a team and how to be efficient. And of course, the talk with the astronaut just made me want to become one too!"
Students log on for ESA Academy's Online Space Debris Training Course 2021
• June 10, 2021: From 17 to 28 May 2021, 36 university students from 13 different ESA Member States and Canada booted up their computers to participate in ESA Academy's Online Space Debris Training Course 2021. 8)
- A collaboration between ESA's Education and Space Debris Offices and delivered by ESA and external experts — all specialists in the field — the goal of this training course was to give the participants an introduction to the concept of space debris: why is it a problem, and what can be done to help?
Figure 13: ESA trainer explaining how to estimate on ground risk after spacecraft re-entry (image credit: ESA)
- "These two weeks have been a fantastic experience," said an Italian student from Parthenope University of Naples. "To learn about space debris directly from the ESA people, who collaborate on it, was an incomparable opportunity for me. A full immersion in the subject gave us the awareness about how a compliant space environment is essential for the future."
- The first week began with an introduction to space debris. The forces acting on a space object were explained, followed by an overview of the space debris environment, what it comprises and how it evolved to the current stage, and the dangers it contains. Lessons on legal and regulatory aspects proved enlightening, and certainly gave the students a different perspective. Lectures then moved on to the topic of mitigation, investigating why this is important, and technologies for passivation and deorbiting. A lecture on the future evolution of the space debris population showed the influence of successful implementation (or not) of these mitigation measures as well as other factors such as future launch rates. The ESA experts then discussed space surveillance, a topic that many students found to be particularly valuable. The first week finished with a deep-dive into collision avoidance, and the challenges of operating in an environment with the perils of space debris.
- The second week started with a fascinating presentation on protection and shielding, before segueing to re-entry, beginning with the aerothermodynamics that rule the journey of an object into Earth's atmosphere, then simulating this re-entry for various satellites. On-ground risk estimation for these re-entries was also discussed. The final two days of the course were dedicated to the future of the space debris problem, with an overview of active debris removal, and design for demise, which sees spacecraft specifically designed to optimize their destruction during re-entry.
- Throughout these two weeks, the technical lectures were complemented by a set of dedicated group project sessions. Using MASTER and DRAMA software, developed and used by the Space Debris Office and available to everybody, student groups worked on:
a) Introduction to ESA tools and flux assessment
b) Disposal strategies
c) Collision avoidance and damage assessment
d) Re-entry and casualty risk assessment
- Another session focused on the high-level mission and operations concept design of an active debris removal mission using approaches of system engineering and concurrent design.
- "This course not only offered many exciting lectures by experts of the field but also highly interesting and engaging group project sessions," explained a German student from the Technical University of Darmstadt. "Working on the diverse tasks about space debris in an international team was a great learning experience and helped a lot in deepening the understanding."
- The students were supported during their group project sessions by the ESA experts, imparting knowledge and facilitating discussions. The experts were impressed by the motivation and dedication shown by each group. After more than a year living with COVID-19 restrictions, the participants particularly valued the group sessions as an opportunity to interact with other students that share similar interests.
- At the end of the training course, the students were evaluated through an online test. Those that actively participated during the two weeks, and passed the test, will receive a certificate of participation and course transcript allowing them to request ECTS credit(s) for their participation for their respective universities.
- "The Space Debris Training Course has been a wonderful experience from all points of view," concluded an Italian student from Politecnico di Milano. "It has been an opportunity to gain deeper knowledge of such a relevant topic. Lectures and group sessions have been tailored to directly put in practice the theoretical concepts. Overall, it boosted my motivation towards space science and space debris!"
Space doctors in the virtual house
• March 5, 2021: ESA's first online space physicians training course took place from 21–22 January 2021, attracting over 50 participants from across Europe and the world. 9)
Figure 14: Space physicians training course. Over 50 medical doctors participated in ESA's first online space physicians training course on 21-22 January 2021. During this course they learned more about space medicine and supporting astronauts' health from ESA's leading experts (image credit: ESA)
- Usually conducted in person at ESA's EAC (European Astronaut Centre) in Cologne, Germany, the annual course is run by ESA's space medicine team and gives medical doctors the opportunity to learn more about space medicine and supporting astronauts' health from ESA's leading experts.
- Like many events over the past year, the course's digital nature was a result of COVID-19 regulations. However, it also meant more people could join than the 30 typically hosted on-site. The course also ran across two days, rather than the traditional three, with online lectures complemented by a course website that provided resources, materials and information for participants.
- EAC education and academic coordinator David Green and medical education coordinator Mareike Morawietz organized the course alongside ESA trainee Lena Ziehfreund and were particularly pleased with the caliber of participants whose questions kept experts on their toes.
Figure 15: Medical projects and technology team lead Jonathan Scott giving a presentation during ESA's online space physicians training course (image credit: ESA)
- "Coordinating a course like this is a challenge, but so is supporting astronauts during their missions to space," David explains. "Medical support is always provided to Earth's orbit through teleworking, so it seemed fitting that our experts should impart their knowledge to budding space physicians in this way as well."
- Throughout the two days, participants discussed the impact of space conditions on the human body and the countermeasures in place to mitigate this. They also learned about how flight control teams handle private medical communication with astronauts on the International Space Station, the risks of space radiation, the role of psychological assessment in astronaut selection and support, and how physicians contribute on the ground in space-like environments such as Concordia research station in Antarctica.
- Additional highlights included a question and answer session with former ESA astronaut and inter-agency coordinator Thomas Reiter who shared his perspective on life in space, and a presentation by former head of the ESA space medicine team Volker Damann on the future of space medicine both in terms of the International Space Station and future deep-space missions.
- David says, while the team hopes to be back on-site for subsequent editions of the space physicians training course to enable practical session and tour of facilities, the digital format was a success.
- "Thank you to all the physicians who participated in our online course this year. We really enjoyed providing an introduction to this fascinating field and look forward to building on this with the next group of medical doctors in 2022. Stay tuned for the next call for applications."
- ESA sponsors a medical research doctor in Concordia (Antarctica) every winter to study the long-term effects of isolation.
- The base is 3200 m above sea level and temperatures drop to –80°C. No supplies can be delivered during the Antarctic winter and nobody can leave the base, no matter what emergency.
- The station is the closest thing on Earth to interplanetary exploration. Studying the effects of isolation there is preparing ESA for the real thing: a mission to Mars.
- Each year ESA asks medical doctors to apply for a year on the ice, running experiments at the edge of the world.
Figure 16: Concordia crewmember waves to the Sun in Antarctica. So far from the equator, the days and nights can be long – very long. The winter night lasts up to four months when the Sun does not rise above the horizon (image credit: ESA/IPEV/PNRA–A. Kumar)
Launch of ESERO Estonia: space to support STEM education in school
• March 3, 2021: The European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO) in Estonia was officially launched on 3 March 2021. ESERO Estonia, hosted by the University of Tartu and led by the Tartu Observatory Visitor Centre, joins ESA's growing ESERO network, currently active in 18 other ESA Member States. 10)
- ESERO is ESA's flagship project in support of school education. Over the past 15 years, ESERO has used the inspirational power of space for the teaching and learning of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at school – a very effective approach adopted by hundreds of thousands of teachers across Europe since the project started.
- ESERO Estonia was inaugurated during a virtual launch event hosted by the University of Tartu and held in the presence of Madis Võõras, Head of Estonian Space Office and Head of Estonian ESA delegation; Chiara Manfletti, Head of ESA's Policy and Programme Coordination Department; Imbi Henno, Chief Expert of General Education Department, Estonian Ministry of Education and Research; and Antti Tamm, Director of the Tartu Observatory.
- "Tartu Observatory has a track record of 200 years of science excellence. However, education and science popularization has always been considered important here, for the sake of the development of science and the whole society. By joining the ESERO family, we reaffirm the importance of supporting teachers and educating students, to nourish their interest in STEM subjects, enhance their competences and skills, and stimulate them to pursue a career in this domain, including space," said Antti Tamm, Director of the Tartu Observatory.
- All ESEROs are driven by common overarching objectives and are run under the coordination of ESA with the contribution of multiple national organizations and institutions. Best practices and resources are exchanged within the network, but the national activities are tailored to the national education curricula, needs and context.
- "The ESERO project is a very good example of the multiple tangible benefits space can provide to society", said Chiara Manfletti. Head of ESA's Policy and Programs Coordination Department. "We need to ensure that future citizens have the scientific knowledge and skills expected from them in the 21st century, and that they are able to keep fostering innovation. The space context has proven to be an incredibly powerful means to achieve this," she continued. "Through solid national partnerships and a bottom-up approach, the ESERO project is able to respond to the specific needs of each ESA Member State in the field of school education, bringing valuable return of investment to society."
Figure 17: Former astronaut Christer Fuglesang welcomes ESERO Estonia (video credit: ESA)
- Estonia has a long tradition in astrophysics research, and has contributed to several ESA scientific and technology projects. Estonia's cooperation with ESA started with the signature of a Cooperation Agreement on 20 June 2007. In 2015 Estonia officially became the 21st ESA Member State and, in addition to astrophysics, is active in several fields including Earth Observation, life and material sciences, and space technology. Estonia's first satellite, ESTCube-1, a technology demonstrator developed and assembled by the University of Tartu as part of the Estonian Student Satellite Program, was launched in 2013 by Vega (flight VV02). In 2018, ‘Myoton Pro', the first research instrument developed in Estonia arrived at the International Space Station. Most recent highlights include Estonia's participation in: ESA science missions Comet Interceptor and Ariel; contributing to NASA Artemis program; and winning a 7.5-million Horizon 2020 grant for developing a tomography scanner based on cosmic myon particles instead of harmful X-rays.
- In such context, the ESERO project will therefore contribute to responding to the continuous demand for qualified specialists and professionals. This is especially important in a historical moment when rapid developments in space are opening up new opportunities within the sector in Estonia and across Europe.
- ESERO primarily addresses teachers – the key access point to students – by means of teacher training and an innovative didactic approach based on real-life professional practices and role models. The project also offers direct opportunities for students via interdisciplinary school projects and initiatives.
Figure 18: Photo of the Tartu Observatory (credit: Tartu Observatory)
ESERO in Estonia
- Under the leadership of the Tartu Observatory, and with the continuous support of ESA, ESERO Estonia can rely on the educational and pedagogical expertise of key national partners, the Energy Discovery Centre and Science Centre AHHAA.
- In the last months, ESERO Estonia carried out a thorough study with the aim of identifying national needs and understanding how ESERO will be able to add value to school education in Estonia. During this study an analysis of the Estonian curriculum and the national teacher training practices was done, as well as multiple consultations with teachers and the Ministry of Education. The study was presented during the event by ESERO Estonia Manager, Heli Latt, highlighting niche-areas where ESERO can have the greatest impact, providing recommendations on the format of teacher trainings, and assessing the role of ESERO and ESA's space–related resources in meeting those needs.
- The results of the study will contribute to meeting one of the project's key objectives: to reach the whole territory in an inclusive way, by ensuring that the widest possible range of ESERO opportunities are available for school teachers and students across the whole country.
- In-school teacher training will form the backbone of the ESERO Estonia activity portfolio, structured to set the scene of the real-life space context before introducing relating curriculum-relevant practical activities for the classroom. ESERO Estonia will also provide free innovative classroom materials that cater to the Estonian STEM curriculum, interdisciplinary school projects and activities, STEM career information, as well as access to role models from the industry and academia.
ESERO in Europe
- ESERO is ESA's flagship educational project targeting primary and secondary school education in Europe. With Estonia joining, the European network of ESERO offices now covers 18 ESA Member States: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and the UK.
Gravity-Related Experiments Training Week 2021 concludes as student projects officially start
• February 9, 2021: A few weeks ago, 8 new teams were selected for some of ESA Academy's hand-on programs Drop-, Spin- and Fly Your Thesis! The university student teams' first task after selection was to participate in a training week that would help them organize their big projects to achieve the best quality science for their research topics. This training week was delivered online for the first time. Despite the physical separation between the students and the trainers, the result was overwhelmingly positive. 11)
- "The training week not only equipped us with all background needed for a successful experiment campaign, it also was a unique opportunity to meet fellow students, learn about ESA and current research in the field. Despite having to do the sessions online this year, it was interactive and fun and brought our team closer together. A great experience!" said PhD student from team MIND Gravity.
- While some of the sessions had to be amended to suit the online format, all the important topics were still discussed, such as project management, risk mitigation, soft skills with regards to team building, defining requirements, verifying and validating experiment performance and communication with stakeholders. Former students were invited to share some lessons learned with respect to their past involvement in the programs, providing valuable advice for the recently selected teams. All the teams were also given the opportunity to speak to their assigned engineer from the facilities that operate the gravity altering platforms. Novespace, ZARM and ESA's Large Diameter Centrifuge staff were all available to discuss the preliminary designs of the experiments and spent hours discussing the best solutions to ensure successful and safe experiment building.
- These sessions were interspersed with lectures from prominent scientists and researchers in the field of gravity-related research briefly giving an overview of physical sciences as well as life sciences. The students were also delivered an inspirational lecture from a Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Glasgow who spoke about our knowledge of gravity from the times of Galileo Galilei to Newton and beyond with massive international projects such as LIGO and upcoming programs such as ESA's LISA mission. An experienced ESA astronaut with three space flights also spoke to the students and took them through his adventures in space with amazing photographs and powerful messages of Earth being strong and resilient, but all life on it being fragile and susceptible.
- Each team will encounter different challenges along their route as nothing is ever straightforward, but with the new knowledge bestowed upon them, the students will be able to design, build and test their hardware with greater confidence and success.
- "I found the training week enjoyable and informative. The lectures and workshops helped me with all aspects of the research project, and I feel reassured not only of the support available, but also of my own ability to contribute to a successful campaign." said a Bachelor student from team Noah's Arc.
Figure 19: Last week another online training session organized by ESA Academy's Training and Learning Program concluded with over 30 University students who are now setting off on a year-long adventure of building, testing and performing experiments on gravity altering platforms (image credit: ESA)
Online Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Communications Training Course 2021 inspires University students
• February 1, 2021: Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt lives around the world, many activities can continue thanks to modern technology. ESA Academy have embraced this approach, and have recently run the Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Communications Training Course 2021. 12)
Figure 20: Spread across eight afternoon sessions between 11 and 22 January, delivery was entirely online. In attendance were 60 Bachelor, Master, and PhD students, all with engineering backgrounds, from 17 different ESA Member States and three Associate States. Lending their expertise as course tutor was a senior ESA Engineer belonging to the Advanced Mission Concepts and Management Support Office of the Operations Department (image credit: ESA)
- As effective as virtual courses are, it can be difficult to foster the sense of camaraderie that comes from being on-site together. To help with this, an ice-breaker activity was organized online with the students the week before the course began. This was a new initiative for ESA Academy's Training and Learning Program, and was a positive experience for both the students and organizers. "Having the ice-breaker and meeting everyone for the first time was organized well and allowed me to settle my nerves before the actual course started," remarked a British student from the University of Nottingham.
- The course's primary objective was to familiarize students with the fundamental concepts of spacecraft telecommunications. Being "Ladybird"-style meant that lectures were kept to a general point of view, and avoided heavy analytical or mathematical detail. Generous use was made of easy-to-understand examples, in addition to intuitive diagrams.
a) Over the eight afternoon sessions, the following topics were covered:
b) Signal modulation and demodulation
c) Channel coding
d) Communication protocols
f) Signal reception
g) An overview of several real ground stations.
Figure 21: Trainer delivering a lecture during the Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Communications online training course (image credit: ESA)
- The course trainer has many years of experience with spacecraft operations, which proved invaluable when providing actual examples of missions and real operational scenarios. This brought the topics to life for the students, immersing them in the problems that can arise during a real space mission. During lectures the trainer would often challenge the students with quizzes, keeping them on their toes!
- Supplementing the lectures were lessons from guest speakers; an introduction to the Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System; and a presentation of ESEC and on-site activities, from where the PROBA satellites are operated.
- Another objective was to "fill the gap" between spacecraft operators and telecommunications designers. Often designers have difficulty "thinking as operators", which can create problems. To address this, the course encouraged students to consider spacecraft operators' points of view when designing a ground station or telecommunications subsystem of a spacecraft, as well as trying to solve communications problems.
Figure 22: Students learning about ESEC activities during the Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Communications training course (image credit: ESA)
- This was the 6th edition of the Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Communications Training Course, but the first time it has run entirely online. Despite the distance, participants were able to feel fully involved, have all their questions answered, and gained knowledge and skills that will help them in their studies, and in their future careers in the space sector.
- An Italian student from the University of Manchester summarized their experiences at the course's conclusion: "A superb, intensive, and comprehensive course on space communications for all students - even those with non-technical backgrounds. The outstanding quality of each session was supported by the number of fascinating interactions between the trainer and the attendees, which fostered both curiosity and interest despite the distance. I found myself thinking outside the box on several occasions in order to creatively come up with feasible solutions that could work in the world of space engineering. Not only has the course contributed towards my professional development, but also helped me establish some strong relationships with other peers who are also driven by a profound passion for space."
Two teams selected for Drop Your Thesis! 2021
• January 21, 2021: ESA Education is pleased to announce that two teams have been selected to participate in the 2021 Drop Tower campaign by a Selection Board composed of experts from ZARM, ELGRA (European Low Gravity Research Association) and ESA. The teams that will see their experiments subjected to microgravity are MIND Gravity from Bonn University, Cologne University (DE) and SmartDust from Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg (DE). 13)
Note: ZARM (Zentrum für angewandte Raumfahrttechnologie und Mikrogravitation), Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity - since 1985, an institute of the University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany.
- The Drop Tower is an imposing building in the heart of Bremen University campus in Germany. It's a facility that provides incomparable microgravity levels whilst remaining Earth-bound. Indeed, with levels not exceeding 10 -6 g for periods ranging from 4.3 to 9.7 seconds, experiments needing very low levels of gravity really benefit from this facility. This is exactly the case for both the student proposals that needed short periods of extremely good quality microgravity.
- MIND Gravity intends to investigate for the first time in a non-invasive, multicellular setting, isolated neuronal networks using Multi-Electrode Array (MEA) technology. The advantage of using these MEA over standard patch-clamp methodologies is that the students can record in real time electrophysiological readings and electrical stimulation of a complex and functional neuronal network. This non-destructive method of looking at action potentials in mature networks during 1g and microgravity also means that the samples can be used for cytological purposes, visualization of changes in cytoskeletal proteins and pre- and post- synaptic markers. The 6 PhD students will all be working hard at making the best experiment possible capable of taking advantage of the 4.3 seconds on offer to them.
- SmartDust is a team of 4 Bachelor students and will investigate granular gases, but with a particularly interesting technological add-on. The students will place in a container containing hundreds of free-floating spheres a handful of ‘smart' ones which will record and relay their attitude, velocity and rotation in real time. This provides the young scientists with a novel method of investigating the collisions between particles without relying on the standard stereoscopic methods which is plagued by the fact that tracking the movement of some balls with a camera will often be hampered by the other balls floating in front and obscuring the object of interest. Additionally, this smart dust method provides invaluable rotational data that isn't trivial to obtain in the standard methods. The students opted for the catapult mode of the tower, offering them 9.3 seconds of microgravity.
- The teams will soon attend an online workshop to get them started on the right foot with their projects – lectures on project management, systems engineering and soft skills will be accompanied with long one-on-one sessions with ZARM engineers to detail out the best possible designs to fulfill their scientific goals and requirements.
Figure 23: Inside the 120 m high steel tube of the ZARM Drop Tower (image credit: ESA)
Selection of Fly Your Thesis! 2021 teams announced
• December 21, 2020: Three teams have been chosen by a panel of experts to participate in an ESA Academy parabolic flight campaign in 2021. With only a few months to prepare the experiments, teams from University of Cranfield, Glasgow, Imperial College, London, Delft University and Carlos III in Madrid will have to hit the ground running in the new year before taking to the skies a few months later for their weightless flight. 14)
- Earlier in 2020 the teams responded to a call released by ESA Academy on the Fly Your Thesis! website asking for experiment proposals to be submitted by October. While many applications were received, the panel of experts whittled the choice down to eight potential teams and experiments that looked promising. These shortlisted teams were then asked to submit a first version of a technical document for Novespace as well as present their project to the panel of experts. Like many other meetings that occurred throughout 2020, this assessment was also conducted virtually which was an added complication for the students who had to rehearse their timing and delivery from separate locations.
- After deliberation, the panel selected three teams to participate in the educational program. Team DZH Dynamics is a team who applied for the second time. The team initially proposed their experiment for Fly Your Thesis! 2020 but with too many uncertainties about the concept and safety concerns, the team were given feedback on how to improve their proposal should they wish to resubmit. Roll forward one year and the team submitted a proposal that addressed all the concerns of the panel the year before, thus opening up the doors for the students to enter the program in 2021. DZH Dynamics is composed of 3 master and 3 PhD students from University Carlos III of Madrid, Imperial College and TU Delft who will investigate and capitalize on the Dzhanibekov effect in an attempt to control and save energy in attitude maneuvers of a rotating and shape changing or ‘morphing' satellite.
- ZEUS is a team of 4 PhD students from Glasgow University who will investigate the control algorithms required to detumble femto satellites, so called chipsats, in microgravity with the use of magnetorquers actuating in a well-controlled magnetic environment. The team will be challenged by the miniaturization of the satellite technology and the short period of time before which these free-floating units will impinge on their experimental setup due to g-jitters.
- LEOniDAS is a team from Cranfield University who are wanting to test the deployment of so-called drag sails, large surface area sails that are deployed at the end of the operational life of Low Earth satellites to aid in speeding up the process of orbit decay through increased atmospheric drag. The team intend to test new deployment mechanisms in microgravity as well as the effect of deployment on the host satellite's attitude during and after deployment.
- At the end of January 2021, the teams will attend a virtual training workshop where they will be taught about systems engineering, project and team management, communication and outreach skills and spend several hours with the expert engineers from Novespace. This will be done alongside other teams participating in other Your Thesis! programs and should kick start their projects in the right direction.
Figure 24: Novespace's AirZeroG A310 aircraft in its new livery (image credit: Novespace)
Teams selected for Spin Your Thesis! 2021
• December 14, 2020: Three university teams were selected by the Spin Your Thesis! Selection Board to perform their student experiments in hypergravity at the end of next year. Despite pandemic restrictions in place in universities meaning added difficulties for students to work together ESA was happy to select the best projects for next year's hypergravity opportunity. 15)
- Several student teams submitted experimental proposals which were critically assessed and reviewed by a panel of experts from ESA and the European Low Gravity Research Association. In the end, three teams were selected.
Figure 25: 11/15 of the Team GDArms (image credit: ESA)
- Team FORTE from Belgium, (Ghent University/Antwerp University/SCK-CEN - FibrOblast hypeRgrafiTy Effects (FORTE) intend to study the effect of microgravity on wound healing and in particular the countermeasure benefits that hypergravity has on this delicate process. The team comprised of 2 PhD and 1 master student will use a random positioning machine (RPM) to simulate microgravity and the LDC to simulate hypergravity. The team are in a perfect position to test different regimes of gravity exposure on the wound healing process of skin. This could have important implications for long term space travel where astronauts tend to lose up to 20% of the epidermis. Thus, understanding the intricate molecular pathways and triggers that lead to dysfunctional cell signalling and proliferation in various and sequential gravity environments would be helpful for such issues.
- Another selected team called NOAHS ARC from the UK (Cambridge, Warwick and Nottingham universities) proposed a well founded study which would focus on the passive receptor mediated uptake of glucose in giant unilamellar vesicles (GUV) mediated by GLUT-1 receptor using live imaging fluorescence at different g levels. Altering gravity field in plasma membranes has been shown in various models to alter its biological properties namely fluidity and viscosity. The team's proposal fits in well with prior research to dissect the principles of nutrition uptake in various g levels and using a cell free system should yield interesting results.
- The third team to be selected are The Levitators from Durham University (UK) comprised of 2 masters and 1 bachelor student. They will investigate the phenomenon known as near field acoustic levitation (NFAL) which occurs when a vibrating plate causes an object to levitate above it due to the pressure between the objects created with each vibration. Interestingly, the team identified a lack of research in this field when it came to gravity modulation and so submitted a clear and concise proposal to ESA Academy to use the large diameter centrifuge.
- The centrifuge is located in ESA ESTEC, Noordwijk, ESA's largest site dedicated to space research and technology development. It has an 8m diameter and can generate centrifugal forces equivalent of anything in between 1 g and 20 g. The experiments are placed inside swing-out gondolas which can accommodate up to 80kg of hardware which, when spinning at 20g makes the outer gondola travel at approximately 120 km/h, impressive to see and even more impressive when your experiment is housed within!
Successful CDR workshop for Fly Your Satellite! teams
• November 25, 2020: The Critical Design Review (CDR) workshop of the three student CubeSat teams participating in the third cycle of ESA Education's Fly Your Satellite! program, was held online between 11 and 25 November. 16)
- The CDR is an expert-led review process that evaluates the overall quality of the CubeSat design to confirm that it is suitable to meet the technical and programmatic requirements. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic,for the first time the event was organized in an online format.
- In preparation for the CDR workshop, a panel of 23 specialists from ESA's Technological (ESTEC) and Operations Centers (ESOC) reviewed the comprehensive design data package delivered by the teams. During the workshop, the student teams presented their progress since they joined the FYS program, project status and current challenges to the panel. Following the presentations, the students had the opportunity to discuss the issues raised during the review in one-on-one meetings with specialists from different technical domains and received valuable feedback and input for improvement. By following similar methods to those usually adopted in the ESA review processes for large missions, the students became familiar with the standard practice in a professional environment, while further increasing the chance for mission success of their CubeSats.
- The participating teams in the third cycle of FYS (Fly Your Satellite!) are:
a) AcubeSat – The Aristotle Space & Aeronautics Team (ASAT) is composed of students from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. ASAT is developing a CubeSat to conduct a biological experiment that investigates molecular mechanisms in space conditions.
b) SOURCE (Stuttgart Operated University Research CubeSat for Evaluation and Education) – is a CubeSat mission of the University of Stuttgart, Germany, which will monitor the processes involved in uncontrolled entry into Earth's atmosphere by imaging meteoroids and using in-situ heat flux measurements to characterize demise.
c) UCAnFly – Developed by a student team from the University of Cadiz, Spain, UCAnFly is a nanosatellite to characterize novel miniaturized magnetic measurement systems at millihertz frequencies with low-noise conditions and long integration times in the harsh space environment.
- When all the major issues have been closed-out successfully, the design of the CubeSats will be declared ready to proceed to the next phase of the CubeSat project: manufacturing, assembly and integration of the spacecraft, followed by testing in ambient conditions to demonstrate functionality. To help the teams in preparing for the upcoming steps, the workshop was accompanied by lectures on In-Orbit-Demonstration CubeSats and project management, as well as a virtual tour of ESEC-Galaxia's CubeSat Support Facility (CSF). The CSF is ESA Academy's test centre which hosts environmental test campaigns for the satellites of the Fly Your Satellite! program and space-related hardware of other programs from ESA Education. Networking and team bonding – integral parts of any workshop – were supported by social activities, such as a pub quiz.
- Despite the unusual format for a review workshop, both students and ESA specialists were happy with the achieved results and experience. One student shared his experiences from the workshop:
- "Knowledge gained, perspective changed, awareness raised are some of the many benefits from the CDR Workshop. Although during the pandemic, live participation was not feasible, the fun of the workshop did not go away. Our team has a great benefit from the CDR Workshop from the interaction we had with the experts for the technical aspects. Getting such a quality feedback from experts who work on real missions is invaluable!"
- With confidence that they will keep up the high quality work that they have been doing so far, ESA wishes all teams the best of luck in the steps that follow.
Human Space Physiology Training Course goes fully online for 2020 edition
• November 19, 2020: ESA's Education Office and Space Medicine Team have successfully adapted ESA Academy's Human Space Physiology Training Course to run online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From 12 – 23 October 2020, 53 university students from 16 different ESA Member States, Slovenia and Canada learned about life in space and the physiological adaptations associated with it. 17)
- 18 experts from ESA and research institutes across Europe, including several universities, highlighted how current human spaceflight and Earth-based analogues such as long-term bed-rest and over-wintering in Antarctica are used to investigate underlying physiological changes. Understanding these changes is critical to help plan humanity's future exploration of the Solar System.
Figure 26: Tutor session to discuss the group project (image credit: ESA)
- A Spanish student from Autonomous University of Madrid reported: "In spite of the challenges posed by the online format, this was much more than a course: it was a learning experience where we could meet top-tier experts, and moreover, get to know students from diverse backgrounds with shared interests about life in space. After these two weeks, I know for sure that space medicine is not sci-fi anymore – thank you ESA for broadening our horizons!"
- The course began with students learning about the fascinating history of human spaceflight. This led onto how the environment of space differs from life on Earth, presenting novel challenges for space exploration. Physiological systems were discussed, examining how underlying mechanisms respond to being in space. The field of human spaceflight is supported by many other areas of expertise, so students received a grounding in how nutrition, exercise, and psychology all play a role in supporting crew during their space missions. Two additional elements trialled on the course last year and retained after positive student feedback were: adaptation of the immune system in space, and operational space medicine delivered by an experienced ESA flight surgeon.
- This solid foundation of knowledge propelled the students into the second week, which was spent working on a group project. Working remotely in teams of five or six, the students were tasked with investigating the challenges of human spaceflight in future missions beyond the International Space Station.
- The teams were assigned a topic from a wide range of complex problems and, with the support of expert tutors, asked to consider approaches including identifying knowledge gaps and devising innovative solutions. The groups then presented their findings to their fellow students and experts on the final day. The topics included:
a) One-size-fits-all: Evaluate the operational impact of imposing crewmember size restrictions for the Lunar Gateway, a planned mini-space station.
b) A Sense of Perspective: Evaluate potential orientation, hand-eye coordination and decision-making issues that arise from living and working in micro-gravity, and approaches to support safe and productive operation of vehicles on the Lunar surface.
c) Doing the Lunar Locomotion: Evaluate approaches that could enable safe and productive Lunar Extra Vehicular Activities.
d) Research Rocks!: Evaluate the challenges, risks and considerations for surface geological / biological sampling selection and collection.
e) Beyond Van Allen: Evaluate the risks and approaches to limit the effects of radiation exposure for one-year missions to the Lunar Surface.
- Some student groups also took on an optional creative challenge: designing their own team badge! This is common among teams working in the space sector, and helped the students to bond and rally around their chosen challenge. "I'm so lucky to have been part of such an incredibly intensive course," enthused a Portuguese student from the University of Lisbon. "Space has always intrigued me and this training was just the beginning of unravelling such mystery. From inspiring and educational lectures on human physiological adaptions, to the possibility of developing a group project with colleagues from around the world, to real-life testimonies of people who work directly in this field, ESA made a tremendous positive impact on my training as a future health professional."
- Transforming the course from in-person to online required numerous changes to content and methods. Extending the duration to 10 days gave enough time for remote work on the group project, and allowed additional lecture content to be included. The course trainers adapted their approach too, allowing virtual Q&As during and after lessons, and suggesting simple experiments that the students could perform at home for a more hands-on experience. Amazingly, ESA astronaut and former ISS commander Alexander Gerst joined the group for a session on the last day of the course, answering students' questions about life in space!
- "I loved participating in the whole training course from the beginning to the end," said a Belgian student from the University of Antwerp. "Not knowing what to expect, it was very exciting to start a course about a space-related subject in a European setting. I learned a lot about human physiology in space, and why it is critical to examine this regarding future deep space missions. Was it all worth it? Yes, definitely! My fascination for human space research has only grown, making me want to pursue a career in this area and explore new horizons."
Figure 27: Group picture participants Online Human Space Physiology Training Course 2020 (image credit: ESA)
Raising standards: 50 University students virtually attend Online Standardization Training Course 2020
• October 14, 2020: ESA Academy's Online Standardization Training Course 2020 has been successfully completed, running from 28 September to 7 October 2020. A collaboration between ESA's Education Office and ESA's Requirements and Standardization Section (TEC-QES), this was the fourth fully-online ESA Academy training session, allowing University students to participate safely despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 18)
- In virtual attendance were 50 students with engineering and science backgrounds, from 14 different ESA Member States, Canada and Latvia. Course trainers were ESA and external experts from a variety of different disciplines within the space industry.
- The core intent of the training course was to introduce students to the European Cooperation for Space Standardization (ECSS), and to explore how the standards within the ECSS system are applied to space-related disciplines. The ECSS provides a coherent, single set of standards that are made applicable by ESA in the space related projects and business agreements and are crucial to the sector as they form an essential tool to facilitate work between Space Agencies and industry.
- Despite the importance of standardization, the ECSS standards are not usually taught at universities, which leads to a gap between students' education and the knowledge they need for a career in the sector. The Online Standardization Training Course 2020 bridges this gap. Said a German student from Dresden University of Technology, "I was impressed by the practicality and comprehensiveness of the lectures. It was a fascinating experience, covering a lot of aspects related to spacecraft and space mission design, focused on the reasoning of the standards and their application in practice. Highly recommended to anyone interested in space mission design."
Figure 28: Introduction to software engineering standards (image credit: ESA)
Figure 29: Lecture about management standards (image credit: ESA)
- The students began by receiving an overview of the ECSS system, focusing on what are the challenges related to space technology when compared to the terrestrial applications, on the key concepts from top disciplines. This was followed by exploration of the applicable standards, why they are important, and how to apply them to a number of disciplines throughout the space mission cycle:
a) Power Management
b) Product Assurance and Quality Assessment
d) System Engineering
e) Communications Protocols
f) Control Engineering
g) Thermal Engineering
h) Electrical Engineering
i) Software Engineering and Software Product Assurance
j) Ground Systems and Operations
- The course trainers made good use of examples, exercises, and personal experience to demonstrate the importance of the standards, explaining when and how they use them. "Along with the description and the use of the ECSS standards, we had a broad overview of all the disciplines met during the different phases of a space project," said a Belgian student from University of Liège. "This endows me with a better understanding of how you can contribute to top-notch space missions and how they are made possible thanks to high-quality recommendations and guidelines provided by the standards."
Figure 30: Some students share their point of view with us (image credit: ESA)
- On the final day, the students were evaluated through an online evaluation questionnaire in order to obtain a grade for their course transcript. With this document and their certificates of participation, the students will be able to claim ECTS credit(s) from their respective universities.
- "The ESA Standards online training course was a great opportunity to get a fundamental insight into different space disciplines," concluded a German student from Konstanz University of Applied Sciences. "Standards are important tools in the development of space technology, therefore it was exciting to learn about this highly interesting topic from ESA professionals who work with these standards daily. It is remarkable how much knowledge was imparted within a very short time, which was brought to the students online in an understandable and compact way."
60 students attend Online Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations Training Course 2020
• September 28, 2020: ESA Academy's Training and Learning Program has resumed after a summer break with the 2020 edition of its highly-regarded Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations Training Course. 19)
- Moving the course fully online, to ensure safe participation during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed for a large cohort of 60 Bachelor, Master and PhD students, with a science or engineering background, from 15 different ESA Member States and Canada. The training course was offered by a senior ESA Engineer belonging to the Advanced Mission Concepts and Management Support Office of the Operations Department.
- Running over eight morning sessions between 7 and 18 September, the course had two main objectives: teach students how to think like an operator; and explain the ways in which each subsystem affects how spacecraft are operated. The style of teaching was in line with the "Ladybird approach" where lectures are kept to a general point of view and avoid overly-complex analytical and mathematical detail. Many concrete examples would be given, with students aided by well-designed diagrams that anybody with a general science background could understand and interpret. "I would characterize it as ‘A Ladybird Guide to thinking outside of the box'," said a Greek student from the University of Patras. "This course was a combination of engrossing teaching and well-balanced interaction. Thanks ESA not only for getting us closer to our dreams but bringing people having common dreams together as well. I feel immensely inspired and motivated!"
- The students were thrown in at the deep end with their very first lesson imparting upon them the importance of having an operator's mindset, flagging a multitude of psychological traps that they would need to avoid in order to be successful in spacecraft operations. Clearly, this would be no ordinary training course! "You can definitely understand how a spacecraft works and the technical and psychological traps you are facing as an operator," explained a Romanian student from Politehnica University of Bucharest. "It was an amazing course, really enjoyable and interactive despite it being held online. It increased my passion for the space sector and, honestly, I didn't think that this was even possible."
The week's lectures were themed around spacecraft subsystems, with course leaders and students discussing the advantages and disadvantages of various technologies within each:
a) Attitude Determination and Control Subsystem (ADCS)
b) Orbit Control System (OCS)
e) Telemetry, Telecommunication & Command (TT&C)
f) On-Board Data Handling (OBDH)
g) On-Board Software (OBSW)
- Supplementing the lectures were a plethora of real-life examples of operational mistakes. Students were tasked with determining the cause of the problems, and how they could have been fixed – or ideally avoided altogether. This approach to learning fully engaged the students, and turned past mistakes into valuable learning experiences for this upcoming generation of operations specialists.
- Alongside these lessons were sessions on the Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System and the ESEC-Redu site, home of the PROBA satellites operations centre. Normally tours of ESEC-Redu would be conducted in-person, but the online approach was still impactful and gave the students a taste of what life is like for real operators at this site.
- The final day culminated with an online test to evaluate the students' performances. Those that pass will be able to use this, along with their certificate of participation, to request ECTS credit(s) from their universities.
Figure 31: Lecturers and participants during spacecraft operations training course (image credit: ESA)
"The course was totally unlike anything I'd ever done before and I really enjoyed myself," said an Irish student from the University of Limerick. "In particular, it was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about spacecraft operations, a topic that is rarely covered at university. Furthermore, we were able to apply the skills we'd learned to real-life operational experiences, comparing our strategies with those used by the operations teams looking after spacecraft in those cases. One of the highlights, though, was getting to meet other university students also interested in space and to network with them. The Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations was an experience I won't forget in a hurry. I'd recommend it to anyone!"
ESERO France takes off to support and inspire STEM education
• On 23 June 2020, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) officially launched the French European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO). 20)
Hosted at CNES and led by the CNES Education team based in Toulouse, ESERO France joins ESA's ESERO network, currently active in 17 other ESA Member States.
In the past decade the project has been supporting school education through the inspirational power of space - an approach that has already proven very effective for the teaching and learning of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at school.
All ESEROs are driven by common overarching objectives and are run under the coordination of ESA and with the contribution of multiple national organizations and institutions. Best practises and resources are exchanged within the network, but the national activities are tailored to the national education curricula, needs and context.
Jan Wörner, ESA Director General, and Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of CNES, signed the ESERO France contract during the ESA Council Meeting taking place in Germany this week.
This joint project builds on the strong commitment of the two space organizations to support scientific and technical education, thereby recognizing its vital role in Europe's growth, development and competitiveness for society as a whole.
France, a leading European country in science and technology research and a pivotal player in Europe's space program, also needs to meet the continuous demand for qualified specialists and professionals. "Since its creation CNES has always pursued an active education policy in close collaboration with the French Ministry of Education and Youth. By joining the ESERO project through CNES, we reaffirm the importance of educating students, starting from an early age, to nourish their interest in STEM, enhance their competences and skills, and stimulate them to pursue a career in this domain, including space," said Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of CNES.
ESERO primarily addresses teachers – the key access point to students – by means of teacher trainings and an innovative didactic approach based on real-life professional practices and role models. The project also offers direct opportunities for students via interdisciplinary school projects and initiatives.
"The ESERO project is a very good example of the multiple tangible benefits space can provide to society", said Jan Wörner, ESA Director General. "We need to ensure that future citizens have the scientific knowledge and skills expected from them in the 21st century, and that they are able to keep fostering innovation. The space context has proven to be an incredibly powerful means to achieve this," he continued. "ESERO is a collaborative large-scale project that is able to respond to the specific needs of each country and that brings tangible results."
Figure 32: The ESERO France contract was signed on 23 June 2020. From left to right: CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall and ESA Director General Jan Wörner (image credit: ESA)
ESERO in France
Under the leadership of CNES, and with the continuous support of ESA, ESERO France can count on the educational and pedagogical expertise of a key consortium of national partners, such as: the Cité de l'espace (Science and Space Museum), the national network Planète Sciences, as well as La Fondation La Main à la Pate, with its Maisons pour la Science.
As a first task, ESERO France will perform a thorough study this summer with the aim of identifying national needs: analyzing the curriculum, identifying gaps and niche-areas where ESERO can have the greatest impact, assessing the role of ESERO and ESA's space–related resources in meeting those needs, and providing recommendations for the ESERO France activity portfolio.
The results of the study will also contribute to meeting one of the project's key objectives: to reach the whole territory in an inclusive way, by ensuring that the widest possible range of ESERO opportunities are available for teachers and students across the whole country.
The trainings offered by ESERO France will be entirely free of charge and accredited by the French Ministry of National Education and Youth. ESERO will also provide for free innovative classroom materials that cater to the French STEM curriculum, interdisciplinary school projects, and access to STEM career information and role models from the space sector. In addition, it will contribute to increasing awareness about the significance of space as an important backbone of contemporary society and economy.
ESERO in Europe
ESERO is ESA's flagship educational project targeting primary and secondary school education in Europe. With France joining, the European network of ESERO offices now covers 18 ESA Member States: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.
Final congratulations to the 2019-2020 Climate Detectives student teams
• June 17, 2020: More than 450 students took up the role of Climate Detectives and shared their investigations in 2019-2020, ending another great year for this school project. 21)
Teams of students were challenged to work like detectives and identify and investigate a local climate problem. In order to do this, they collected and analyzed Earth Observation data, either from satellites or from local weather measurements. Based on their investigations, teams proposed ways to help reduce the climate problem identified by them, or raise awareness about it.
ESA is very inspired and impressed by the work done by the teams. The COVID-19 lockdown meant harder work conditions for everyone. With schools switching to online and distance learning, many teams had to find alternative ways to complete their investigations, and some were unable to perform the field work they had planned.
Taking into consideration the hard circumstances, ESA decided to cancel the Climate Detectives School Award for the 2019-2020 project edition. However, all teams that shared their projects on the Climate Detectives platform will receive a special ESA goodie in recognition of their very special efforts.
Figure 33: Creative Students's laboratory Team working on EO Browser looking for satellite images of their town (image credit: ESA)
Some of the projects shared by the participating teams stood out for the investigation presented and for the way teams explored a local climate problem, and ESA has therefore decided to mention these highly commendable teams:
- Flood and wildfire explorers, Greece – The team investigated the effects of wildfires, deforestation, and increased precipitation on the severity of flash floods.
- I.E.S.S. FOR CLIMATE, Italy – The team explored why in recent times sudden and violent whirlwinds are generated in the geographical area of Emilia Romagna, Italy.
- Vianu Climate Detectives, Romania – The team investigated whether there is any connection between deforestation and the disappearance of the ‘classical' four seasons.
- Water Detectives, Malta – The team investigated how changes in climate, mainly rainfall and temperature, are impacting water flow and farming in Qlejgħa Valley, Malta.
ESA would also like to highlight a team of promising young scientists:
- Creative students' laboratory, Romania – This student team, from 8 to 9 years old, investigated whether changes in climate are affecting the Danube river.
All the commended teams will receive a special certificate in addition to the goodie.
The ESA Education team would like to thank all the student teams who participated this school year, together with their teachers, for their remarkable efforts and great work, and challenge them to continue making a difference to protect Earth's Climate!
The Climate Detectives school project will be back for the 2020-2021 school year. Stay tuned!
Thailand team wins UN access to ESA's hypergravity centrifuge
• June 9, 2020: ESA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have selected a team from Mahidol University, Thailand to carry out research using ESA's hypergravity-generating Large Diameter Centrifuge. The team will see how watermeal – the smallest flowering plant on Earth, even smaller than the more familiar duckweed – responds to changing gravity levels to assess its usefulness for space-based life support systems. 22)
The team, composed of five members, including two women scientists, teaching or studying at Mahidol University, wants to investigate the high-protein aquatic plant as a food and oxygen source for space exploration and on other planets that may have higher gravity than Earth. The team members bring a variety of academic backgrounds to the project, including physics, bio-innovation, biochemistry and electrical engineering.
They are the winners of the inaugural cycle of the HyperGES fellowship, offering scientists all over the world the chance to conduct their own hypergravity experiments using ESA's Large Diameter Centrifuge (LDC, see Figure NO TAG#). This fellowship is part of the Access to Space 4 All Initiative of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).
Tatpong Tulyananda, leading the winning team, said: "This is a great opportunity and a big step for the space biology research program in Thailand. We are very excited to explore how aquatic plants perform in a hypergravity environment, which might answer questions for future space exploration."
Figure 34: ESA's Large Diameter Centrifuge at the Agency's technical heart in the Netherlands is seen running here at full speed. The 8-m diameter four-arm centrifuge gives researchers access to a range of hypergravity environments up to 20 times Earth's gravity for weeks or months at a time. At its fastest, the centrifuge rotates at up to 67 revs per minute, with its six gondolas placed at different points along its arms weighing in at 130 kg, and each capable of accommodating 80 kg of payload. (image credit: ESA –A. Le Floc'h)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the experiment schedule of experiments is not yet settled, although the team aims to conduct its testing before the end of this year.
Located at ESA's Netherlands-based ESTEC technical center, the LDC is an 8-m diameter four-arm centrifuge that gives researchers access to a range of hypergravity up to 20 times Earth gravity for weeks or months at a time.
Figure 35: Winning team from Mahidol University, Thailand. The team members bring a variety of academic backgrounds to the project, including physics, bio-innovation, biochemistry and electrical engineering (image credit: ESA)
The idea behind this new fellowship is to widen LDC access to teams from all over the world, particularly for teams from developing countries, who may otherwise lack access to such equipment. It is formally known as the ‘United Nations / European Space Agency Fellowship Program on the Large Diameter Centrifuge Hypergravity Experiment Series', or HyperGES for short.
Figure 36: Studying tiny plant. Sutamas Satthong of Mahidol University studying watermeal under a microscope (image credit: ESA)
ESA Director General Jan Wörner commented: "I congratulate the team of Mahidol University for being the first to win the HyperGES fellowship. This unique initiative by ESA and UNOOSA combines all that space accounts for: high-tech, science and research and international cooperation for the benefit of our societies."
Franco Ongaro, ESA Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality and head of ESTEC, remarked: "We are pleased and grateful to UNOOSA for this opportunity to open up LDC access to worldwide researchers for testing, in order to explore the role of gravity within, in this case, life support systems. This proposed experiment is a good example of how such ground-based centrifuges can be used to support space activities."
Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of UNOOSA, said: "We are delighted to announce the selection of the Thailandese team as the first winners of this unique opportunity. Their ambitious project will shed light on an important challenge for space missions, how to produce food and oxygen, potentially leading to important breakthroughs. We look forward to working with the team and ESA to apply their talent to this fascinating question."
UNOOSA plans to publish the announcement of opportunity for the next HyperGES cycle in the second half of 2020. More information about HyperGES can be found here.
ESA Academy's Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Communications Training Course 2020 gives students new perspectives
• 06 March 2020: Thirty Bachelor, Master and PhD students from 11 different ESA Member and Associate States have successfully completed the fifth edition of ESA Academy's Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Communications Training Course. Taking place between 18 – 21 February 2020, and hosted at ESA Academy's Training and Learning Center, ESEC-Galaxia in Belgium, the course was delivered by a senior ESA engineer from the Operations Department of ESOC. 23)
Also attending were 20 students who were unable to be present in person, but rather participated via Livestream. Explained one of these, a Spanish student from ISAE-SUPAERO, "this course has been not only a hugely educational experience with the impressively good trainer, but also a really interesting and challenging one that has allowed me to meet some truly interesting people. The fact that the course was livestreamed did not detract at all from its usefulness or my enjoyment of it, and one can only hope to be involved in similar activities in the future."
The course's objective was to familiarize students with the fundamental concepts that lie at the heart of spacecraft communications. The "Ladybird approach" was taken, meaning that lectures took an overview of topics rather than getting lost in details, with mathematical and analytical perspectives kept to a minimum. The course was peppered with easily understandable examples and accessible diagrams. A secondary objective was to "fill the gap" between spacecraft operators and telecommunications designers. Often designers have difficulty considering the operators' points of view, which is a challenge that needs to be addressed when designing a ground station or telecommunications subsystem of a spacecraft.
Content was split into six key spacecraft telecommunications topics:
- Signal modulation and demodulation
- Channel coding
- Communication protocols
- Signal reception
- An overview of some real ground stations.
The trainer has many years of experience with spacecraft operations, and was able to supply ample real-life examples of spacecraft missions and operational scenarios, bringing students close to the actual problems that may be encountered. During lectures the participants were challenged with quizzes, putting themselves into the position of operators facing mission communication problems, and inviting them to devise solutions!
The pressure was then turned up as the students were tasked with a group exercise to put theory into practise. They were divided into three teams, which after careful consideration they named Atlas, Sagittarius, and Omega. These teams each had to produce a "Ladybird Design" of the communications system for a fictional mission. On the final day, they had to operate their spacecraft during a simulated communications scenario. Eight online students formed a fourth team in order to complete the exercise. With some tips from the trainer along the way, all teams performed well in the simulation, ably demonstrating the knowledge they had gained in just a few days!
In addition to the lectures and group exercise, the on-site students enjoyed a visit to ESEC-Redu with three Operations Engineers. Beginning with introductions about the site and information about the PROBA and GALILEO satellite programs, the keen attendees continued on to visit the PROBA Operations Room to gain insight into how ESEC-Redu communicates with these satellites. They also explored the Baseband Equipment Room, as well as inside the Redu 1 Antenna (boasting a 15 m diameter dish). During the visit, the students asked questions direct to the satellite and ground station engineers that work in ESEC-Redu, complementing their training by learning from real-life experiences.
"This training course was amazing!"concluded a Portuguese student from Instituto Superior Técnico, participating online. "We had the opportunity to learn a lot of things about spacecraft communication as well as get to know about some of the problems that occurred in the past. This was really insightful and was also one of the main reasons why this course was so engaging! Although the course could be a little demanding at times, since we were learning so many things in so short time, the fact that everyone who participated in the livestream was so enthusiastic and always ready to help each other made me feel really motivated. I would say this was a stupendous opportunity and I am really happy I was able to take part in it."
Figure 37: After an intense week the university students received their certificates of participation (image credit: ESA)
New CubeSat missions selected for the third cycle of Fly Your Satellite!
• 02 March 2020: Three university teams have been selected for the third edition of the Fly Your Satellite! program following a call for proposals open in the second half of 2019. The CubeSats' evaluation and selection was carried out by a CubeSat Evaluation Panel, consisting of ESA experts from a range of disciplines. 24)
Figure 38: Photo of the participants at the 'Fly your Satellite! 3rd Selection Workshop (photo: ESA)
ESA invited university student teams from ESA Member States, Canada and Slovenia that are developing a one, two or three-unit CubeSat with mainly educational objectives to propose their satellite for the third edition of the "Fly Your Satellite!" (FYS) program. Student teams from many universities worked hard to prepare proposals which were reviewed by a CubeSat Evaluation Panel.
The selection process culminated with a Selection Workshop held at ESTEC in December 2019, where seven teams -shortlisted as the best proposals among the applications submitted to ESA- presented their CubeSat mission. During the same week, the students were offered a number of lectures offered by ESA specialists.
All shortlisted CubeSat student teams did an outstanding job in presenting their missions and responding to the questions raised by the ESA specialists. Although the decision was not easy for the CubeSat Evaluation Panel due to the excellent quality of all CubeSat proposals, finally the following three teams were selected:
• AcubeSAT, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki – Greece
The Aristotle Space & Aeronautics Team (ASAT) is composed of students from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. ASAT is developing a CubeSat to conduct a biological experiment that investigates molecular mechanisms that are affected by the space conditions. In particular, they will probe the dynamic regulation of gene expression of eukaryotic cells in Low Earth Orbit, using advances in Synthetic Biology and MEMS (Micro-Electromechanical Systems).
• SOURCE, University of Stuttgart – Germany
SOURCE (Stuttgart Operated University Research CubeSat for Evaluation and Education) is a mission of the small-satellite student society at the University of Stuttgart with educational and technological objectives. Their CubeSat will monitor the processes involved in uncontrolled entry into Earth's atmosphere by imaging meteoroids and using in-situ heat flux measurements to characterize demise.
• UCAnFly, University of Cadiz – Spain
UCAnFly is an educational nanosatellite developed by a student team from the University of Cadiz. Their objective is to explore the feasibility of novel miniaturized magnetic measurement systems at miliHertz frequencies with low-noise conditions. The mission will allow the in-flight characterization of the system under the harsh space environment.
The selected teams will begin to work on preparing for the Critical Design Review in collaboration with ESA, and their technical documentation will be reviewed by ESA specialists in different areas of expertise.
In recognition of the great work of the other CubeSat teams that unfortunately could not be selected, ESA Education will offer support to the teams, by inviting students to attend one of the training sessions organized by the ESA Academy Training and Learning Program (TLP).
Complementary to the Fly Your Satellite! program, the ESA Education Office offers 5-day training weeks dedicated to CubeSats in collaboration with the ESA Academy Training and Learning Program. The training weeks particularly aim at university students and teams in early phases of CubeSat projects, and include a CubeSats Concurrent Engineering Workshop, and a CubeSat Hands-On Training Week. In the future a CubeSats Testing Training Week will be included in the portfolio.
A new cycle under Gravity
• 06 February 2020: From the 28th of January to the 31st of February 2020, five student teams participating in the Spin, Drop and Fly Your Thesis! 2020 programs met at ESEC-Galaxia in Belgium for the ESA Academy's Gravity-Related Experiments Training Week 2020. 25)
These students, selected at the end of 2019, were provided with elaborate workshops and lectures. The teams got to know one another and their experiments a bit better during the week, and they learned why so many various research fields require altered gravity in order to conduct ground breaking science.
What are the 2020 gravity-related experiments?
Once again, the student experiments selected represent the wide diversity in the sciences and technologies that need altered gravity environments.
The program 'Fly Your Thesis! 2020' will provide parabolic flights to two teams. The British team RELOX aims at monitoring electrolysis efficiency under different g-levels to investigate oxygen production for future manned space mission, and the German team AIMIS-FYT intends to develop a resin 3D-printing process based on UV-curing for space applications.
The Polish team Black Spheres selected for 'Drop Your Thesis!' will analyse objects' non-linear motion in microgravity conditions generated in the ZARM Drop Tower.
On the other side of gravity's scale, the program 'Spin your Thesis!' is fully related to biomedical sciences. The Portuguese team ARTEMIS will study the impacts of hypergravity on the efficiency of gastro-intestinal permeability and drug delivery whilst the Italian team TOFU will investigate the effects of hypergravity on the binding of Tau-proteins to microtubules, trying to better understand the mechanisms of diseases such as Alzheimer.
In order to help the teams to reach their ambitious goals, a special recipe was cooked up for this Gravity-Related Experiments Training Week.
Figure 39: Gravity-related experiments training week group photo (photo credit: ESA)
Step 1 - First contact with gravity
After an introduction to ESA and its activities, the workshop started with a lecture on the history of gravity, from Galileo's discoveries to ESA future missions such as LISA, which will monitor gravitational waves with three satellites localised at Lagrange Point L1. Not all the students had a space-related background and this first glimpse of space activities raised their interest:
"The GREAT training week was a fruitful experience! […] Being able to be in the Space Agency and contact with space related matters was really a unique opportunity for us and aroused even more interest to the space science," commented a student from Artemis.
Figure 40: Presentation of the effect of gravity on the vestibulo-ocular system (photo credit: ESA)
After such an inspiring way to initiate this week dedicated to gravity-related experiments, practical activities were carried out to demonstrate concrete examples of gravity in our everyday environment. The students had the opportunity to grow their own seeds in a simulated micro-gravity setup to alter natural gravitropism, monitor the effect of gravity on their own vestibular-ocular system and blood pressure.
Step 2 - Glimpse of advice from the platforms' experts
No one is better able to teach the students how to design experiments for specific platforms than the platform experts. Therefore, engineers and scientists working for the Large Centrifuge Diameter (ESTEC, The Netherlands), the Zero-G A-310 (Novespace, France) and the Bremen Drop Tower (ZARM, Germany) were invited to present their facilities and meet the teams. This prime contact sealed the first of numerous upcoming meetings as the students will also be in direct contact with these experts during the development of their experiment.
These face-to-face meetings enabled the teams to better frame their objectives and make early discoveries of the main technical challenges of their experiments. The sessions with the experts paid off, as students from Black Spheres and AIMIS-FYT remarked.
"All the lectures, training sessions and time with engineers were really well tailored to help define the project properly".
"The experts shared a lot of helpful information in a very efficient way, which will help us a lot in the upcoming development process".
In addition, former students who participated in last year's programs delivered presentations on their own experiences, thus giving precious lessons-learned on the challenges the new teams will face.
Step 3 – A touch of hands-on
The development of an experiment set-up, whether for parabolic flight, drop tower or centrifuge, also requires at least basic engineering knowledge. Hence, interactive workshops on system engineering, 3D design and automation were delivered in order to help the students further develop their skills.
The aim of the system engineering workshop was to provide the students with enough knowledge on setting requirements to their experiments in accordance with ECSS standards, concepts that most students encountered for the first-time last week but are at the heart of all space-related projects.
In order to gain knowledge valuable for the design of their hardware, half of the students attended a workshop on SolidWorks, where they were taught the main rules of Computer-Aided Design. Finally, as for some platforms it will not be possible to manually operate the experiments during their execution, an automation workshop allowed students to learn how to implement automation techniques in experiments.
Step 4 – The final hint of organization
For most students, participating in a hands-on gravity-related project offers them a first encounter to a large project involving many stakeholders and external partners. Topics such as project and risk management, finances, documentation, communication and outreach were discussed in great length. Especially in times of pressure and stress, these aspects are often overlooked, when in reality they are crucial for good project completion. The message was well received by the team: "The lectures about how to manage relationships with stakeholders and the preparatory work before the campaign were fundamental", said one student from team TOFU. Said another, "The training week gave us the opportunity to acquire knowledge about how to manage our project successfully. In particular, what I really appreciated was the part dedicated to project communication because nowadays it's very difficult to sensitize people about scientific research".
The intense week ended with an engaging lecture by the French ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who flew twice, to MIR and the ISS.
Figure 41: Léopold Eyharts, French astronaut, giving a lecture about the International Space Station (photo credit: ESA)
Now that the workshop is over, the teams are back home, motivated to pursue the development of their experiment. Besides preparing the team for the year ahead, the workshop was also valuable from an individual point of view, as summarized by another student from TOFU: "This experience will be one of the most crucial in my professional and scientific development. I've discovered and acquired plenty of tools about thinking, projecting and implementing research, all of which will be determinant in my future career."
Concurrent Engineering takes students to the edge of the Solar System
• 31 January, 2020: 30 university students from 12 different ESA Member States and Canada have begun the new year in style by attending ESA Academy's latest Concurrent Engineering Workshop. Held from 14 to 17 January 2020, the event took place at ESA Academy's Training and Learning Facility, ESA-ESEC, Belgium — which is also home to ESA's educational Concurrent Design Facility (CDF). Providing tuition and technical expertise were two ESA Systems Engineers, supported by a National Trainee as a Systems Engineering Assistant, all from ESA's Systems and Concurrent Engineering Section. 26)
Figure 42: Group photo of participating students (image credit: ESA)
The workshop's goal was to familiarize students with the Concurrent Engineering approach, and its many benefits for spacecraft design. Participants would also gain experience with the Open Concurrent Design Tool (OCDT) used in ESA's CDF.
On the very first day, the students were given their challenge: use Concurrent Engineering to design a mission, called EDGE, to explore our Solar System's heliopause – the limiting region where the Sun's solar wind is dissipated by the interstellar medium. To make this ambitious task even more difficult, EDGE would need to be very low-cost, making CubeSat's technology the practical choice. Could the students work together to complete their design in just four days?
A French student from Institut Polytechnique des Sciences Avancées explained, "It was amazing to share a few days with people with the same passion for space, because if you put them together you can only have an amazing result. It was perfectly balanced between working hard, being super focussed, having fun, improving technical skills, communication skills, working as a big team and celebrating all together."
The participants got to work right away, splitting into different teams to cover the vital aspects:
- Trajectory analysis
- Attitude and Orbit Control Subsystems (AOCS)
- Communications & Data Handling
- Optics & Sensors.
Figure 43: University students learning about the Concurrent Engineering approach (image credit: ESA)
The ESA Systems Engineers encouraged the students to create several iterations of their designs, with each one an improvement on the previous effort. Assessing the needs and functions of each team was an important early step, before proceeding to consolidate the overall design.
It did not take long before the scale of the task became apparent. Reaching the edge of the Solar System is hugely challenging, especially when restricted to only CubeSats! To tackle the volume and mass constraints while guaranteeing the scientific performance of the mission, they had to consider many different trajectories and system options, including electrical propulsion, gravity assists, a large deployable antenna and a solar reflector.
The students then continued with their refinements, carefully considering what needed extra attention, before the third and final iteration. This allowed further improvements and fine-tuning of all the sub-systems, enhancing the design toward an ultimate convergence of all of the components.
A German student from Darmstadt University of Technology was particularly impressed with what Concurrent Engineering makes possible. "Going from a state of ‘how could we ever hope to achieve this?' to a concept that actually looks feasible in a matter of days, reiterating and planning together with all subsections present in one room, showed me what the Concurrent Engineering approach is capable of — not just for the space sector, but for every early design phase of a project! I hope to apply it at a future workplace one day."
To conclude the week, the students presented their results to the ESA experts. They detailed their final design, explaining the trade-offs they had to perform to obtain the best results, as well as proposing potential improvements and open tasks to still be performed. The experts were highly satisfied with the overall design and the results of each team! The students then received their certificate of participation. This document, along with the transcript of the workshop, will allow the participants to claim ECTS credit(s) from their university.
In addition to the workshop's core challenge, participants also had the chance to play the EcoDesign game, learning about the environmental impacts of a space mission and lifecycle assessments of a satellite. A visit to ESEC-Redu and the PROBA Control Room was also organized, which was greatly enjoyed by all.
"It has been an incredible week,"declared an Italian student from the University of Bristol. "We had full immersion into the process that CDF engineers at ESTEC use every time they develop a space mission concept and assess its feasibility. And we got to use it for an extremely challenging mission. I had the time of my life and would definitely love to wake up every day to go to work if this was my job. This experience has enriched me so much, both professionally and personally. Thanks to everyone that made this possible."
Figure 44: Final design presentation of the Structures team (image credit: ESA)
University teams rose to the challenge during ‘Fly Your Satellite!' Selection Workshop this week
• 17 December 2019: For the past week, 9-13 December 2019, 60 university students representing seven teams from seven universities have been taking part in ESA Education's Fly Your Satellite! Selection Workshop, hosted at ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Center). These participants were vying for the chance to be accepted to the Fly Your Satellite! program, in which they will design, test and launch their own CubeSat – a miniature fully-functional satellite – into space! Having successfully completed the proposal and short-listing processes earlier this year, the Selection Workshop was the mandatory next step toward admission to the program. 27)
Figure 45: Group photo of Selection Workshop attendees (image credit: ESA)
The participating teams and their missions were:
1) Aalto-3, Aalto University, Finland: demonstrate complex signal analysis with a Software-Defined Radio payload.
2) AcubeSAT, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece: demonstrate lab-on-a-chip technology for biological experiments in Low Earth Orbit.
3) CLIMB, University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt, Austria: use a propulsion system to reach the inner Van-Allen belt and measure the radiation environment.
4) MIST, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden: characterize the radiation environment and radiation effects in Low Earth Orbit.
5) SOURCE, University of Stuttgart, Germany: image meteors during entry into Earth's atmosphere, and characterize re-entry of the CubeSat.
6) UCAnFly, Universidad de Cadiz, Spain: measure magnetic fields with low noise using shielded magnetoresistive sensors.
7) WUSAT-3, University of Warwick, United Kingdom: demonstrate a signal direction finding payload to locate wildlife tracking tags.
Figure 46: FYS (Fly Your Satellite) students attending lectures during the workshop (image credit: ESA)
The students presented their projects (30 minutes per team) to a panel of ESA experts and they were questioned on various aspects of their missions during a subsequent question and answer session. Students were required to justify design decisions to the panel, proving that they and their missions have what it takes to be successful. A set of lectures were offered by ESA specialists, dedicated to equipping potential teams with the knowledge and resources necessary to undertake the first milestones of the Fly Your Satellite! program. The topics of the lectures included project level activities, such as Assembly, Integration and Verification, Product Assurance and CubeSat reliability or Space Debris Mitigation, as well as technical content on the subsystems of a satellite.
The students will now wait for the evaluation outcome and to find out if they can progress to the first phase. Successful teams will then be challenged to prepare for the Critical Design Review of their satellites. To complete this, the selected teams will have to produce a "data package", which is the documentation to be presented to ESA reviewers so they can assess the readiness and maturity of the selected student teams' projects. With this information, ESA experts will be equipped to identify any blocking points to be resolved by students in order to pass the Critical Design Review.
• 05 December 2019: Eleni joined ESA in October 2018 to work on the MC (Visual Monitoring Camera) of Mars Express. She shares her experience from ESAC in Spain where she helps observe the red planet. 28)
Hi Eleni, could you introduce yourself to our readers?
- My name is Eleni, I am 23 years old, I was born and raised in the UK but am half British and half Greek. I have been passionate about space since a very young age so after initial studies in Geography, I studied for a Masters Degree in Planetary Science at UCL in London during which time I applied to be a YGT at ESA.
What do you as a YGT?
- At ESA, I work for the Mars Express Mission in the Science Ground Segment Team at ESAC. My role specifically deals with the Visual Monitoring Camera instrument. This is an instrument on-board Mars Express which was originally designed to be an engineering camera and is now used as a scientific instrument.
Figure 47: Photo of Eleni Ravanis at ESA/ESAC (photo credit: ESA, Loraine B)
How did that shift in use come about?
- The VMC (Visual Monitoring Camera) is a wide-angle camera, which means that we can take pictures of Mars with the entire planet, or large regions, in the shot. It is a relatively low-resolution camera but it allows us to collect scientific information and data for atmospheric observation. For example, in the past few days we have seen evidence of high-altitude clouds around Mars, which our science team is studying.
Figure 48: Image from VMC on-board Mars Express acquired on 27 November 2019 (image credit: ESA)
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
- This changes throughout the month as we work through the planning cycle for Mars Express. Over the past couple of days, I have been adding limb observations for VMC, using ESA's planning program ‘MAPPS'. I find it really exciting to know that we plan these now, and then in about two months a camera orbiting around Mars will take these pictures! The rest of the month, I am working on data processing with our pipeline written in Python, and discussing things like calibration with our science colleagues at the UPV/EHU university in Bilbao. Most of my time right now is spent preparing datasets for ingestion into the Planetary Science Archive, so that VMC data can be more widely used by the community.
Do you have fun?
- Definitely, the Mars Express team are really kind, enthusiastic and supportive, and I was given responsibilities quite quickly which I liked.
Have you always been passionate about space?
- Definitely! Although my undergraduate degree was in geography I have always been passionate about space. Most people think that you have to study physics to work in the space sector, I don't think that is true. I think it is useful to have a background in geography and/or planetary science and apply that to other areas.
From all the opportunities published, how did you choose the one you applied for?
- I was really interested in Mars missions or future Human Exploration missions so my first action was to look for ‘Mars' using the search tool! After I narrowed down my selection, I was really inspired by the opportunity related to the Mars Express Mission and happily my background was also better suited to this position.
- Interestingly, during the Young Professional Event at ESA this year, another YGT told me "I almost applied for your position" and the funny thing was that I almost applied for her position! So it ended well that we both applied for the one that we eventually got!
What are your plans for next year?
- I am now into an extension for a second year, so I am very excited to continue my mission with the Mars Express team! After this year, I hope to do a PhD (continuing with Mars science).
And we usually ask for one piece of advice to share with people who would like to apply. What would yours be?
- Apply for the opportunity that you find the most interesting. Look carefully at the criteria, select one and show how it matches your profile and your interests.
- And if you are selected for an interview, and at some point someone asks you a question and you don't know the answer, explain how you would try to know. During my interview, my supervisor asked me something I didn't know. It was a bit daunting, but I replied "ok, now I don't know, but here is what I would do to find the answer" and that is the attitude they were looking for.
• 02 December 2019: Nicolas Soubirous, Spacecraft Operations Engineer, shares his YGT (Young Graduate Trainee) experience at ESA, working in the EarthCARE, SEOSat & SMOS Missions Operations Unit at ESOC, Germany. 29)
Figure 49: Nicolas Soubirous of France shares his YGT (Young Graduate Trainee) experience at ESA (video credit: ESA)
• 30 November 2019: Ina's YGT experience in space architecture and infrastructure. 30)
Figure 50: Ina Cheibas talks about her Young Graduate Trainee (YGT) experience in the Advanced Concepts Team at ESTEC, The Netherlands, where her role was to propose and develop additive manufacturing techniques for a space habitat with in situ resources (video credit: ESA)
• 26 November 2019: Pierre-Yves Cousteau is a marine conservationist, professional diver and filmmaker. Prior to exploring the oceans like his father Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the famous undersea explorer, he joined ESA as a Young Graduate Trainee in 2008. Pierre-Yves shares his recollections of ESA and the space sector and his experience of now being the head of his own marine conservation citizen's organization. 31)
- One of his ongoing activities, Project Hermes, aims to improve climate models by supplementing sea surface temperatures from satellites with in situ measurements, to better understand and protect the ocean.
- Pierre-Yves, after several years, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your YGT experience?
- The amazing colleagues and friends that I met there. I also keep fond memories of casually meeting astronauts in the office hallway, how cool is that? I also remember strolling around the propulsion laboratory and seeing the amazing projects going on in there. ESTEC is such a playground for the mind, constantly stimulating!
- What did you do as a YGT?
- I worked on coordination between the Agency's engineers and scientists who were planning to fly biology experiments to the International Space Station (ISS). My job was to go back and forth between the two until all requirements for both parties were met. Once done, I gathered all the information into a report, one of the many moving pieces required to take the experiment to the ISS.
- What did you study that led you to this job?
- I started my undergraduate degree in general biology. I was passionate about understanding the origin of life on Earth and exobiology. That quickly brought me from the stars to the oceans, but at the time I joined the International Space University to learn more about space studies.
- This led me to do an internship at NASA Ames. An amazing experience. We went to the Atacama Desert in Chile, the driest place on Earth where it rains every eleven years. Due to its surface conditions, it is considered a Mars analogue on Earth. I was in charge of finding and studying nematodes in the soil. These microscopic worms have the uncanny ability to remain dormant in a dry state (anhydrobiosis) for thousands of years until water becomes available again.
- After my internship, I really wanted to understand all these processes of anhydrobiosis and evolutionary biochemistry. So I went back to university for a Master's degree in biochemistry before I applied for a YGT position in biology at ESTEC.
- And after your YGT, did you continue to work in the space sector?
- I became a diving instructor just before finishing my YGT and while I was scuba diving, I realized that I wanted to focus on that. I really love diving and my name being Cousteau, I thought ‘maybe I should do something about it!' And I did.
- I founded Cousteau Divers, the organization I've run for 10 years, with the aim of bringing together a community of divers and ocean lovers, and giving them a way to effectively share their knowledge of the ocean. Basically, a platform to share what we explore during our dives, pictures of the species we see, how the area evolves. Cousteau Divers has evolved quite a bit in the past ten years and this year we're launching Project Hermes to monitor climate change beneath the surface of the ocean (www.project-hermes.com).
- Tell us more about Project Hermes!
- What I do now is more related to the conservation of the natural environment on Earth and specifically the oceans. There is such an emergency to protect our planet so I am trying to do my bit in that. - One of the hopes for Project Hermes is to help ground-truth satellites measuring sea surface temperatures and improve climate models.
- The ocean plays a major role in the climate system, it is basically Earth's air conditioning, absorbing 90% of the planet's heat. In the shallow areas, there is a lot of exchange between the atmosphere and the ocean through wave action and a lot of the ocean's biodiversity is located in the coastal areas. Dive computers are unfortunately not accurate enough to measure temperatures for scientific purposes. We are specifically looking to monitor thermoclines, the temperature layers in the oceans where change can be several degrees within a 2-3 cm depth change. There are missing pieces of information today in our understanding of how the oceans work.
- How will temperature be monitored around the world?
- Thanks to the work of Project Hermes volunteers including our two brilliant engineers, Brad Bazemore and Brendon Walters, our device ‘Remora' was born this year. It can easily be fixed onto a scuba diving tank which means that any diver around the world can participate in this project. The device is a data platform collecting information with high precision and sending it seamlessly to our cloud application in near real-time. The entire project is open-source, and invites divers and engineers to collaborate in better understanding the ocean.
- What's your advice to students who would like to apply for a YGT?
- Do your best and enjoy the ride. The more you put into your work environment, the more you get out of it. In retrospect (and this doesn't apply only to my YGT experience but to most of my career and my personal life too), it is not so much where you work and who you work for than who you work with that can shape your experience. At ESA, I found really wonderful, inspiring people who helped me grow as a person, professionally and personally.
Figure 51: Pierre-Yves Cousteau (photo credit: Remy Steiner)
• 25 November 2019: YGT experience in the ESA Future Missions Office. 32)
Figure 52: Priya Patel, System Engineer, talks about her experience as a Young Graduate Trainee (YGT) working on the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna Mission (LISA), video credit: ESA
• 14 September 2019: How to come up with an idea for Mission Space Lab. 33)
Figure 53: For those looking for ideas for Mission Space Lab, this video offers some tips on how to come up with experiments by taking into account the AstroPi sensors available as well as some practical constraints (video credit: ESA)
1) "Graduates: Young Graduate Trainees," ESA, URL:
2) "Studying wound healing in hypergravity," ESA Education, 06 October 2021, URL:
3) "Online CubeSat Design Training Week 2021 combines lectures and group projects to enhance university students' learning," ESA Education, 01 October 2021, URL:
4) "Online Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations Training Course 2021 wows students with live satellite pass," ESA Education, 21 September 2021, URL:
5) "Moon rock class in session," ESA Science & Exploration, 09 September 2021, URL:
6) "Students successfully complete Space Systems Engineering Training Course 2021," ESA Agency, 6 August 2021, URL:
7) "ESA and ELGRA collaboration results in successful Gravity-Related Research Summer School 2021," ESA Education, 28 July 2021, URL:
8) "Students log on for ESA Academy's Online Space Debris Training Course 2021," ESA Agency, June 10, 2021, URL:
9) "Space doctors in the virtual house," ESA Agency, 5 March 2021, URL:
10) Launch of ESERO Estonia: space to support STEM education in school," ESA Agency, 3 March 2021, URL:
11) "Gravity-Related Experiments Training Week 2021 concludes as student projects officially start," ESA / Education / ESA Academy, 09 February, 2021, URL:
12) "Online Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Communications Training Course 2021 inspires University students," ESA Agency, 01 February 2021, URL:
13) "Two teams selected for Drop Your Thesis! 2021," ESA / Education / Drop Your Thesis!, 21 January 2021, URL:
14) "Selection of Fly Your Thesis! 2021 teams announced," ESA / Education / Fly Your Thesis!, 21 December 2020, URL:
15) "Teams selected for Spin Your Thesis! 2021," ESA 14 December 2020, URL:
16) "Successful CDR workshop for Fly Your Satellite! teams," ESA Education, 25 November 2020, URL:
17) "Human Space Physiology Training Course goes fully online for 2020 edition," ESA Education, 19 October 2020, URL:
18) "Raising standards: 50 University students virtually attend Online Standardization Training Course 2020," ESA Education, 14 October 2020, URL:
19) "60 students attend Online Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations Training Course 2020," ESA, 28 September 2020, URL:
20) "ESERO France takes off to support and inspire STEM education," ESA, 26 June 2020, URL:
21) "Final congratulations to the 2019-2020 Climate Detectives student teams," ESA / Education / Climate detectives, 17 June 2020, URL:
22) "Thailand team wins UN access to ESA's hypergravity centrifuge," ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Engineering & Technology, 09 June 2020, URL:
23) "ESA Academy's Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Communications Training Course 2020 gives students new perspectives," ESA / Education / ESA Academy, 06 March 2020, URL:
24) "New CubeSat missions selected for the third cycle of Fly Your Satellite!," ESA, 2 March 2020, URL:
25) "A new cycle under Gravity," ESA, 6 February 2020, URL:
26) "Concurrent Engineering takes students to the edge of the Solar System," ESA / Education / ESA Academy, 31 January 2020, URL:
27) "University teams rose to the challenge during ‘Fly Your Satellite!' Selection Workshop this week," ESA / Education / CubeSats - Fly Your Satellite!, 17 December 2019, URL:
28) "Travel to Mars with Eleni Ravanis, YGT at ESA!," ESA / About Us / Careers at ESA, 05 December 2019, URL:
29) "Nicolas's YGT as a Spacecraft Operations Engineer," ESA, 2 December 2019, URL:
30) "Ina's YGT experience in space architecture and infrastructure," ESA, 30 November 2019, URL:
31) "From the stars to the ocean, Pierre-Yves Cousteau's YGT experience," ESA, 26 November 2019, URL:
32) Priya's YGT experience in the ESA Future Missions Office!,ESA 25 November 2019, URL:
33) "How to come up with an idea for Mission Space Lab," ESA, 14 September 2019, URL:
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).