A younger generation designs satellite to clear space

In the course of their 4-days training at ESTEC, 22 students from all over Europe designed a cubesat to observe a former ESA satellite and provide data needed for a smooth e.Deorbit mission.

Students working together during CDF workshop

Students working together during CDF workshop

e.Deorbit is a mission presented by ESA to this 2016 Ministerial Council to remove a large ESA-owned debris from orbit. The mission will be the first-ever active debris removal mission. It will place European industry at the forefront of the world’s active removal efforts and space tug applications, providing a competitive advantage for all industry involved.

To read more about the e.Deorbit mission, check our previous posts and website:

e.Deorbit, pushing the boundaries of space technologies

e.Deorbit, first active debris removal mission

e.Deorbit will be the first-ever active debris removal mission Credits: ESA–David Ducros, Jacky Huart, 2016

e.Deorbit will be the first-ever active debris removal mission
Credits: ESA–David Ducros, Jacky Huart, 2016

While e.Deorbit will enter its Detailed Design Phase, the students were presented with a realistic case study. They had to design a single small satellite (a cubesat) that would rendezvous with an ESA derelict satellite. The cubesat had to observe the target and acquire data which should help understanding its tumbling. Capturing a tumbling target is a risky part of the e.Deorbit mission, and e.Inspector can reduce this risk by giving accurate models of the tumbling motion of the debris, and also high resolution pictures of the part where the debris will be grasped.

The students worked in teams, each one responsible for a different subsystem, in order to achieve at the end a coherent proposal. In contrast to most other cubesats, e.Inspector will need to have a propulsion system on board to be able to get close to the debris. It also needs a high resolution camera that can be used to make pictures of the debris from a safe (therefore large) distance. Several launch opportunities have been identified where e.Inspector would hitchhike with another ESA satellite to an orbit as close as possible to the debris. According to our sources (we cannot disclose the names ;-) ) , they proposed a viable system which would need further iterations and would not be misplaced in a CDF study.

To know how come students got the chance to participate to such a study, check the following articles:

ESA teaches student space design techniques

A new education facility teaching OCDT in ESA Redu Centre

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