Fly Your Satellite! programme

Programme description
Programme history
Programme in the ESA Educational Context

Programme description

Objective
ESA’s Fly Your Satellite! (FYS) programme is a recurring, hands-on programme designed and managed by the ESA Education Office in close collaboration with European Universities, with the objective to complement academic education and inspire, engage, and better prepare university students for a more effective introduction to their future professions in the space sector.

How the programme is conducted
During the course of the programme, the university student teams are supported in the development of their own satellite, whose mission is conceived at their own universities, and whose development is funded by the universities themselves and/or other national contributors. 

Coordinated and guided by their university professors, the student teams are supported and mentored by ESA specialists through different programme phases, all aiming at ensuring the satellites undergo accurate verification before being offered a chance to fly to space. 

To this end, ESA offers the CubeSat student teams access to state of the art test facilities; financial support to participate in workshops, training, and test sessions; sponsors their participation in the launch campaign; and offers them a launch opportunity.

Learning goals
By participating in a real satellite programme, the students gain significant practical experience in the full lifecycle of an actual space project, from designing, to manufacturing, assembling, integrating, testing, preparing the project documentation, learning the logic of conduct of formal reviews, participating in a launch campaign, operating their own small satellite, and preparing for its disposal in compliance with the space debris mitigation requirements.

Under close ESA supervision, students are introduced to the working methods adopted in professional space programmes, fundamental to facilitating a transfer of competences, and to allow the students to build their professional skills. 

The programme phases
The current edition of the Fly Your Satellite! programme consists of  four programme phases, where the CubeSat student teams have to achieve pre-defined objectives and must undergo reviews conducted by ESA specialists. The successful completion of the former phase is a pre-condition to gain access to the next phase: 

  • Build Your Satellite!: satellite integration and functional tests in laboratory conditions;
  • Test Your Satellite!: environmental tests, conducted in conditions similar to those of the space mission;
  • Launch Your Satellite!: launch campaign preparation, installation in the CubeSat orbital deployer, installation of deployer and CubeSats onboard the launcher, launch, and storage onboard the ISS;
  • Operate Your Satellite!: deployment of the CubeSat from ISS to orbit, early operations phase, in-orbit operations, data collection, and sharing of results.

In the near future (not for the current edition), the Design Your Satellite! phase will be introduced to precede the Build Your Satellite! phase. This phase will encompass the preliminary and detailed design of CubeSat missions, offering the chance to universities with new ideas, or with satellite projects at a conceptual or preliminary phase, or to participate in the programme and benefit from ESA support.

Programme history

To date, ESA’s Education Office has supported 20 student CubeSat teams from ESA Member and Cooperating States, including: 

  • 2008-2012: 12 student-built CubeSats, of which 7 were launched on Vega’s Maiden Flight
  • 2012-2013: Spanish HumSat-D student CubeSat, supported in its test campaign
  • 2013-2016: first edition of the Fly Your Satellite! programme, with 6 CubeSats selected to participate in the first phase of the programme: three of these CubeSats – OUFTI-1, e-st@r-II, AAUSAT4 – were launched on Soyuz VS14 on 25 April 2016
  • 2015: launch of AAUSAT5 to the International Space Station and deployment to orbit under an ISS dedicated edition of the Fly Your Satellite! programme

Programme in the educational context

Fly Your Satellite! is one of the several hands-on programmes for university students offered by the ESA Education Office. These activities are all incorporated in the recently born ESA Academy programme, which brings together existing and new elements of the ESA Education Programme for universities. The ESA Academy groups two interconnected pillars of activity:

  • Hands-on Space Projects, an existing set of programmes that enables students to gain first-hand experience of real space-related projects. They include satellite projects, such as Fly Your Satellite! and ESEO (European Student Earth Orbiter), as well as a number of other opportunities for student experiments projects to be conducted on a wide variety of platforms, such as sounding rockets, stratospheric balloons, a drop tower, a hypergravity centrifuge, and parabolic flights.
  • Training and Learning Programme, a new initiative offering an entirely new and varied portfolio of courses given by space experts and professionals coming from all fields of ESA’s expertise, as well as from  space industry and academia.  

In addition to providing access to existing ESA establishments and partners’ infrastructures, the ESA Academy makes use of new dedicated facilities located at ESA’s Redu Centre in Belgium. The Training and Learning Centre, which started courses in March 2016, and the CubeSat Education Centre will become operational in 2017. 

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