Open Cosmos makes space accessible to anyone – starting at university

22 Aug, 2019
Blog

Strasbourg, August 2019 – On a warm day in August, people from all over the world gather around tables in a classroom of the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. Screwdrivers in their hands, scattered metal satellite components on the table. Most of the twenty or so people involved in the assembly of these small satellites are not space engineers–they are lawyers, scientists, journalists, students, managers from different backgrounds and different countries. They are spending their summer in France to follow their dreams of a career in space. In nine weeks they are taught about all aspects of international space exploration. Today they learn about building and operating satellites.

The workshop is organised and taught by Open Cosmos. From day one, our aim has been making space accessible to anyone, starting at universities. One of the methods we use to bring space technology to the world is by making satellites simple. We have developed an online space mission design platform that allows users to develop and test mission characteristics in a matter of minutes. Once a basic mission profile has been determined, the software can be connected to an actual space-qualified satellite platform. This platform allows experiments, instruments and sensors to be physically integrated into the satellite, linked to the on-board computer and then connected to the online software to simulate the mission and measure the actual performance as if it were in space.

Open Cosmos space mission design workshop at ISU

This workshop shows the participants that with the Open Cosmos beeApp software and beeKit hardware, all this can be accomplished in just a few hours. Some years ago, such a satellite mission development and test cycle would take several weeks, if not many months. Today, the software needs just a short introduction to make participants familiar with the different screens and key mission parameters. They then put in practice their knowledge on a few test scenarios, before defining a mission for themselves. They can pick Earth observation, telecommunication or science missions–the software handles it all.

After the introduction to the online software, workshop participants are provided with the easy-to-assemble beeKit satellite hardware. Although this is an assembly, integration and test kit, all structural and electronic components are space-graded and can withstand the forces of launch and the hostile environment of space. Assembling the satellite is definitely the fun part of the workshop. For most participants, this is the first time in their lives that they get to work on a real satellite platform. They experience first hand what the materials look like and what technical skills are required for the assembly. Starting with screwdrivers and Allen keys, finishing with umbilical cable connections, software drivers and satellite telemetry and command scripts.

The highlight of the workshop follows once everything is connected to the software, switching on the satellite on-board computer and the payload. For the final tasks, Open Cosmos provided a simulated payload that includes a camera and an internet-of-things signal receiver, allowing fun, but realistic exercises. The best exercise is trying to take a group selfie with the on-board Earth observation camera.

Open Cosmos space mission design workshop at ISU

For the participants in the workshop this has been an educational and engaging afternoon. They are impressed with the fact that they have been able to design a space mission and build an actual satellite that can fulfil their mission objectives in a matter of a few hours. They got their hands on real space flight hardware and as a bonus got group photos and selfies taken by a satellite camera.

For Open Cosmos, this workshop furthers our objective to make space accessible to anyone. If a group of twenty people can assemble several functioning satellites in a matter of a few hours, then the opportunities for new applications of this satellite technology are endless. When satellite technology becomes as simple and fast as this, at ever reducing costs, it can benefit vast new areas of commerce and society. The many satellite-selfies that were taken during this workshop are a tangible evidence of this.

About the Open Cosmos mission design workshops

Open Cosmos delivers its mission design and satellite building workshops in different formats and different lengths to anyone who would like to learn about the easy-to-use software and hardware platforms that it offers. This varies from online webinars to bespoke onsite classroom training. Please contact our Customer Engagement team to learn more about how we can organise the best training session for your organisation.