Students from six CubeSats teams have successfully concluded the baseline design review of their CubeSats as part of the ESA Academy’s new Fly Your Satellite! (FYS!) Design Booster Programme. This phase of the pilot edition gave students the chance to benefit from the European Space Agency’s support to enrich and consolidate the design of their CubeSats.
The pilot edition of the new FYS! Design Booster Programme aims to provide support to university teams across ESA member states who have a preliminary design of a CubeSat and want to consolidate their detailed design.
Students learn to consider the full project lifecycle at the design stage, in terms of engineering, resources and expertise, which translates into smoother planning and execution of verification activities as well as more robust in-flight operations. Special emphasis is given to the importance of early testing and teams are invited to work on prototypes and development models to demonstrate that the CubeSat’s functionalities and performances are adequate.
In November 2022, 80 students from several different ESA member states took part in a training week and six teams from Italy, Spain, Romania and Switzerland were selected to participate in the FYS! Design Booster Programme.
The first phase of the Design Booster Programme – the baseline design review – took place online in April. It’s a tailored version of the standard ESA review, in which key issues and discrepancies are identified to come up with reparatory actions together with ESA experts.
Student teams submitted their CubeSat project files, which were reviewed by FYS! coordinators and ESA experts. They generated review item discrepancies, which serve as an input to discussion during collocation meetings. As in a standard ESA review, more than 70 collocation meetings took place with experts of different domains, such as mission analyses, payload, software and system engineering.
The detailed documentation review helps students to identify potential issues so that they can hopefully avoid them. The discussion during collocations enhances students’ knowledge about the topic and allows them to receive, understand, interpret and implement sometimes complicated solutions that may not be clear at first glance.
‘Our participation in ESA’s FYS Design Booster Programme has been challenging, with an intense pace and many documents and collocation meetings,’ said the supervising professor of the ST3LLARsat1 team from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain. ‘But above all, the first year of the programme has been a really good opportunity to learn and the ESA team has helped us to take our mission from a preliminary concept to many steps closer to a consolidated system.’
Students will now enter the design consolidation and subsystem testing phase, during which they will adopt the experts’ advice, developing in-house-built subsystems that will be subjected to extensive testing. The teams will also work on the implementation of commercial off-the-shelf components and ensure that the whole systems work together flawlessly.
The final design review will be carried out in roughly a year from now. Students will already be acquainted with ESA standards and practices, and will be then ready to autonomously continue developing their CubeSat projects. They will present all of the lessons learned and project outlook for the future development, launch, operations and decommissioning.
‘It’s a long and difficult journey to design a satellite, but the experts are there to help and guide you along the way,’ said one of the participating students. ‘Just try to enjoy the journey and the possibility to learn a lot of new things.’