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ESA gives students chance to take part in rocket launch credit European Space Camp

ESA gives students chance to take part in rocket launch

Image credit: European Space Camp

A pilot programme by the European Space Agency (ESA) Academy is giving students from all walks of life the chance to take part in an online course about rocketry, culminating in a hands-on role on an ESA launch campaign.

The ESA Academy is currently looking for first and second year university students to apply for one of 20 spots in its pilot ‘Fly a Rocket’ programme. 

Open to students from across Europe, the programme is being offered in collaboration with the Norwegian Centre for Space-related Education (NAROM) and the Norwegian Space Centre (Norsk Romsenter) and entails an online rocketry course followed by the opportunity to take part in a full launch campaign at the Andoya Space Center, Norway.

The course is aimed at younger university students and applicants do not have to come from an engineering degree programme. The aim of this project is to highlight that space sector careers don’t necessarily require a detailed technical or mathematical background and therefore the ESA is accepting applications from students studying anything from education and media through to physics and engineering.

“Any student with a genuine interest in pursuing a career in space or related industries is welcome to apply as long as they meet the eligibility requirements,” highlighted programme coordinator Alexander Kinnaird. “The online training will begin at a fundamental level, and, to an extent, may be tailored to the ability, knowledge and experience of the group.

“The space industry is a multidisciplinary industry, and there is as much a need for experienced technicians, engineers and scientists as there is for lawyers, media experts and educators. The Fly a Rocket! programme provides an excellent window on the space world and may serve to inspire those who have not necessarily considered working in the space industry or who may have not considered the wide range of roles possible.

“By taking students through the process of a scientific sounding rocket campaign they will have the chance to experience all aspects of a launch campaign, not just the technical and scientific parts, but also the issues relating to legalisation, outreach, management and safety,” he noted.

Applications are accepted until 23 October with the online course running from next month through to February 2017. Flexible enough to fit around students’ current studies, the course has been developed by NAROM and participants will have access to contacts at the organisation throughout.

The course itself is expected to cover aspects such as rocket engines, dynamics, satellite orbits and specifics regarding the rocket and launch campaign. During the course a social media group will be set up for the students to meet virtually before coming together the following March or April to assemble and launch their rocket.

Supported by staff from the ESA, NAROM and the Andoya Space Center, the students will be involved in all aspects of the launch campaign from assembling the rocket and its payload through to calibrating the communications equipment and running the operations tower during liftoff – with all travel and accommodation costs covered.

“The launch campaign is expected to last five days, not including travel days. Students will attend various training lectures as well as be hands-on with all the work necessary to assemble and launch a rocket. This includes building the payload, setting up the telemetry station, analysing the trajectory and measuring local and higher altitude winds,” explained Kinnaird.

“Students will work in groups to prepare everything for the launch. These groups may include rocket analysis, experiment, payload, telemetry and science. During the countdown and launch students will represent every ‘station’ as per a usual launch, and perform all the required tasks, ranging from head of operations to payload manager and principle investigator. They may also have a chance to visit some other facilities such as an observatory, as well as get involved in team-building exercises and social events.”

Being a pilot scheme, students won’t come away with any recognised qualifications on this occasion, but the ESA and its partners may investigate the possibility that future participants may gain ECTS credits through a partnered university if the programme continues. In the meantime, Kinnaird is keen to highlight that the programme provides a rich education opportunity that will still look great on a CV.

“While there is no officially recognised qualification for participating in the programme its hoped that students will leave having experienced this unique opportunity with a wealth of knowledge, both technical and practical as well as having got the chance to build up a new international group of friends and potentially future colleagues,” he concluded.

Interested in taking part? Head to the ‘Fly a Rocket’ programme website before 23 October to download an application form and apply.

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