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UPLINK: CubeSat Workshop From ESA

The European Space Agency will present the Second European CubeSat Workshop, to be held at ESA/ESTEC in January of 2009.

Already, the first workshop to be conducted during the B2 development phase of the European Student Earth Orbiter (ESEO) was held from December 15th through the 19th of 2008 and was organised by the ESA Education Office. The workshop took place in the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands.

In the early stages of Phase B2, the ESEO project studied the implementation of some important changes in requirements, in order to comply better with launch opportunities to fly the satellite to low Earth orbit as a secondary payload on one of the VEGA qualification flights. This, essentially, involved a redesign to reduce the dry mass of the satellite and its payload from about 120 kg to a target of 75 kg, while at the same time maintaining an architecture that will support the key systems and functions of the satellite.

The ESEO reconfiguration activity is led by Carlo Gavazzi Space, the Industrial Contractor for ESEO Phase B2 and Phase C/D, supported by their university coordination team.

The workshop involved the direct participation of 11 students from seven different universities, who attended the ESTEC CDF in person. Five other students (representing subsystems to be designed by three additional universities) were involved via teleconference.

The workshop was also supported by AMSAT, an international group of amateur radio operators that is participating in ESEO by providing some of the satellite communication functions. AMSAT will enable the ESEO flight operations to access the Global Educational Network for Satellite Operations (GENSO) and the worldwide amateur radio network.

The end results? The successful completion of the preliminary definition of the new ESEO configuration and the definition of the corresponding preliminary system budgets (mass, power, data links), as well as the identification of potentially critical areas that will require further attention at a later date.

ESEO is the second micro-satellite mission within the ESA Education Office’s Satellite Programme. It builds upon the experience gained with the SSETI Express micro-satellite, launched in 2005, and the YES2 student experiment flown in September 2007. The project schedule foresees Phase B2 lasting one year, then a two year-long Phase C/D, followed by the launch campaign, with launch expected to occur in 2012.

Additionally, the ESA Education Office is pleased to announce the Second European CubeSat Workshop, which will take place in ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, from January 20th through the 22nd, 2009.

Since the first workshop, the ESA Education Office in the Directorate of Legal Affairs & External Relations, in conjunction with the Directorate of Launchers, has selected nine CubeSats (plus two backups) from European universities for launch on the maiden flight of the Vega launcher, now scheduled for November 2009.

The nine CubeSats will be deployed from three different deployment systems mounted on the support structure of the main payload, LARES (LAser RElativity Satellite), into an orbit of 350 km by 1450 km at an inclination of 71 degrees.

The launch opportunity is offered by ESA to the selected CubeSats free of charge, and recognizes the growing importance of the CubeSat as a powerful, hands-on, space education tool. This is but the first step to boost student hands-on development of CubeSats in Europe, providing a suitable and qualified space workforce for the future in complement with other education project activities.

The main aims of the workshop are to:
  • Report upon on the development status of the CubeSats selected for the Vega maiden flight
  • Outline ESA’s long-term strategy for supporting CubeSats, including plans for cooperation/coordination and the prospects of future flight opportunities, for instance on the first and sub sequent VERTA flights of the Vega launcher
  • To facilitate information and data exchange between CubeSat teams, ESA and commercial suppliers on lessons learned, best practices, mission applications, technologies and instrumentation, cooperative space/ground networks, and future mission plans/concepts.

The workshop consists of invited papers and contributed papers selected from a Call For Papers, and will include both oral presentations (20 min.) and a poster session over a period of three full days in room Newton 1+2. Invited papers will include status reports from the 11 CubeSats associated with the Vega maiden flight.

In addition, a Round Table discussion is planned. This event will feature key members of the CubeSat community within and outside Europe in an interactive session with the workshop participants. The Round Table will address themes related to current issues and future evolution of the CubeSat field. Following the Round Table, all workshop participants will be invited to a workshop buffet dinner.

The ESA Education Office plans to sponsor up to three students from each participating CubeSat team (from an ESA Member or Cooperating State) to attend the event. There will also be a tour conducted of the ESTEC test facilities.

The ESA has a number of educational and professional opportunities for learning and implementation at their education website. Select this ESA banner logo on for additional information.

Lastly, here’s an open letter to President-Elect Obama, authored by Hoyt Davidson, the Founder and Managing Partner of Near Earth LLC, a New York-based satellite industry investment banking consultancy.

Ideas for a Space Legacy

First of all, congratulations on a brilliantly run campaign. We add our hopes to that of our fellow citizens that this same degree of enthusiasm, optimism, organization, planning, intellect, and civility can be infused top down into all of Washington, D.C.

We have also been impressed with the thoroughness of your transition team’s efforts in relation to reviewing NASA and its goals and challenges. It will indeed be a daunting task to maintain our country’s lead in space on a $20 billion budget and we offer no advice on the many complicated budgetary trades between completing the International Space Station and perhaps extending its life, accelerating development of the Ares and Orion programs to lessen any gap in our independent access to space, or alternatively extending the Shuttle fleet’s life. There are enough experts of differing opinions and no shortage of interested parties to make these decisions quite difficult. Good luck.

What we really want to address is your legacy in space, because your legacy will be our legacy, too. It is, of course, highly unlikely (though certainly not technically beyond our means) that any country will send people to the Moon, and certainly not onto the surface of Mars, within the next eight years. So, all audacious hope aside, that is unlikely to be your legacy. But like JFK, a clearly stated goal to boldly move forward on one, or both, can be your legacy and we would strongly suggest it should be.

Do we really want to explain to our children and grandchildren in 2020 or 2025 how we landed on the Moon in 1969, but somehow lost the ultimate space race to China, India, Russia, Europe or all of the above? At the very least, let’s find some partners and go back together.

As for the difficult decisions mentioned above, in 25, 50 or 100 years the world will little note whether the International Space Station was operated a few more years or not. What the world will remember is what wonderful new drugs or materials were first created there.

So far the track record of investment and achievement is underwhelming. In the future, the world will not care so much as to whether we used Ares, Soyuz, or the Shuttle to get into space during your Administration. They are all just upgrades of varying degrees of German rocket technology from WWII.

The world will, however, be impressed if, during your Administration, new reusable launch vehicle technologies and systems are finally developed that allow us to gain the order of magnitude reduction in cost per kilogram we so desperately need. The world will remember if space tourism becomes a reality, or if any country can add its citizens to the ranks of astronauts.

Please consider how you might smartly invest in these new technologies and how access to space can be expanded for all. Looking back from the future, we suspect the world will also want to say that during your Administration we finally took Earth monitoring seriously and put in place new satellite constellations to measure, predict and better understand our global climate. We should really not be guessing when and where hurricanes will form and what direction they will head. That is so 20th century.

Your Administration could also mark a renaissance in mankind’s quest to explore and use space. To date, other than for some notable commercial applications from Earth orbit, space has been almost exclusively the domain of governments. With recent and continuing advancements in technology that no longer has to be the case.

The world is full of space enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, as we are sure you have discovered, and many are quite willing and able to risk their lives and their own capital. But operating in space is expensive and what they need are government incentives to attract additional capital. This has been talked about for years, but nothing major has ever happened. What we have received are X prizes of $10 or $20 million to accomplish things costing 10x to 100x more money.

What we need are XXX Prizes, meaning amounts large enough to spur the private sector forward with realistic hopes of just rewards for accomplishing tasks the government would otherwise spend considerably more to achieve.

Lastly, as you contemplate a potential trillion dollar stimulus package, please keep in mind that we need more than just bridges and roads and the temporary construction jobs they entail. In fact, we would argue the jobs we really want to create for our country’s long term competitive advantage are jobs in science and technology.

We know you understand as your green technology, alternative energy, and terrestrial broadband initiatives are exactly along these lines. What we humbly suggest is that a significantly increased investment in space also be considered. We need to do more than just maintain the “high ground” of space for our military and intelligence communities. We need to recommit ourselves to aggressively lead the world in exploring and using space for commercial, scientific and peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.

To achieve these gains we will, of course, need more home grown scientists and engineers. Sadly, we are falling woefully behind our important competitors in this regard. You, as President, can use your bully pulpit to make science and math cool and important to our youth and there is no better stimulus for that than Space, the Final Frontier.

Very respectfully,
Hoyt Davidson, Near Earth LLC

About the author
Mr. Davidson is the founder and Managing Member of Near Earth LLC. Previously, he was a Managing Director in the Telecomm Group at Credit Suisse First Boston. Mr. Davidson’s investment banking career began in 1987 as an associate and one of only approximately 100 bankers at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. He was part of the phenomenal growth and success of DLJ to over 1,000 bankers by the time of its acquisition by CSFB in 2000. At DLJ, Hoyt Davidson was a co-founder of the firm’s Space Finance Group, Wall Street’s first dedicated industry coverage group for the satellite industry. Mr. Davidson was one of two Managing Directors of the Space Finance Group. The group raised over $25 billion for satellite related entities and held a number one market share for several years.