AMSAT-UK to provide Amateur Radio payload for ESEO satellite

The ESEO spacecraft Copyright ALMASpace - ESA

The ESEO spacecraft Copyright ALMASpace – ESA

AMSAT-UK will be providing a 1260/145 MHz FM transponder and a 145 MHz BPSK telemetry beacon for the European Student Earth Orbiter (ESEO). This is the third mission within the European Space Agency’s Education Satellite Programme.

The satellite, which has a mass of 40 kg and measures 33x33x63 cm, is planned to launch in 2015-16 into a low Earth orbit.

Nine European universities will be working with the prime contractor ALMASpace, Italy, on the mission. Cranfield University in Bedfordshire will be supplying a small sail that will be deployed to demonstrate the de-orbiting of spacecraft at the end of the mission.

The primary purpose of the AMSAT-UK payload is to provide a downlink telemetry that can be easily received by schools and colleges for educational outreach purposes. The data will be displayed in an attractive format and provide stimulation and encouragement for students to become interested in all STEM subjects in a unique way.

The target audience is primarily students at both primary and secondary levels and the project includes the development of a simple and cheap “ground station” operating on VHF frequencies in the Amateur Satellite Service. This station is an omni-directional antenna feeding a FUNcube DonglePRO+ SDR receiver which will receive the signals direct from the satellite and transfer the data to specially developed graphical software running on any Windows laptop.

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ESA Call for Proposals: FLY YOUR SATELLITE!

Artists impression of Vega launch

Artists impression of Vega launch

’Fly Your Satellite!’ is an exciting new initiative from the European Space Agency (ESA) Education and Knowledge Management Office. It is focused on CubeSat projects run by university students and builds on the successful ‘CubeSats for the Vega Maiden Flight’ pilot programme, which culminated in 2012 with the launch of seven university student-built CubeSats on board the Vega Maiden Flight.

In the future, this new initiative is intended to cover the complete development process of a satellite from concept to launch. However, the 2013 edition will be dedicated to teams whose satellite is already at an advanced stage of development and able to complete the Flight Model assembly by June 2013. One, two or three-unit CubeSats are eligible.

Fly Your Satellite (FYS) – Call for Proposals – Iss.1

FYS – instructions guidelines – Iss.1

The opportunity will be open to European university teams from ESA Member States or Cooperating States:
• ESA Member States – Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
• ESA cooperating States – Canada, Estonia, Hungary, and Slovenia.

Further information on the ESA website at

UK Space Agency to send up first satellite

Artist impression of UKube-1

The UK Space Agency has announced plans to launch its first satellite – if it can find the right spaceship to catch a lift from.

The tiny UKube-1 will carry a variety of scientific experiments when it eventually gets off the ground later this year.


The project will see the agency take a leap into launching cubesats – a type of relatively cheap, mini-satellite for space research which has a volume of little more than one litre, a mass of around 1.3kg.

It also marks a significant departure for UKSAformed less than a year ago from the British National Space Centre, which had focused on supplying European Space Agency with parts and expertise for a variety of missions. 

Head of communications Matt Goodman said: ‘We’re still in discussions with potential launch providers for UKube-1, and are working hard to find a launch option for the satellite.

‘Since cubesats tend to “piggy-back” on larger payloads during a launch, finding an opportunity with the right orbital configuration is not straightforward.’

Despite its relatively small budget, UKSA hopes to become a much bigger player in the industry, launching several more satellites in the years to come.

Agency head David Williams said: ‘The idea of cubesat is that we see it as a series with a launch every year or maybe two years allowing the sort of people that wouldn’t normally get access to space to run experiments in it.

‘We’d like to see this being an ongoing programme because it gives university groups, and even school groups and amateur groups, the opportunity to test fly equipment. It also gives industry the opportunity to test fly and to develop ideas on bits and pieces of electronics.’

UKSA is also involved in another ambitious project named Skylon, which is an ‘unpiloted, reusable spaceplane intended to provide inexpensive and reliable access to space’, according to the British firm Reaction Engines, which is hoping to build the new craft. 

The project got the green light from the European Space Agency in May last year. Although technologically possible, the project’s major stumbling block appears to be cost.

Mr Williams said: ‘We’re trying to work with [the team] to work out how they can raise the necessary finance and whether government should have any involvement in it in the future.

‘It’s going to be an expensive programme, several billion pounds over quite a long period, and the question is which industries wish to be involved, how UK should it be, how European should it be, should it be an international project?’ he added. ‘The idea of a true single-stage-to-orbit plane is very novel.’

UK’s first ESA business incubator signs first tenant

UK’s first ESA business incubator signs first tenant

The European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre Harwell (ESA BIC Harwell) has announced (17 May 2011) that its first tenant is The Electrospinning Company, a pioneering developer of revolutionary space age materials for the biomedical research industry.

Microscope image of electrospun fibres

The first of its kind in the UK, the ESA BIC Harwell will create jobs and opportunities by enabling pioneering, innovative companies to translate space technologies and applications into viable and profitable businesses in non-space industries. Managed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the ESA BIC Harwell will complement the work of the International Space Innovation Centre ISIC by offering a unique and focussed package of technical expertise and business support for up to 10 start-up businesses every year.

The Electrospinning Company uses an established process called electrospinning in which electrical charge is used to produce extremely thin fibres, one hundred times thinner than a human hair. These nanofibres are used in biotech research, particularly in the development of new stem-cell therapies to repair or replace damaged organs in the body. The silicon nozzle used in the manufacturing process was originally developed by STFC as part of its Microsystems In Space Programme.

Paul Neilson (left) signing the official tenancy agreement with STFC’s Paul Vernon

The Electrospinning Company currently offers its customers these revolutionary materials for laboratory use in the discovery phase of new stem cell therapies for a wide range of diseases.

As a tenant of ESA BIC Harwell, The Electrospinning Company is set to benefit from an impressive support package, which includes:

  • up to £41.5k towards the protection of intellectual property, design, prototyping and market studies;
  • easy access to both STFC’s and ESA’s technical expertise and experience;
  • well equipped offices;
  • a dedicated business champion from STFC to help with business planning and provide guidance towards access to STFC’s facilities and expertise.

Paul Neilson, Chief Executive at The Electrospinning Company, said: “We are delighted to have been selected as the first tenant at the ESA BIC Harwell. Moving there will provide us with access to important financial, technical and business support as well as to a number of innovation networks. All of this will accelerate us towards our goal of enabling doctors to implant three dimensional nanofibre structures containing stem cells that will enable patients’ bodies to regenerate damaged or diseased organs.”

Paul Vernon, Head of New Business at STFC, said: “This is excellent news. The space sector can bring huge social and economic benefits to the UK economy and business incubation is an effective tool for enabling technology transfer.  By working with both STFC’s and ESA’s scientists The Electrospinning Company is now set to make its mark with its revolutionary technology and applications.”

The tenant agreement was officially signed on 17 May at an ESA Technology Transfer Network (TTN) Showcase held at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire at which Paul Nielson was a key speaker. Both the ESA BIC Harwell and the ESA TTN in the UK are operated by STFC Innovations Limited, STFC’s commercialisation company. This is the first time that the technology transfer and incubation functions have been brought together under one organisation.

Bruno Naulais, European Space Incubators Network Manager at ESA said: “We are delighted with the set-up of this new ESA BIC in the UK. ESA BIC Harwell is the fifth of its kind in Europe and we have plans to open two more in Belgium later this year. ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme aims at strengthening European industry by identifying new business opportunities for providers of space technology and systems. This contributes to enhancing the know-how and competitiveness of these providers as they broaden their business horizons. ESA BICs have supported about 125 companies since their creation and, with the addition of ESA BIC Harwell, a total of 50 companies will be supported annually, directly through ESA BICs”.

Businesses interested in finding out more about the ESA BIC Harwell can contact: