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Looking back on the 12th European Symposium on Cubesats

Looking back on the 12th European Symposium on Cubesats
01 Dec. 2021

With their low-cost and public technologies, small satellites were at the heart of the discussions from 24 to 26 of November at the 12th European Cubesat Symposium. True to the 'Newspace' movement, which seeks to make space exploration more accessible and of which cubesats are a central element, the symposium gathered the views of academic and industrial speakers, from renowned groups as well as space start-ups, such as Lionel Suchet, Director General of the French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).

This edition was co-organised by the von Karman Institute of Fluid Dynamics (VKI), partner of the symposium every year, and by the École polytechnique thanks to the VKI's interactions with the Student Space Centre and the sponsorship supported by Thales Alenia Space and ArianeGroup "Space: Science and Space Challenges", led by Pascal Chabert, CNRS Research Director at the Plasma Physics Laboratory (LPP*).

The scientific presentations covered a wide range of topics, from the state of the art on types of electric propulsion for cubesats, to the use of hydrogen contained in water (separated from oxygen by electrolysis) as a fuel for spacecraft, to technologies for coordinating cubesat constellations.

With twelve sponsors supporting the event and speakers from major groups and agencies such as CNES and the European Space Agency (ESA), the symposium demonstrated the links and knowledge sharing that unite the members of the network of European space centres. The École Polytechnique was able to demonstrate its contribution to this network, in particular through visits to the startups Exotrail (developing electric cubesat thrusters as well as simulation and space operations tools) and ThrustMe (developing ion engines and cold gas thrusters), which came out of the Student Space Centre and the École Polytechnique laboratories respectively. The Student Space Centre's ambitious IonSat project, which presented its projected programme with a launch of its cubesat in 2024, is being carried out with the support of ThrustMe, which has donated one of its ion engines.

The symposium also featured a student competition, in which five teams from three different universities (Warsaw University of Technology, University of Stuttgart, Technical University of Munich) and two student networks (German network of Young Scientists, Association Spatiale Toulousaine de Recherche Étudiante) presented their projects. The winners, Aleksandra Mochol, Krzysztof Zajac, Kacper Kordek and Jakub Murawski from the Warsaw University of Technology, detailed the development and testing phases of their experimental cold pressurised gas (in this case butane) thruster.

*LPP: a joint research unit CNRS, École Polytechnique - Institut Polytechnique de Paris, Observatoire de Paris, Sorbonne University, Université Paris-Saclay

>> about the sponsorship programme:
Supported since 2019 by Thales Alenia Space and ArianeGroup, the "Space, Science and Challenges of Space" teaching sponsorship led by Pascal Chabert aims to train the aerospace professionals of tomorrow. To this end, the courses offered by this sponsorship are based on two pillars: firstly, space projects carried out at the École Polytechnique's Student Space Centre, and secondly, high-level courses in physics, mechanics, applied mathematics and computer science.