Starting in March 2016, European university students will be able to access a unique set of opportunities to enrich their space science and engineering education: the ESA Academy.

What is the ESA Academy?

The ESA Academy will provide a new perspective on the learning of space disciplines. It will be run in close collaboration with European universities and is designed to complement academic education. It will enhance the students’ educational experience and allow them to benefit from an unprecedented transfer of ESA’s practical and theoretical know-how. This will range from space sciences to engineering, spacecraft operations, product and quality assurance, project management and much more.

It will help university students become acquainted with the standard professional practices applied nowadays across the whole space sector, and better prepare them for the labour market.

The two pillars of the ESA Academy

The ESA Academy brings together existing and new elements of the ESA Education Programme for universities. It will now group these under two interconnected pillars of activity:

Hands-on Space Projects, an existing programme that enables students to gain first-hand experience of real space-related projects.
Training and Learning Programme, a new initiative offering an entirely new set of courses and learning opportunities.
In addition to providing access to existing ESA establishments and partners’ infrastructures, the ESA Academy will make use of new dedicated facilities located at ESA’s Redu Centre in Belgium. The Training and Learning Centre, will start courses in March this year, and the CubeSat Education Centre will become operational in 2017.

Hands-on Space Projects

Students during a Fly Your Thesis! campaign

Since the mid-2000s, ESA has offered university students the opportunity to participate in real space-related projects. They range from scientific and technology-demonstration experiments to be run on a number of different professional platforms, to small satellite missions such as CubeSats to be launched in space.

The Hands-on Space Projects is coordinated through a number of thematic programmes:

– Fly Your Satellite!, the ESA CubeSat educational programme.
– ESEO, the European Student Earth Orbiter, a microsatellite developed in collaboration with universities .
– Fly Your Thesis!, student experiments to be run in microgravity conditions on three parabolic flights.
– Drop Your Thesis!, student experiments to be run in microgravity conditions using the ZARM Drop Tower.
– Spin Your Thesis!, student experiments to be run in hypergravity conditions using the ESA Large Diameter Centrifuge.
– REXUS/BEXUS, the German (DLR)/Swedish(SNSB) programme with ESA collaboration allowing student experiments to fly on sounding rockets and stratospheric balloons.

This set of exciting programmes grows and evolves over time to offer students access to more and more professional space facilities and opportunities. The ESA Academy Hands-on Space Projects is coordinated by the ESA Education Office at ESA’s ESTEC establishment in the Netherlands.

The Training and Learning Programme

REXUS/BEXUS student workshop at ESTEC

Newly established, the ESA Academy’s Training and Learning Programme offers a varied portfolio of courses given by space experts and professionals coming from all fields of ESA’s expertise, as well as from space industry and academia.

The courses will be available to interested university students mainly engaged in space-related studies. In particular, they will be available to the student teams participating in the ESA Academy’s Hands-on Space Projects, to complement their learning experience and to support them in the different phases of their projects.

The Training and Learning Programme is coordinated by the ESA Education Office from ESA’s Redu Centre in Belgium.

New training facilities

ESA Education staff and student CubeSat teams

The Training and Learning Programme courses will be mainly delivered at the new Training and Learning Centre, located in Redu. The centre also features a dedicated Concurrent Design Facility, or CDF. This is an integrated professional system that will allow students to investigate the preliminary design of a space mission or system and gain direct experience of system engineering design.

The ESA Academy’s facilities also include the new CubeSat Education Centre. As a primary objective, the centre will allow end-to-end engineering support to university teams engaged in a CubeSat satellite project, from design to operations; in the future, the facility may also be available for test and integration of other student experiments.

The Test and Integration Facility features a shaker, a thermal vacuum chamber and a workshop, where students will be able to assemble and test their satellites under the guidance of experts. Thanks to the educational CDF, the students will also be able to perform the preliminary design of their own CubeSat mission before entering the building and engineering phase. Dedicated workstations will also allow student CubeSat teams to operate their satellite in the first phases of their mission in space (LEOP).

Stay tuned as the 2016 ESA Academy Training and Learning Programme’s course calendar will be on line soon!