With six months to go before launch, the Second Young Engineers’ Satellite (YES2) has been moved into the test facilities at ESA’s Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands.

This important phase in the satellite’s development programme was given the go-ahead during a Test Readiness Review on 12 March. After completion of the satellite’s construction and assembly, followed by winding trials of its unique, 30 km long tether, the student-led mission is about to begin three weeks of intensive environmental tests.

“We have reached a vital stage on the road to launch,” said Age-Raymond Riise, ESA’s project coordinator. “This is when the teams of students all over the world find out whether their creation is ready for the final challenge of space travel.”

The YES2 test programme will begin with five days of electromagnetic compatibility testing, to ensure that to the spacecraft subsystems are not susceptible to electrostatic discharges or other electromagnetic interference.

The next step will be to place the satellite in a thermal vacuum chamber, where it will be alternately baked and frozen in order to ensure that it will survive the harsh conditions in orbit. After a measurement of the satellite’s mass properties, the final series of tests will involve placing YES2 on a vibration table in order to prove that it can withstand the noise and stresses of launch.

The Final Acceptance Review is currently scheduled for 4 April, with shipment of the YES2 satellite to Samara, Russia, expected in early May


The YES2 project involves more than 400 students from across Europe and around the world. The satellite is scheduled to be launched by a Soyuz rocket in September 2007, piggybacking on ESA’s Foton-M3 microgravity mission.

One of the most important aspects of this innovative mission is the deployment of a 30 km long tether to deploy the Fotino mini-satellite and re-entry capsule. . Not only will this be the longest artificial structure ever deployed in space, but it will also be the first time that a tether has been used to return a payload from space. The flight is intended to demonstrate how such a tether can be used to change a satellite’s orbit without attitude control systems or rocket engines.