REVOLVE Fellow attends Alpbach Summer School

 

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How can you know about Earth composition or Earth sub layers activities that provoke earthquakes and continental drift? You can always try to go down a volvano crater like in Journey to the Center of the Earth, however satellite observation would be a much practical solution ! Measuring magnetic and gravitational fields with satellites can give much more information on our Earth that Jules Verne would have dreamt of. Check the maps and data provided by ESA missions such as SWARM for magnetic field or GOCE for the gravitational field to convince yourself.

Earth magnetic and gravitational fields were the topic of Alpbach Summerschool organized by FFG (Austrian Research Promotion Agency) and ESA in which I took part this summer. 60 students from all over Europe attended this event in the middle of the beautiful Austrian Alps.

During the first few days we attended courses on magnetic and gravitational fields and on satellite mission design. Earth magnetic field comes from the movements of electrically charged particles, these movements may comes from the rise of less dense matters from the core of Earth (that may result in volcanoes or continents rifts). Measurements help to explain the geologic phenomena happening under our feet. Gravity field measurements help us to know about the composition of Earth (densier regions of Earth will have  higher gravitational field) and its geodesy (the Earth shape is not completely a sphere).
In groups of 15 people we worked on a mission proposal to leverage satellites constellations for magnetic and gravitational remote sensing. Our team was called RUBIKS (Reconstruction of Undercrust Behaviour with Interconnected Kube Satellites) and we managed to propose a mission of 8 satellites that would map both the gravitational and magnetic field with a low-cost design and unprecedented time resolution.
Alpbach Summerschool was a tremendous experience that I recommend to anyone interested in space and science. It was intense with a lot of work but with what I learnt and the mission we came up with in the end, it was completely worth it. We were supported by two tutors and lecturers who gave us a lot of precious feedback.

Our efforts were rewarded by an award for the most innovative mission by a panel of experienced scientists and engineers. Special thanks for the CNES for the sponsorship, to Peter Faulkner, Michaela Gitsch, our tutors Olivier Carraz and Tyler Jones, and all the RUBIKS team.

That’s all for today, see you soon when I pop back to update my blog with more of my PhD experiences!

REVOLVE and ESoA

Florian Vidal, REVOLVE PhD Fellow, recommends that if you are a student studying antennas then a visit to the ESoA (European School of Antennas) is a must!  Several times a year, many universities organize antenna courses for PhD students . In May 2019,  Florian went on a course organized by Chalmers University in the city of Gothenburg and on the topic of 5G antennas. During that week, technical courses and discussion sessions were organized on how antenna technologies can help to set up 5G networks. The courses were given during the day by people from industry or professors and at the end of the day students were given the opportunity to discuss the ideas that were presented during the day.

What is 5G? Imagine 10 to 100 times more datarate and latency of about 1ms… Perfect to watch Netflix in high definition or to play in the highest leagues of League of Legends. ESoA is also a social event where I met other PhDs, professor and people from industry. Networking around a beer or a bowling session is always great!

Florian Vidal, PhD Fellow

Florian would like to thank Chalmers University, in particular Professor Yian Jiang, for the warm welcome and for the high quality courses that will help him in his future career!

Figure 4 - The ESA Academy's Concurrent Engineering Workshop - May 2018 participants(credit ESA)

One week at ESA

Blog post by Florian Vidal, REVOLVE Fellow

It has been a while since my last post! Don’t worry I didn’t suffocate under research papers and on the contrary, my work is progressing fine. Today I’m going to focus on an event I participated in which was a workshop organized by ESA. ESA stands for European Space Agency and its role is to provide, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European states in space research and technology and their space applications. It also promoting space with outreach (follow their mascot Paxi!) Furthermore, ESA is involved in state-of-the art project such as Galileo, the European GPS.

The topic of the workshop I attended was about concurrent engineering, the art of combining several engineering fields to find an optimal design. I am going to present to you the process we went through to design a spacecraft to go to the moon.

Figure 1 - Redu position in Europe

Figure 1 – Redu position in Europe

The workshop took place in ESA’s European space Security and Education Centre (ESEC) in Redu, a remote Belgian village 2 hours from Brussels. This place was chosen years ago by ESA to minimize interference for satellite operations while remaining in the center of Europe. When I arrived to the hotel I was really surprised by the diversity of nationalities amongst the participants. We were 20 university students, Spanish, German, Polish, Dutch, Italian, Romanian, Portuguese, English and French. Moreover 2 system engineers from ESA were there to support us during this week.

Figure 2 - ESA-ESEC site in Redu, Belgium

Figure 2 – ESA-ESEC site in Redu, Belgium

We were welcomed by ESA staff at ESA Academy’s Training and Learning Centre. There, we were presented ESA and ESA Education Programme, and our mission for the following days: designing a low-cost spacecraft to bring a rover to the moon using ESA Educational Concurrent Engineering Facility (CDF). The name of the mission was LIAR (Lunar Impactor And Rover). The mission consisted in a spacecraft that would impact the moon instead of landing softly. That way we would use less fuel hence a lighter spacecraft. This spacecraft would bring a rover to the moon for an observation mission (taking pictures).

 

Figure 3 - ESA's Educational Concurrent Engineering Facility (CDF) (credit ESA)

Figure 3 – ESA’s Educational Concurrent Engineering Facility (CDF) (Credit:ESA)

The team was composed of several sub-teams divided by subsystems: thermal; communications/data handling; structures; trajectory; configuration;  propulsion; and, power. I was working on communication and data handling subsystems with another student. Concretely our work consisted in finding a/some ground station(s), designing the communication module to enable control, telemetry, and the downlink of the pictures the rover would take on the moon.

Figure 4 - The ESA Academy's Concurrent Engineering Workshop - May 2018 participants(credit ESA)

Figure 4 – The ESA Academy’s Concurrent Engineering Workshop – May 2018 participants (credit: ESA)

We also had the opportunity to visit ESEC facilities. For example, we went into the Proba Operations Control Room. Proba satellites are 3 Belgian observation satellites: Proba-1 is observing Earth; Proba-2 the sun; and, Proba-V vegetation. Their information is precious and can be used for agricultural, weather or scientific purposes.

Figure 5 - Photo of the sun taken by Proba-2 (credit: ESA)

Figure 5 – Photo of the sun taken by Proba-2 (credit: ESA)

During the last 2 days of the Workshop we worked hard to find an optimal solution. It was really challenging in the way all the subsystems interact with other subsystems. For example, as I was working on communications, trade-offs between the number of pictures we can send and the power required on the spacecraft were to be made. It was hard negotiations! The tools provided by ESA and the fact that we were all in the same room were essential to iterate quickly to cross out non-feasible solutions.

In the end I was really surprised by the result of our work. I honestly thought that we could not achieve anything in 4 days for such complex mission but finally the solution we reached seemed not too far-reached! Many thanks to ESA Education Office team for this exciting week!