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A First Step to Space for High School Students

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Published on Friday, 13 May 2022

On 23 April a select group of Luxembourgish high school students gathered at the Elsenborn Airbase in Belgium to experience the satisfaction of launching a satellite for themselves. The students were participants in the second annual CanSat competition organised by the Luxembourg arm of the European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO).

A CanSat is a mini satellite used for educational purposes. It is the size of a fizzy drink can and is typically designed to perform some form of measurement. For this competition the CanSats were launched on a rocket to an altitude of two kilometers, and then fell back to the Earth using a parachute. 10 CanSats were launched, each by a team of four to six students 14-20 years old. By launching their own mini satellites the students get to experience a condensed form of a space mission, from design and planning to the manufacturing of the technology, launch, and mission wrap-up.

During this year’s competition a student of the Interdisciplinary Space Masters (ISM) at The University of Luxembourg, Balazs Farkas, supported these aspiring space enthusiasts to ensure their satellite would perform properly. During the competition in 2021 some of the teams had trouble with the onboard software of their CanSat. That is why Farkas proposed creating a software testbed for CanSats as part of his ISM studies. The CubeSatLab project Independent CANsat SOFtware Testbed (ICANSOFT) was developed by Farkas and this spring many of the CanSat competition teams came to the CubeSatLab to test their software and ensure it would perform properly on the day.

student in lab testing software


This software was crucial to mission success as the primary requirement for the competition was for the CanSat measure the air pressure and temperature. Each team could also propose a secondary mission, unique to their satellite. These included acceleration and humidity measurements and the use of GPS navigation sensors.  The final designs were then put to the test on the day of the launch, with all 10 CanSats returning to earth having completed their missions. It was the highlight of the competition and the students and organisers were thrilled with the results.

Following the launch the students presented their experience and the measurements of their CanSat to a panel of judges on May 7. Dr. Jan Thoemel from the University of Luxembourg’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) was a judge, as well as Ana Baltazar from Maana Electric and Roel Eerkens from the launcher T-Minus Engineering. The winning team, Lenster high school, will now join the European CanSat competition in summer 2022. We wish them much success!

Watch the launch here: