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Student experiment on sounding rocket

Published: 11 June 2020

Space students at Luleå University of Technology will develop an attitude control system for free falling experiments from sounding rockets. This within the framework of the REXUS/BEXUS student programme.

An attitude control system is a system that controls the orientation of an object. The attitude control system developed by the students will be fast, low-cost, and easy to integrate. It uses three electrically powered reaction wheels to stabilise and orientate the free falling unit in three axes when in a reduced gravity environment. There are three main objectives with the system. It will be compact, stabilisation shall be performed rapidly, and the solution should be able to perform predefined slewing maneuvers to be adaptable to a wider range of applications.

Since the attitude control system is designed especially for stabilization and control of Free Falling Units from sounding rockets, the best way to test the experiment properly and get enough time in microgravity is to fly it on a sounding rocket, an opportunity given through the REXUS/BEXUS programme. The REXUS rocket gives approximately three minutes of spaceflight and can reach altitudes of between 78 and 93 kilometers. The student experiment will fly on a sounding rocket scheduled to launch from Esrange in March 2021.

In total, 16 students from Space Campus in Kiruna are involved in the project. By participating in the REXUS project, the students gain experiences difficult to obtain in a classroom.

– The project gives us the possibility of learning practical project-oriented skills. One example is that we get to experience a full space mission cycle. This teaches us how to approach the design and implementation of a project first-hand, says Jonathan Lange, a student at the Master programme in Spacecraft Design.

Noel Janes, also a student in Spacecraft Design, agrees:

– We learn how to time manage as you have multiple set reviews and deadlines and you have to do your work on time. It also involves coordinating tasks and working with many different people over an extended period. We have also learned to work with people from different countries and backgrounds, which has required us to see things from other perspectives and how to combine different expertises, says Noel Janes.

According to the students, the combination of the scientific challenge and the team spirit is what makes it worth to put down so much work into one single project.

– We have to build the experiment ourselves, so we have done a lot of research of components and have to think how to manufacture the parts. We get to apply theoretical knowledge into a practical project, says Flavia Pérez Cámara, student at the Master Programme in Spacecraft Design.

Henning Isberg is a student at the Master Programme in Space Engineering and he highlights the value of meeting new people, become good friends, and aim at the same goal.

– Also we get a unique opportunity that you cannot get in school – we work on actual space hardware in a reality launch facility.

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