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Aarhus to become part of the national student satellite programme

Aarhus University is collaborating with three Danish universities to establish a national satellite programme in collaboration with the Danish Industry Foundation. The programme is designed to generate even more graduates with high-tech skills, and it will be part of students' degree programmes. A grant of DKK 4.25 million from the Danish Industry Foundation will ensure the launch of the first three CubeSat satellites.

2020.11.18 | Rasmus Rørbæk

The purpose of the Delphini-1 satellite programme was to train students to carry out satellite missions: from mission planning to construction of the satellite, launch, orbit and analysis of data collected. (Photo: SAC, AU)

The Delphini-1 mission was – and is – the basis for a new satellite programme called DISCO, in which four universities have joined forces to educate even more graduates in high-tech competencies. The students themselves will also be able to get their hands on all aspects of a satellite mission. In the picture, the Delphini-1 CubeSat is under construction in the cleanroom at Aarhus University. (Photo: SAC, AU)

There is still some way to go before Aarhus can call itself a leading space city, but with a new collaboration, Aarhus University will be able to help educate more graduates with leading space competencies. Danish universities were among the first to conduct educational activities based on the launch of so-called CubeSats, and as a consequence of these activities, Denmark is one of the leading nations in the development and production of CubeSats.

Four Danish universities are now working together to organise the DanIsh Student Cubesat prOgramme, which abbreviates to DISCO. The project establishes for the first time a national organisation to implement CubeSat-based courses of study at Danish universities and upper secondary schools. Over time, the programme can be extended to even more players.

The programme stems from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science's partnership for space-related study programmes, which shares the joint mission that Denmark is to lead the way in using space-based technology, knowledge, data and infrastructure as an educational resource at Danish universities. The project is a big step towards achieving this ambition.

"Imagine that, as part of their degree programmes, students at no fewer than four Danish universities could be designing, programming and building small satellites to be launched into orbit over the Arctic. And that, together with upper secondary school students, they will be able to communicate with the satellite and retrieve and work with data and images from the polar regions. It’s fantastic,” says Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen.

Dolphins in space

If Denmark is to maintain its stronghold, Danish universities will have to continue to use CubeSats in teaching and thereby develop the space engineers and physicists of the future. With this outset, in 2017 AU began the AUSAT project, in which students built the Delphini-1 satellite, which is still in orbit so students can follow and use the satellite for teaching and research. Other Danish universities have had similar programmes, and some of these are now being consolidated and targeted as part of the partnership.

"It's very positive that we can now start this collaboration on a course of study for students within space technology. At Aarhus University, we have built up useful experience from Delphini-1, which is now to be followed-up, as the 1 in the name of the satellite indicates," says Associate Professor Christoffer Karoff, who has been part of the AUSAT programme since it started, and who is now heading the DISCO project.

Delphini-1 and other CubeSats are basically a cube measuring 10x10x10 cm. The small satellites can be launched relatively easily compared with more conventional missions, and they can be developed in synergy between several research branches: whether they entail searching for distant and unknown worlds, or something closer to home such as geological and geophysical studies and developing new forms of telecommunication.

In addition to Aarhus University, Aalborg University, the University of Southern Denmark and the IT University of Copenhagen are all working together on the project.

DISCO also includes 10 mobile earth stations, i.e. antennas that communicate with the satellites. Via the House of Natural Sciences, these mobile earth stations will be lent to Danish upper-secondary schools, giving them the opportunity to listen to the new DISCO CubeSats under expert supervision from the students in the project. The goal is for DISCO to lead to more new start-ups.

Contact:
Associate Professor Christoffer Karoff,
Department of Physics and Astronomy,
Aarhus University
Tel.: +45 21183926
Email: karoff@geo.au.dk

Department of Physics