Uchusen’s MAGES mission concept featured at top of ESA’s list of candidates bidding for the 2017 S-Class Mission launch. Around 70 EU companies, institutes and universities are bidding to define ESA’s next generation S-Class Mission to launch on the Vega launcher some time in 2017. The MAGES mission, short for Magnetospheric Earth Swarm, is to launch a nanosatellite swarm to study the evolution of the magnetosphere in geospace.
The theme and content of the mission have generally been left up to the participants, although we expect that the bids will be centred around the broad themes of Cosmic Vision 2025. A quick bullet point list of the call:
Funding available for ESA required work/activities: up to 50m Euros (ex-payload)
Payload: to be provided by ESA member state entities
Development time for entire mission: no more than 4yrs
Maturity: only components/subsystems allowed at TRL5 or more
Size: 1.5T max
Proposal: no more than 30 pages
Deadline: June 15, 2012

Uchusen’s MAGES mission concept featured at top of ESA’s list of candidates bidding for the 2017 S-Class Mission launch. Around 70 EU companies, institutes and universities are bidding to define ESA’s next generation S-Class Mission to launch on the Vega launcher some time in 2017. The MAGES mission, short for Magnetospheric Earth Swarm, is to launch a nanosatellite swarm to study the evolution of the magnetosphere in geospace.

The theme and content of the mission have generally been left up to the participants, although we expect that the bids will be centred around the broad themes of Cosmic Vision 2025. A quick bullet point list of the call:

  • Funding available for ESA required work/activities: up to 50m Euros (ex-payload)
  • Payload: to be provided by ESA member state entities
  • Development time for entire mission: no more than 4yrs
  • Maturity: only components/subsystems allowed at TRL5 or more
  • Size: 1.5T max
  • Proposal: no more than 30 pages
  • Deadline: June 15, 2012

Uchusen presents what we call “Hopper Alpha”: a hover-capable lunar hopper (or indeed asteroid lander) developed by the team in less than a year. With a short series of 60-second videos, we present the results from Hopper Alpha’s goal to create a hover-capable demonstration model within a university calendar year using proven yet accessible technologies. It now forms part of University of Southampton’s ongoing MEng final year project, where success in the project represents a large proportion of the final year student’s grades. The project is co-sponsored by Uchusen, alongside University of Southampton and DELTACAT Ltd.

"Considering analysis, design and supply of components and materials takes up at least 4-5 months of that final year, apart from the other activities students have ongoing, team progress on building the hopper has been amazing" said Managing Director Mandali Khalesi at the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus, "There is a boom underway internationally for Near Earth Object asteroid missions (Obama’s 2010 space policy, ESA and JAXA’s Marco Polo mission, Planetary Resources) and around 8 missions planned for the Moon in the next 5 years alone. 21st century spacecraft development should be fast, affordable, repeatable, standardisable. Hopper Alpha is the first step towards agile spacecraft development required by this new century. The team has gone from a blank sheet of paper to the core physical and electronics framework ready for the gimbal/thruster, firing and hovering phase, all in under one calendar year. Simply fantastic."

It was a disappointment that Uchusen’s original challenge of build-and-hover within a year was not met, which really pushed the team to the limit. However the team are working on integrating the thruster, quickly finalising the gimbal and preparing for testing at a test-firing facility, and Uchusen is confident the delay can be absorbed in next year’s activities. It was also educational for us to understand the various challenges faced by the team in such a short timeframe, and the compromises that had to be made and where we could do better.

Issues equally on the marketing side: although Uchusen contributed equally to others in the co-sponsorship deal, the Uchusen logo printed on the side of the prototype was so small as not to be visible, and didn’t provide the sponsorship presence we expected. The video setup was also suboptimal (tripod is good for stability, but doesn’t allow quick closeups of the gear), the video’s audio was far from ideal (lapel mics anyone?), and then some files got corrupted along the way for good measure… All easy items to lock down much earlier in the process for a smart, professional presentation next time around.

Free lessons available from Europe’s Space Agency on how to dock one of their multi-ton ATV supply  spacecraft to the International Space Station. First thing you need is to download this Cortona 3D plugin, which offers some very smooth colour transitions all by itself which is rather cool. Then you can jump right into docking malfunctions and final approaches… although I believe it would be much more helpful to have a list of the more basic tasks, so that budding operators of the skies can learn the basics before they hit the deep end.

Free lessons available from Europe’s Space Agency on how to dock one of their multi-ton ATV supply  spacecraft to the International Space Station. First thing you need is to download this Cortona 3D plugin, which offers some very smooth colour transitions all by itself which is rather cool. Then you can jump right into docking malfunctions and final approaches… although I believe it would be much more helpful to have a list of the more basic tasks, so that budding operators of the skies can learn the basics before they hit the deep end.

Uchusen’s recent visit to the European Space Agency’s #ESTEC Space Expo for a meeting earlier this month… let’s see how that works out! No shots of inside the conference hall for obvious reasons, but for the time being, sit back and enjoy the shaky, unprocessed and completely amateurish footage of my arrival there on a rather sunny April morning!

Call for media to hear the first signals from Europe’s own GPS constellation Galileo flying at 23,000km altitude. The event will take place on March 29th at ESA’s Redu Centre in Belgium near the French and Luxemburg borders, two years before the new GPS system goes fully operational, although the control centers processing the data are over in Munich, Germany, and Fucino, Italy.

Call for media to hear the first signals from Europe’s own GPS constellation Galileo flying at 23,000km altitude. The event will take place on March 29th at ESA’s Redu Centre in Belgium near the French and Luxemburg borders, two years before the new GPS system goes fully operational, although the control centers processing the data are over in Munich, Germany, and Fucino, Italy.

As of today, Uchusen has formally signalled its intent to join the 2012 ESA Small-size Mission Call by submitting a Letter of Intent to ESA. Ahead of the March 23rd deadline, Uchusen Company Managing Director Mandali Khalesi commented on the historic call:

"By releasing this call for Small Missions, ESA has again shown that it is at the forefront of working with the broader scientific community as well as small and medium businesses to find innovative answers to strategic space science goals of the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025", Mandali noted. "Uchusen is perfectly positioned to leverage its expertise in cutting-edge nanosatellite systems to respond to this call"

Uchusen looks forward to the meeting later this month in the Netherlands, and get answers to outstanding questions and more info in terms of requirements for the formal proposal to be handed in to ESA by June 2012.

"As the proposal will be a collaborative effort with our European and international partners, it is important that we get all the pieces of the puzzle together to present the strongest case to ESA. We think our overall proposal is both reliable, scalable and low-cost, while employing cutting-edge technology to answer and hopefully exceed the requirements of the call. Now it’s time to get everything needed to make this a winner", said Mandali.

As of today, Uchusen has formally signalled its intent to join the 2012 ESA Small-size Mission Call by submitting a Letter of Intent to ESA. Ahead of the March 23rd deadline, Uchusen Company Managing Director Mandali Khalesi commented on the historic call:

"By releasing this call for Small Missions, ESA has again shown that it is at the forefront of working with the broader scientific community as well as small and medium businesses to find innovative answers to strategic space science goals of the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025", Mandali noted. "Uchusen is perfectly positioned to leverage its expertise in cutting-edge nanosatellite systems to respond to this call"

Uchusen looks forward to the meeting later this month in the Netherlands, and get answers to outstanding questions and more info in terms of requirements for the formal proposal to be handed in to ESA by June 2012.

"As the proposal will be a collaborative effort with our European and international partners, it is important that we get all the pieces of the puzzle together to present the strongest case to ESA. We think our overall proposal is both reliable, scalable and low-cost, while employing cutting-edge technology to answer and hopefully exceed the requirements of the call. Now it’s time to get everything needed to make this a winner", said Mandali.