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Beam me up, students: launch of student-built satellite shown live at Imperial


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By Laura Gallagher
27 October 2005

There was excitement in the air early this morning as Imperial students gathered to watch the launch of the first satellite built almost entirely by European students. The SSETI Express satellite lifted off from Plesetsk in Russia with Imperial students watching a live transmission on screens in the Blackett Laboratory.

SSETI express is the first of three satellites built by European students

The students are part of the Student Space Exploration and Technology Initiative (SSETI), which aims to give students hands-on experience of space technology by involving them in real space projects.

SSETI Express is the first of three satellites built by SSETI participants. Imperial students have been developing the second, the European Student Earth Orbiter (ESEO) satellite, which will be put into orbit in 2008.

Imperial is the only UK University involved in the project, which is run by the European Space Agency. Parts for the ESEO satellite are being built by 23 teams, and students from the faculties of Engineering and Physical Sciences are putting together the different parts and supervising testing.

Cristina Rodriguez Trobajo, an undergraduate in Aeronautics and coordinator of the Imperial team, said: "It is really exciting to see the launch of SSETI Express. It means a lot for the whole programme, even for those teams like ours who haven't worked on this particular satellite, because it shows that we can do it and reminds us of the reason why we are doing this.

"We are working really hard on the next satellite, and it is good to know that our efforts will not be in vain. We look forward to launching our own," she added.

The ESEO micro-satellite will be about the size of an oven and will weigh less than 120 kilos. Once orbiting the Earth, it will be taking pictures; carrying out radiation experiments in the Van Allen belts; testing the propulsion system; and communicating back to Earth at a frequency that can be picked up on amateur radio.

The students are also investigating questions such as whether ordinary off the shelf components such as Flash memory cards will work in space, rather than expensive custom- designed parts.

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