Contest prompts students to join the space race

06/03/23 | Park News, Sector/Industry News

Almost 200 budding space engineers launched potential careers in the industry thanks to a special competition held at Westcott Venture Park on 2nd and 3rd March.

Split into 36 teams, the groups aged between 14 and 18 gathered at the Westcott in Buckinghamshire to design their own mini satellite as part of the CanSat competition, organised by ESERO-UK, (European Space Education Resource Office, UK).

The aim was to give students practical experience of working on a small-scale space project, fitting all the major subsystems found in a satellite such as power, sensors and a communication system into an object the size of a soft drink can.

They were also tasked with designing a secondary mission based on other satellite missions, analysing scientific data for a specific project, a technology demonstration for a student-designed component or anything that would fit the CanSat’s capabilities. 

With building work completed, teams were then invited to launch events across the UK to launch their CanSats on small rockets with Westcott being the first of the regional events.

The primary mission was to measure air pressure and temperature during descent with data transmitted to the students' ground station where it will be analysed and reports produced. The descent of the CanSat’s was controlled using a parachute also designed by the students.

Matt Archer, Director of Commercial Spaceflight at the UK Space Agency, said: “It’s fantastic to see the CanSat competition gathering steam every year, giving more students hands-on experience of working on a real space project. With a growing launch capability here in the UK, we need to develop the next generation of space professionals to ensure our spaceflight sector continues to thrive. 

“The UK Space Agency has provided around £60,000 to ensure the CanSat competition continues to inspire more young people around the UK about space and the career opportunities available and encourage the uptake of STEM subjects. I can’t wait to see the results of the competition final.”

Ben Jarvis, Chief Executive of Launch Access which ran the competition on behalf of ESERO-UK, said: “In the past all these regional events had to take place on farms or airfields – places which don’t really have any connection to the space industry.

“Having the opportunity for students to participate at Westcott, the UK home of rocket propulsion, achieves one of the main aims of the competition which is to let kids across the country know that the UK has a space sector and that exciting stuff involving rockets does happen in the UK. You don’t have to be friends with Elon Musk and live in the United States to work with rockets for a job.

“The regional competition at Westcott was a big success, we had 32 successful launches on behalf of almost 200 students across over 25 different schools.”

The international CanSat competition is now running across the UK with over 200 teams from schools across the country involved but Westcott was by far the most popular location hosting the largest number of teams. The finals take place in York in April with the winners invited to compete in the European finals.

Nigel MacKenzie, Development Manager at Westcott, added: “We are planning to bring formal space/rocketry training onsite and are keen to foster new talent and inspire young people to join the industry.

“This was an excellent exercise in showing our support for early academic involvement in space.”

The CanSat competition offers a unique opportunity for students to have their first practical experience of a real space project. They are responsible for all aspects: selecting the mission objectives, designing the CanSat, integrating the components, testing, preparing for launch and analysing data. 

CanSat is part of a European Space Agency competition run by ESERO-UK from October - April every year.

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