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Orbit Your Thesis! Programme

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ESA / Education / Orbit Your Thesis

The Orbit Your Thesis! (OYT) programme gives master and PhD candidates the opportunity to fly a scientific experiment in microgravity conditions onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Successful applicants will be given the opportunity to design, build and operate a fully autonomous experiment that will stay onboard the ISS for a period lasting up to 4 months in the “ICE Cubes” facility.

Ice Cubes in Columbus mockup
Ice Cubes in Columbus mockup

The ESA Education Office launches calls for proposals, which stay open for a minimum period of two months. During this phase, students together with an endorsing professor from their university are encouraged to formulate a well-balanced team of students (6 minimum) and submit their proposal for experiments tailored for the ICE Cubes platform.  Interested students should read the Orbit Your Thesis! web pages attentively to ensure their proposals comply to eligibility requirements and are relevant to the programme.

After having received the proposals, ESA Education Office makes a first round of selection based on eligibility criteria, educational value and scientific relevance.  Shortlisted teams are then invited to the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), the Netherlands, to present face to face their proposal to the Orbit Your Thesis! Selection Board. The Selection Board is composed of engineers and scientists from Space Applications Services, ESA specialists from different functional areas (Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration, ESA Education Office) and members of the European Low Gravity Research Association (ELGRA). Based on these presentations and experiments’ documentation, the Selection Board will identify the experiment recommended to fly onboard the ISS inside the ICE Cubes facility.

Orbit Your Thesis! logo
Orbit Your Thesis! logo

The selected team will have approximately one year to design, develop and test their experiment. Pending successful completion of the required tests and in accordance to safety reviews, the experiment will be launched to the ISS where it shall be installed in the ICE Cube facility and remain operational for up to 4 months. During this period, the students will have full control of their experiment, consistent with ISS communications coverage. Students will have the possibility to conduct multiple runs in accordance to the experiment’s objectives.

Interested in watching the ICF in use? Have a look at this video.

The Orbit Your Thesis! programme, in its current state, does not envisage returning the experiment to Earth. Therefore, all data is transmitted via standard communication channels. Large data sets, however, can be returned on appropriate removable media. Results obtained during the OYT programme should be delivered to ESA Education no later than 4 months after disposal of the experiment. Students will be requested to publish their research results in peer-reviewed journals and share their educational experience at international conferences.  

Orbit Your Thesis! is a unique opportunity for university students to conduct their experiments in prolonged microgravity conditions aboard the International Space Station. Should the proposed experiment not necessarily require such quality and length of microgravity exposure, students should consider applying for other programmes such as Drop Your Thesis!, Fly Your Thesis! or REXUS/BEXUS.

Are you interested in participating in the next Orbit Your Thesis! campaign? Read through these pages very carefully to see if you are eligible to apply.