Programme schedule

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ESA / Education / Orbit Your Thesis

Below is a detailed description of the Orbit Your Thesis! programme and its schedule. It is intended to clarify what is expected of the teams. Preparation of an ICE Cube will be a considerable amount of work not to be underestimated!

The schedule is divided into five main parts:
A – Selection Process
B – Design and Development
C – Launch Campaign
D - Operations
E – Data Analysis

A. Selection Process

A.1       Inscription
This first phase aims at evaluating the number of applications and the preeminent topics of interest for OYT! 2020. The team shall submit a letter of intent together with the ‘Privacy notice and consent form’ ratified. The letter of intent shall give to the selection committee board a glimpse of the experiment. Please note that guidelines for the deliverables requested can be found in the section Documents.

Documents expected:   letter of intent
 privacy notice and consent form
Deadline   1 December 2019=

A.2       Experiment proposal submission
If not previously determined, the applicants shall define the members of their team and name a professor/academic supervisor who explicitly endorses the students and project throughout the programme in the form of an official letter. Together with the preliminary questionnaire, the experiment proposal shall expose the scientific and/or technical objectives, and all the elements that can assess the validity and relevance of the experiment. Finally, students are asked to submit a first version of the Experiment Flight Safety Data Package (EFSDP), focused on the safety aspect specific to the ISS.

Documents expected:   experiment proposal
 first version of the EFSDP
 preliminary questionnaire
 formal letter of endorsement                              
Deadline   16 February 2020

A.3       Shortlisting of teams
ESA Education Office and the Selection Board will shortlist the teams which have met all the eligibility criteria, have demonstrated appropriate background knowledge of the science and whose experiments are suitable for the ICE Cubes and ISS platform. 

When  2 March 2020                              

A.4       Selection Workshop 
Shortlisted teams will be invited to a selection workshop at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, situated in the Netherlands. During this workshop, the teams will present their projects to a Selection Board 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). 

Specifically, Space Applications Services will provide a review based on safety and feasibility of all the EFSDPs submitted by the teams. Based on the evaluation of the experiment proposals, the preliminary questionnaire and the review of the experiment flight safety data package, the Selection Board will identify the experiment recommended to fly onboard the ISS inside the ICE Cubes facility. 

Documents expected:  presentations slides of the project / safety                            
Workshop at ESTEC: 19 – 20 March 2020
Winners announcement: to be expected by the end of March 2020


B. Design and Development

Focusing on the Selection Board feedback, the selected team will start improving the experiment’s design. The endorsing professors will focus on the scientific aspects of these improvements. Experts from Space Application Services will review the preparation and the design of the experimental set-up and procedure so to obtain the safety and flight readiness certification.

The design and development phase will be made of three stages; the preliminary design phase (PDP), critical design phase (CDP), and the assembly, integration and test (AIT). Each of these stages will end with a review conducted in presence of experts from the Selection Board. 

EVENTS                                                                 Forecasted Dates      
Safety review phase 0:    15 May 2020
Preliminary design review:    29 June 2020
Critical design review:   1 December 2020
Safety review phase II:   Early January 2021
Safety review phase III:  Early May 2021 

C. Launch Campaign 

C.1       Confirmation of launch
The confirmation of the launch is a crucial point in the sequence of events of the launch campaign. The following milestones are given using retroplanning, and calendar dates considering the hypothesis of a launch in July 2021.

Confirmation of launch:    [TBD]

C.2       Interface Tests
After the successful completion of the Safety review phase III, the launch campaign will begin with interfaces tests at Space Application Services (Bruxelles, Belgium). A ground model of the ICE Cubes Facility will be available for the team to perform integrated tests for verification of all interface requirements and operational procedures. The tests shall be made on an engineering model (EM) if available and on the flight model (FM).

Tests on EM:   As soon as possible
Tests on FM:    L – 7 weeks (Early May 2021)

C.3       Flight Acceptance Review /Hardware delivery and shipment
When the readiness of the flight model will be demonstrated, the Cube will be shipped to ALTEC (Turin – Italy) for the Cargo Review, before the shipment of the Cube to the launch site. 

Cargo review in Turin:      L – 5 weeks (Late May 2021)

C.4       Launch

When:        July 2021 [TBC] 


D. Operations

D.1      Execution of the Experiment
Upon arrival to the International Space Station, the Experiment Cube will be installed into the ICE Cubes Facility ready for operation. Eventually, the ICE Cubes Mission Control Centre will activate and pass control to the team so that they will be able to run the experiment according to the predefined operations plan and directly monitor and control the experiments. 

When:        July 2021 [TBC] 

D.2      Disposal
After up to 4 months in orbit, the Experiment Cube will be removed from the facility and disposed of. Data optionally stored on removable media will be returned on next available returning vehicle that can accommodate the payload. 

When:        Q.4 2021 [TBC] 


E. Data Analysis                               

The team and endorsing professor will analyse the results obtained and eventually is expected to write a scientific paper to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. As a conclusion to the programme, the students shall complete their experiment entry on the Erasmus Experiment Archive, including all the relevant and disclosable information, results and conclusions from the investigation. 

Documents expected:   Entry on EEA and draft of scientific paper
Deadline:   Four months after the end of the experiment 

Whilst every effort is undertaken by ESA and associated partners to avoid such circumstances, any phase of the Orbit Your Thesis! programme may be cancelled, delayed, postponed for any number of reasons. Participating teams will be notified immediately if such circumstances arise. Publishing this announcement of opportunity and progressing through the selection process does not guarantee a launch opportunity.