The ESEO student satellite project is one of the hands-on space projects of the ESA Academy. As all other ESA Academy’s initiatives, ESEO aims to improve students’ skills and competences for the space sector, boosting their motivation to be engaged in the space domain, and to offer a direct experience on a real space project that will help them bridge the gap between university studies and their future professional life.
The origin of the project in its current configuration and educational approach is dated back to 2013, after the lessons learned through the former Student Space Exploration and Technology Initiative (SSETI) established in 2000.
The main objective of the SSETI initiative consisted in creating a network of students, educational institutions and organizations on the Internet, which together would own the capability and the means to design, build and launch a micro-satellite. Since the beginning of the SSETI initiative, students from around 20 different universities throughout all Europe engaged in the development of the very first SSETI microsatellite, named as the ‘European Student Earth Orbiter (ESEO).
At that time, the launch date was set by end 2004, as an Ariane 5 piggyback. After the launch of SSETI Express in 2005, ESEO became the second ESA student satellite, and it was meant to be the technical precursor of the SSETI European Student Moon Orbiter (ESMO). Several student teams were dedicated to the development of the different subsystems and payload complements, and the launch was at that time planned in 2008, with Soyuz or Ariane 5. The SSETI-ESEO team tried a few times to pass the Preliminary Design Review (PDR), but unsuccessfully.
The ESA Education Office then decided to continue offering the ESEO experience to the students, but this time under the coordination of an industrial Prime Contractor and System Integrator for the satellite platform. For this, ESA released a competitive Invitation to Tender (ITT) to finalise the ESEO design at system level (so-called Phase B2). As result of the tender, Carlo Gavazzi Space (currently OHB Italia) was selected. After the ESEO Preliminary Design Review, mostly because of financial issues, the Education Office decided to change approach, readdressing the project towards a smaller baseline, in order to maintain a high educational impact, but with more affordable time, technical and cost-related boundaries.
By the end of 2012, a new competitive Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the detailed design and development of the ESEO satellite platform (Phases C/D/E1) was issued, and a new System Prime was selected. ALMASpace, a spin-off company of the University of Bologna later absorbed by SITAEL, was awarded the contract to redefine the ESEO baseline, and to coordinate and supervise the ESEO students teams from the technical point of view. With SITAEL, under the coordination of ESA, the satellite reached its final configuration and mission profile.