ESA title
International Space Station

New space station opportunity for university students

17/10/2019 6605 views 43 likes
ESA / Education / Orbit Your Thesis

ESA Education is inviting university student teams to submit proposals related to designing, building and operating an experiment that will be launched to the International Space Station and hosted inside the ICE Cubes facility for up to 4 months.


Teams interested in participating to the Orbit Your Thesis! 2020 programme should notify ESA Education by sending a letter of intent and the ‘Privacy notice and consent form’ ratified to ‘orbityourthesis @’. Following this first stage, all teams registered will be able to submit an accurately completed set of documents detailing the description of the experiments that they intend to perform. Nominally the proposed experiments should aim to fit into 1 U Cube, however, depending on the complexity of the experiment and the availability of slots on the facility, ESA Education may consider larger configurations. Experiments are required to be a key part of master or PhD theses, and the subject of the experiments investigations must necessitate long exposure to ISS environmental conditions. 

In a first instance, the Selection Board will short-list a restricted number of teams that will proceed to the next round of the selection process. This first selection will be based on eligibility criteria of the teams, the ISS environment relevance, the quality of the proposal, the educational benefits (e.g. number of students involved, relevance of the experiment for master or PhD graduation theses of one or more team members) and scientific merit.  

Ice Cubes Facility integrated in the Columbus module
Ice Cubes Facility integrated in the Columbus module

The minimum number of students to be actively involved in each student team is 6, however an active involvement of more students is highly recommended. Team composition should be clearly thought out with a well-balanced distribution of relevant skills for engineers and scientists and should be aligned with ESA’s values to respect diversity and equal opportunities. We strongly recommend that the team is composed by one or more PhD students since the project spans more than one academic year. The proposals shall also clarify unequivocally how the student teams intend to cope with a possible turn-over, in order to replace team members who might decide to leave the project or have completed their academic degree.

The teams will then be invited to a selection workshop at ESA/ESTEC to present their experiment to the 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). Based on these presentations and experiments’ documentation, the Selection Board will identify the experiment recommended to fly on board the ISS inside the ICE Cubes facility. 

It should be noted that, at the present time, the opportunity for student teams to access the ICE Cubes platform on board the ISS is not fully confirmed and this Call for Proposals is released in anticipation of the expected confirmation. The aim is to complete the selection of the student experiments by the time the launch and the subsequent activities are confirmed. Also, the launch opportunity attributed to the team may slip, change or be cancelled. ESA Education and partners participating in Orbit Your Thesis! will do all that is possible within reason to avoid such undesired situations. 

All selected teams will be supported by the ESA Education Office, ESA and Space Application Services experts. ESA Education Office will provide financial support to cover part of the travel and accommodation during workshops and testing campaigns. 

Interested teams should carefully read all the information given on this webpage.