Discovering ESEO, the satellite designed and built by university students
It has a square base measuring 33 cm, a height of 66 cm and weighs 50 kg. It carries instruments designed by the various student teams involved: technologies that will take pictures of the Earth, measure radiation levels in low Earth Orbit and test technologies for future space missions. In addition, an amateur satellite radio connection in VHF-band will connect the satellite to Earth for educational and outreach purposes.
ESEO – an acronym for European Student Earth Orbiter – is the satellite developed within the ESA Academy programme of the European Space Agency, aimed at giving university students across Europe the opportunity to take part in the implementation of a space project in all its stages: from design to development up to its launch into orbit.
The ESEO satellite was successfully launched on 3 December 2018 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher from the Vandenberg base in California. The success was made possible by the work carried out by 600 students from ten European universities, including the University of Bologna, which had an important role in the project.
The Italian students, coordinated by Paolo Tortora, contributed to the design and implementation of a low-cost system to detect the exact position of ESEO in orbit through GPS signals. In addition, in its Forlì Campus, the University of Bologna hosts the ESEO Mission Control Centre, designed to constantly monitor the satellite, sending and receiving data and information.
The integration and testing of the whole spacecraft was carried out by SITAEL, an Italian space company that also provided technical support to the student teams under ESA’s coordination. ESEO will operate for 6 months with a possible extension of further 12 months. At the end of the mission, the satellite will decommission itself with the help of a technology designed to accelerate its re-entry and ensure that it does not contribute to the accumulation of space debris in low Earth orbit.