Meet the Warwick students creating a satellite to take worms into space
Six talented Warwick students are showcasing their very own satellite, set to provide carefully controlled conditions for scientist to measure how worms function and reproduce in zero gravity – as a precursor to a future deep space mission.
Members of Warwick University’s satellite engineering team (WUSAT) are travelling to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) learning facility in Redu. At the event, they will highlight their latest research project, developing a satellite that will be used to house microscopic worms in space.
The group is working on a Low Earth Orbit satellite known as a Cubesat, which will enable scientists at the University of Exeter to monitor activity of these microscopic worms in controlled conditions. They will also investigate the ability of the worms to reproduce and continue to provide biomass during a remote space mission. The research is of interest to both the European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA).
WUSAT provides engineering students from different disciplines the opportunity to design, build and launch their own satellite. WUSAT has hosted several ground-breaking projects – from helping to launch a moon-orbiting satellite, achieving the first successful ejected satellite mission, and even using satellites to track electronically tagged wildlife from space.
Supported by an impressive list of sponsors, including Airbus, ESA, Space Park Leicester, the programme provides students with fantastic skills leading to enhanced graduate opportunities, with more than 100 WUSAT alumni forging career paths in high-tech industry as the next generation of space engineers. Students apply to join WUSAT for their fourth year of their Engineering course, with up to nine talented engineers selected annually.
Seb Fieldhouse, fourth year student on the WUSAT team, said: “Working on the satellite has been a brilliant opportunity; I’ve learnt so much about space systems engineering. Being part of WUSAT has also opened up a lot of opportunities. We visited engineering facilities at Airbus and now, because of our work on WUSAT, we have the chance to learn satellite systems engineering from the very best at ESA. I’m very excited to go to Belgium to learn from the experts at ESA – it’s a great chance to develop my skills as an engineer.”
Dr William Crofts has led the WUSAT programme for the past 17 years, since it launched in 2006. He said: “The opportunity for the student team to spend time on related Concurrent Engineering training with ESA staff and facilities in Belgium is just one example of the unique opportunities that WUSAT has provided for many students over the past 17 years.
“These students will learn an enormous amount about how complex engineering projects are designed and managed, while receiving a tremendous boost to their CVs! They’ll represent the University of Warwick in a European showcase event and highlight both the quality of our students and the real-world applications of engineering with WUSAT. We’re really proud to have ESA’s endorsement and support in these projects.”
University of Exeter professor, Tim Etherbridge, whose research is funded by the UK Space Agency, said: “Understanding what causes health decline in space, and using this knowledge to create new medicines is crucial to safe human space travel. This project is an important step in that process and working with the WUSAT team to fly our new equipment to examine worms in space is an exciting chance to take advantage of easier access space, including launches from UK soil.”
Further details about WUSAT can be found here www.warwick.ac.uk/cubesat
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9 February 2023