SpaceHackathon: idea of stratospheric balloon test construction for schools received observatory’s award of 100 laboratory hours

Kairi Janson | 9.11.2017

On November 3 to 5, 2017, the European Space Week was kicked off with an international SpaceHackathon held at University of Tartu Physicum. Tartu Observatory also put out an award of 100 laboratory hours worth about 6000 euros. All of the award winners are listed below the article.

2017-11-05 SpaceHackathon iDO BALOON.jpg

The main goal of SpaceHackathon was to explore the possibilities of space technology and come up with ideas on how to apply them here on Earth. The event gathered engineers, developers, designers, scientists and experts which had 48 hours to make a fully running prototype on the ground of their idea. “Some of them kept working without sleep, others placed emphasis on proper sleep hours to accomplish maximum productivity,” said Indrek Sünter, representative of Tartu Observatory and ESTCube in the panel.

A hackathon can be thought of as a simulator of starting a business. “Those kind of events inspire people to take up ambitious challenges and carry them out,“ Sünter said. At first, the participants offer ideas that could be realized during the event. SpaceHackathon is about finding ideas of products and services that have to do with space. Each participant can choose the idea that they like the most.

There were over 120 attendants from more than 20 countries around the globe at the hackathon – for example Australia, Iran, China and Brazil. Many teams formed on the set of the event. „Events like these help people learn the skills of international team work and presenting very fast, as well as specific skills like electronics, software development and marketing of the products and services,“ Sünter stated. „Moreover, the network will get bigger and one can find new and exciting contacts of people that they can work with on bigger and more serious projects in the future.“

At first, 21 ideas were proposed at the hackathon, and another one was added later. 13 teams remained, because there had to be at least four members in a team. Most of the teams were focused on positioning services (GPS, GNSS and Galileo) and satellite pictures.

The European Space Agency (ESA) was a partner of SpaceHackathon and provided the teams an API that contained access to Earth Observation data, in particular to those from the Copernicus programme. The European GNSS Agency (GSA) helped the teams by giving them Galileo-enabled hardware with GNSS raw measurements. ESTCube was the third main partner of SpaceHackathon, they were in charge of the hardware at the event. All of the partners put out prizes. Also, mentors from each partner guided the teams if necessary.

SpaceHackathon was held as the kick-off event for the European Space Week taking place this week. This was already the second year that the hackathon took place. SpaceHackathon was part of the Garage48 event series.

Teams that were awarded at SpaceHackathon:

iDo Balloon (laureate of the Tartu Observatory prize)

  • First place and invitations to the opening of the European Space Week in Tallinn,
  • Tartu Observatory special prize (100 hours of laboratory time and consultation in the laboratories),
  • ESTCube special prize (ESTCube sweatshirts),
  • free passes to sTARTUp Day,
  • ESA Business Incubation Centre special prize regarding a consultation on writing a project proposal.

The main idea of iDo Balloon was to create a constructor that would help Estonian and Latvian schools to test different things using stratospheric balloons. They developed the electronics to measure the location, height, temperature, and air pressure. The schools could add the last to be tested (for instance, for chemistry or biology experiments) and send the balloon up. iDo Balloon stood out for the best hardware solutions.


  • Second place and invitations to the opening of the European Space Week in Tallinn,
  • GSA special prize for the team that connected the positioning based on the Galileo satellite constellation and the satellite pictures of the Copernicus constellation,
  • ESA special price (free passes to the ESRIN App Camp in Rome) for using satellite pictures of the Copernicus constellation.

Idea: tracking team movement on military grid reference map. Mobile support detail tracking foot soldiers: military sports competition context.


  • The award for the most marketable service including marketing guidance.

Idea: to develop an environment that would bring student satellite projects together with radio amateurs or ground station owners, enabling to download data of noticeably greater volume from satellites.

This team could solve the problem that has been bothering the developers of small satellites for a long time – the need to connect with the satellite and maybe even download data during the whole orbit. One of the main problems is to make the system sustainable. To do so, the service needs to be profitable.


  • People’s Choice award
  • Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications special prize for the solution that could have direct positive influence on Estonian people.

Idea: teaching computers to use Sentinel-1 data in order to create the highest resolution rainfall map on the field. It could be helpful in agriculture and road service.


  • GSA special prize (Lego kit and a Space3ac consultation) for the team that used the positioning based on the Galileo satellite constellation with the HERE data interface.

Idea: a Galileo based location game where you can compete with people from all around the world.


  • ESTCube special prize (a box of space ice cream) for the most humorous team

Idea: automatic identification system for drones. Although the team did not manage to finish its project in time to demonstrate it, they were good at making the audience laugh.

Photo of the article: Garage48 Facebook page