Tartu Observatory scientists participated in Europe Space Week events

Kairi Janson | 15.11.2017

From November 3 to 9, 2017 Europe celebrated the Space Week – and all the events took place here in Estonia which holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union. The week brought together the most important European space stakeholders. Among them, Tartu Observatory scientists attended many events.

Hendrik Ehrpais 2017 kosmosenädal


The European Space Week was kicked off on November 3 with the three-day SpaceHackathon held in Tartu. Tartu Observatory also put out an award of 100 laboratory hours worth about 6000 euros, which was given to team iDo Balloon. Their idea was to make a stratospheric balloon test construction for schools and their prototype stood out for the best hardware solutions. Junior research fellow at Tartu Observatory Indrek Sünter was a member of the panel and represented ESTCube as a mentor of the project hardware and the embedded systems software.

The European Interparliamentary Space Conference 

November 5 to 7, a grand event of the Space Week took place in Tallinn: the European Interparliamentary Space Conference . Engineers Mari Allik and Hendrik Ehrpais were representatives of Tartu Observatory at the conference. Besides them, there were politicians, members of the European Parliament, space scientists (among them representatives of the European Space Agency) and space entrepreneurs from all around Europe.

Allik thinks that observatory’s attendance at such an important event is necessary. “We are the Estonian space research centre and our daily work is connected to space in every way. It was a good opportunity to create connections within the field and get to know people of the European Space Agency as well as different space scientists and entrepreneurs,” she noted.

The goal of the event was to bring up a discussion about space and entrepreneurship. One of the main topics of the conference was legal framework. „Estonia is only getting started with creating a space law so the discussion was definitely topical and instructive for our country,“ Allik said. Besides that, the discussion covered the similarities and differences between the cyber and the space fields as well as companies of the space sector. Allik said that one of the most memorable facts was that a lot of entrepreneurs use free satellite data provided by the Copernicus programme.

In spring, workshops and presentations were held in Tartu Observatory as the first event of Estonia’s chairmanship of the European Interparliamentary Space Conference. The event was meant for the delegates of the European Parliament. They could get to know the main topics of the space field and try to solve different problems themselves.

Copernicus Training and Information Session

On Monday (November 6), an introductory event of the Copernicus programme was held in Tallinn. Copernicus is a European Union programme aimed at developing European information services based on satellite Earth Observation and in situ (non-space) data. The information services provided are freely and openly accessible to its users.

Several Tartu Observatory scientists attended the event. Senior research fellow Urmas Peterson was responsible for the land monitoring service session. He also held a presentation at the session together with University of Tartu senior research fellow Jaan Liira. The presentation was about remote sensing of forested area and forested area changes in the Baltic region within 30 years. Peterson explained that in Estonia, remote sensing of forested area is part of the national environmental monitoring programme. The executer of this part of the programme is Tartu Observatory. “As usual, we look a bit further, behind the border if possible,“ Peterson stated.

The goal of the event was to show that the Copernicus data has a wide range of use. One of the opportunities is the land monitoring service which includes the remote sensing of forest area and type. Margit Aun, research fellow at Tartu Observatory who also attended the session, described that, for example, the extent of forest damage could be estimated only within a few days.

The Copernicus atmosphere monitoring service was also introduced. Aun explained that one of the opportunities of this service is tracking fires and smoke by using the regional air quality forecast. Regarding the emergency management service, the Copernicus data could mainly be helpful with floods and fires – a country can apply for detailed data to be created about the area. The data can also be used for risk analysis.

The Copernicus marine environment monitoring service and its opportunities were also discussed – for instance, ice and wave field sensing and water quality monitoring as well as the problems related to it. Opportunities for entrepreneurs and developers for using the Copernicus data were talked about as well.

Aun stated that the people behind the Copernicus programme wish to bring its data to as many people as possible from as many different fields as possible. The event was aimed at a wide range of people: entrepreneurs, developers, officials, and other people connected to science.

Space BIC Estonia opening

One of the most important events of the European Space Week was the opening of the ESA Business Incubation Centre. The incubator was opened by ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner.

“Of course it is a big step for the Estonian space industry,” senior research fellow at Tartu Observatory Riho Vendt believes. He thinks the ESA business incubation programme will raise the competitiveness of Estonian entrepreneurs both on the European open market and in ESA procurements.

This is the first ESA business incubation centre in Baltics. There are 17 incubation centres in total. The peculiarity of the Estonian incubation programme is taking innovative space technology applications into use here on Earth. For instance, using the Copernicus programme data in agriculture or monitoring road bridge safety.

The ESA Business Incubation Programme Network has helped more than 500 start-ups successfully reach the market. „Traditionally, the developers of space technology have been huge corporations with long history. Nowadays, in the rapidly developing world, there’s more need for fast, flexible, and completely innovative solutions. Those are the kind of solutions that young start-ups could offer,” Vendt said.

Tartu Observatory is one of the ESA Estonian Business Incubator partners. The observatory offers start-ups scientific support and the opportunity to use space technology laboratories.

Among others, ESA key persons, representatives of the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, officials, academics, research institute representatives and entrepreneurs attended the opening. Besides Vendt, senior research fellow at Tartu Observatoy, Laurits Leedjärv, and engineer at the observatory, Hendrik Ehrpais, also took part of the event.

The Satellite Masters Conference

The Satellite Masters Conference took place from November 7 to 9, in line with the Horizon 2020 Space Info Day. Horizon 2020 is an EU's research and innovation programme.

The conference represented an innovation marketplace for satellite downstream business. It combined conference sessions, workshops, and roundtable discussions centred on leveraging satellite-derived data and other space solutions for business and society.

Tartu Observatory scientists attended the conference in order to hear presentations from representatives of space field enterprises and of ESA, as well as from politicians and the winners of the Copernicus Masters competition.

Industrial Exhibition

From November 8 to 9, products of the Estonian space industry were presented in Tallinn. The ESTCube team was also there to let everyone see their satellite mock-up.

European Space Week was jointly organised by the European Commission, the European Space Agency, Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO) - the developer of innovation networks, and the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.