Small satellites bring young researchers and top experts together

Kairi Janson | 6.08.2018

Today is the beginning of the summer school focused on micro- and nanosatellites and co-organized by the observatory. Top scientists from space research institutions around the world such as NASA will present at the summer school.

astrobioloogia suvekool

“Small satellites enable space missions that weren’t possible before,” said one of the lectors of the summer school, research fellow at the University of Tartu observatory and postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Mihkel Pajusalu. “Big missions are extremely expensive and often take decades to prepare. Small satellites can be built operatively and sent into space fast and in large amounts: missions can be put together within a few years and satellites sent up with launch vehicles that are going into space anyway.” Among other things, using small satellites enables large-scale diffused missions. By now, clusters of hundreds of small satellites have been sent up.

Small satellite projects can also be led by small countries and young scientists: Estonia and our successful ESTCube mission are a great example.

Most of the participants of the summer school are young scientists who come from 13 different countries. Thay can discuss fundamental research questions and future projects with people at a similar stage in their career, and find potential future partners amongst them. One part of the summer school challenges the team work abilities of the participants: they can plan their own satellite projects in groups.

“Today’s young scientists will be the ones who will occupy the driving seat of future space missions,” said one of the organisers of the summer school, the Coordinator of the Nordic Network of Astrobiology Wolf Geppert. Therefore it is important that they learn important skills like mission planning and cooperation with scientists with different backgrounds and technicians. Geppert added that the organizing team has tried to get the best lecturers possible. There are scientists from USA (NASA and MIT), Japan and many European countries. The researchers of Tartu Observatory will also be holding lectures.

Small satellites can be used to gather data about other planets and smaller bodies (asteroids, comets), but also about the terrestrial environment. Geppert said that the latter is an area of possible future importance of those kinds of missions: climate and environment can be researched.

The summer school “Microsatellites in planetary and atmospheric research“ will take place until Saturday in the Estonian Biocentre and Tartu Observatory. It is organized by the Nordic Network of Astrobiology, the University of Tartu and the European Astrobiology Campus.

Additional information

The homepage and the Facebook page of the astrobiology summer school

Karin Pai, Project Coordinator of Tartu Observatory, karin.pai [at], 737 4512

Wolf Geppert, Coordinator of the Nordic Network of Astrobiology, wgeppert [at], ++46-(0)8-55378649