Miniature space technology for education, science and business

Impact: !!Social impacts

Description of impact

Space technology is a high-tier technology field with significant impact on our view of the modern world. It empowers space exploration, provides observation tools to monitor the Earth system, and enables technologies, such as satellite navigation and global communication, that are the cornerstones of modern economies. Due to the high cost of a space launch and the highly demanding environment in space, building satellites has been a highly labor intensive and expensive task, attainable only for big countries and big organisations. The current established space sector has been leaving small countries to minor roles of subcontractors, who typically do not pursue their own space programmes.

Recent development and miniaturization of electronics, however, has made it possible to make smaller satellites, which has significantly reduced launch, manufacturing and operation costs of satellites. Moreover, the development of the CubeSat standard has created an open launch market and enabled access to space for small countries and hundreds of university teams around the world. The small satellite movement, which started from CubeSat, has taken a leading position in space technology innovation and has initiated reform of current
space business. The trend is known as ‘New Space’.

Aalto University Department of Radio Science and Engineering (now part of ELE), was the first to adopt the CubeSat standard in Finland and started in an unprejudiced manner to develop satellites with students. In Aalto-1 satellite project which started in 2010, the new nanosatellite standard was harnessed to teach skilled engineers from Aalto University. The project produced the first Finnish satellite, educated the New Space generation of engineers in Finland, spun off two companies, and was a start to an entire fleet of new projects. The project was highly visible in national and social media. The Aalto-1 satellite team arranged and participated in many public events, media appearances and happenings that were targeted to a wide audience and helped to make STEM education more visible in Finland. Moreover, the launch of the first satellite started Finnish space law development; the success of Aalto-1 project startup companies induced a new national funding programme; and the rapid development of space technology topic has sparked discussions about the formation of a Finnish space agency. Encouraged by the success of Aalto students, many other universities, institutes and companies have started their own satellite projects, and Aalto graduates are highly valued recruits. Currently, Aalto University continues with an educational nanosatellite programme that serves as a training platform for a Master’s programme major on Space Science and Technology, and we are currently building the fourth satellite in the Aalto
nanosatellite series.
Category of impact!!Social impacts