Let’s admit this. Space has been amongst the greatest myths of our times. From a generation which thought the constellations to be gods to having evolved to realize them to be just one of those celestial objects, we have come a far way. This journey of space exploration keeps getting interesting every day and as far as what lies beyond is concerned, there are numerous stories and endless prophecies. We are an explorative species. As humans, we have always wanted to explore and find out what lies beyond the boundary someone else has already marked. This explorative nature fuelled continental expeditions in the past and currently, over the past few decades, has got us reaching to space and understanding the nature outside our planet. We have gone so far that we are on the brink of being an interplanetary species. It is an exciting time to be alive and to be discovering the beyond.
The University of Stuttgart has been quite been on the top of the game as far as research in the aerospace arena is concerned. The students of the Institute for space systems have a group which conducts experiments and sends them right to space! You read it right! This group of students, named KSat e.V. with the tagline small satellite student society at the University of Stuttgart, launch their successful experiments into the intercosmic space. They sure sound interesting, don’t they? Let’s get straight to knowing more about them.
The way it all started
Participating in a competition by the European Space Agency, a student group from the University of Stuttgart built the propulsion system for one of the projects which got launched and turned out to be fairly successful. With the success backing them, the project team founded KSat. With just around 10 members to start with, the group now has around 60 active members who contribute to the projects taken up by the team. When I interviewed Maximilian Von Armin, who is the ‘Pressesprecher’ (Press officer) of KSat, he quoted the mission of the group something like this,
“Space is not far away. It is accessible even to the students”
With an astounding objective of giving the students an opportunity to create their own experiments and fly them to the outer space or space-like environments, this group has slowly yet firmly making an impact in scripting a student’s way into space. There is no better boost to a student’s confidence than to see his work serving the intended purpose and thereby, contributing to this awe-inspiring field of science.
So, what exactly do they do?
Fascinating stuff. Period. Their website boasts a wide range of projects that the team has formerly been a part of and of course the current projects as well. The members usually come up with an idea, and pitch the concept in one of the competitions by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and if it catches their attention, they lend their support and the team gets on with the project. The DLR gives them the launch opportunities, expert assistance and also turns out to be the major source of money as well. With Thales Alenia as their other major partner, The team gets some monetary support and also opportunities to test their projects in exposed environments.
With a major focus on ‘space’ related competitions happening across Europe, their success in the previous endeavors has kept them going. With 3 successful missions and 4 launched missions in the sack of the 9 planned missions, the platform this group provides for an aspiring student is amazing. In order for the freshmen to get hold of what is happening, they conduct a competition solely for them. The aim being to create an experiment that fits inside a small soft-drink tin, which is then dropped from an airplane, the newcomers get to test their experiments on the flight. While the competition encourages innovation, it sure draws the greenhorn to the team.
The way into space
Well, normally, I would have titled this section ‘Awards and Rewards’. A minor shift from the routine as my interaction with Maximilian revealed that what they deem to be a reward is making it to space. That is quite a big offset from the norm especially for a mundane species like me. As he puts it,
“Our real reward is to earn room in the suitcase of an astronaut who goes to the International Space Station”
Succinctly so, their mission ROACH which will be launched in March 2018 is a robot which autonomously detects and repairs small damages on the spacecraft made by space debris or micro-meteorites. Another mission set to be launched in May 2018 is PAPELL. This experiment aims at pumping the ferrofluids (The fluids which develop magnetic properties in magnetic fields) without using any mechanical parts but just the nature of the liquid to transport them by manipulating the magnets.
As geeky as they sound, a slight shift in perception may lead you to note that they are the coolest form of geeks. As they prosper, their doors certainly are open to anyone who would like to be a part of the team. If you would like to know more about them and their activities, the first thing to do is to check out their website and their Facebook page. If the screen space doesn’t do enough to satiate your curiosity, reach out to them through an email or attend one of their meetings. Well, needless to mention the cool things you get to be a part of, what is also possible is publishing articles in scientific journals.
With a hope of having introduced this incredible group to you guys and expecting a few of you to find your way to the group, it’s now time to wrap. Space is not far from students. Don’t forget.