Manufacturing, assembly and testing of iSEDE experiment and outreach at the UK Space Conference 2013

The team are currently working hard in the StrathSEDS lab to get everything ready for the Experiment Acceptance Review (EAR) and most importantly the launch onboard BEXUS17. The team have already started to assemble the mechanical structure, as well as the electronic systems that had been working successfully along with the ground support software. Once all systems are completely functional then mechanical and electrical components will start to come together. We hope to start this assembly in the coming days.



The Mechanical Workshop at the University of Strathclyde has completed all mechanical components which have allowed the mechanical structure to be preliminary assembled. The electrical subsystems have been successfully working with the ground support software. The team have decided that the pre-deployed satellite shall have PCBs and that the satellite that will be deployed from the cubesat shall have flexible circuits. This will mean that the deployed satellite will be more flexible and will disaggregate the electrical components across the entire satellite. We have also been working on the soft robotics. We have developed a new tool which is 4mmx4mm that has successfully worked with the micropumps and we have developed a way to keep one side rigid… a thin piece of nylon string! For the remaining weeks we will continually assemble the experiment and carry out the environmental tests to ensure that everything will be successful for launch in October.











The team did manage to escape the lab and carried out some outreach of the experiment and on behalf of the ESA Education office. The team interacted with school children and got them to create their very own “inflatable space shape”. Many “interesting” shapes were created and the feedback from the public was positive and encouraging. The team also had the opportunity of interacting with UK astronaut Tim Peake, who wished us luck for our upcoming launch and signed our mascot “inflato bug”. The team will work hard over the next month to get everything ready. We are excited and looking forward to our launch, we hope you are too! Wish us luck!


iSEDE team preparing for IPR next week

The iSEDE team is currently spending most of its time in the StrathSEDS lab to prepare the experiment for next week’s Interim Progress Review (IPR). Due to construction in the Weir building, we decided to move into the StrathSEDS lab where already the REXUS13 experiment StrathSat-R was built and tested. At the IPR an expert from ESA and SSC will come to us to have a look at our experiment. A long lists of planned actions is keeping the iSEDE team busy right now. 

iSEDE planFor the last few weeks, the team finalised the mechanical and electronic design and started fabrication. Currently, the Mechanical Workshop at the University of Strathclyde is manufacturing the cube structures and the hub. Furthermore, all the electronic components are purchased and the breadboard design of all subsystems is finished. On Monday we’ll head to Strathclyde’s Fablab to manufacture proper PCBs. A first bench test model of the entire electronics distributed over the surface of an inflatable is planned for Monday. A new design of the inflatable cells with Kapton has been validated in the vacuum chamber and will be used from now on. Exciting and busy times ahead.

University Tradeshow

Approaching our BEXUS critical design review, the iSEDE project was presented at Strathclyde University’s Electrical Engineering tradeshow event.

The following video gives a full overview of the project.

At the tradeshow we had a stand with posters and inflatable demonstrators – we were able to show the deployment that would occur at float altitude and the stiffness of the fully inflated structure.

TradeshoEMEteam TradeshowDemoTradeshowStand1

IMG_1232 2It was exciting and encouraging to hear the positive feedback and to answer the many questions that people had about the project.

You can view our posters & flyers using the following links:

A1 Left Poster
A0 Centre Poster
A1 Right Poster
A5 flyer front
A5 flyer back 

Preparing for Tradeshow & Soft Robotics

Next week, is the first significant project exposition outside BEXUS.

The tradeshow is an event where many university projects are both presented and assessed. The iSEDE team have developed posters and easy to follow info on the project and will present to academics and industry professionals.

mediumgondolaimg2Our second exciting news is progress in our actuation method.

Currently being researched is a unique implementation of soft robotics – a new application for the technology in terms of environmental conditions and applied loads.

Watch this space to see how the testing in coming days goes!

Inflatable Structure and Test rig

The next stage of the project is to test and validate the concept before finalising the full design. The tests that the inflatable structure will undergo are displacement, thermal and vacuum tests. These tests will validate the design of the inflatable structure before it is launched onboard the BEXUS16/17 high altitude balloon.

The first stage of testing is to construct single cells using different glues. The glue which works best (strongest and easiest to use for manufacture) will be chosen to be used to manufacture the inflatable structure. The picture below is an initial attempt of an inflatable single cell. The straw is used to inflate the structure.


The next stage is to manufacture multiple cells which can be inflated by straws, before creating a full structure which can also be inflated by straws. Once a full structure has been manufactured the displacement tests will begin. A test frame has been created to test the displacement of the structure. 3 techniques have been proposed for measuring the displacement. The first is a laser or focused LED displacement technique. A mirror will be positioned on the bottom cell and the structure will be inflated. A light beam will be reflected by the mirror onto a photodiode array, when the structure is deflated and inflated. A second technique will use a piece of string attached to the bottom cell with a second measuring board positioned along the bottom of the test frame. The third technique will use a camera filming the structure inflating. Squares marked on perspex will be used as a reference to measure the displacement of the entire structure. Below is the skeleton of the test frame. Measuring boards and full structures will be manufactured shortly.


PDR Passed, Presentations and Progress…

WE PASSED THE PDR!!! With the fantastically interesting and busy week of the PDR in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany behind us, we look forward to the mountain of design finalisation and implementation ahead. The experts from the PDR have given us great feedback on lots of different aspects of the project. During the PDR, the mechanical interfaces were discussed as length and lectures and discussions have brought up interesting ideas about the electronics and power as well as recommendations on how to approach the implementation of these systems.

Amidst the post PDR discussion, we recruited two new members to our team bringing us up to 10 members…and counting. As mentioned we have limited experience in software and so two computer science students were found; Larissa Batista Leite who will work on the Graphical User Interface for the ground station at Esrange and data protocols and Tiago de França Queiroz who will work on the microcontroller programming i.e. the embedded systems and the associated control. We are very excited to have the two new members and we know they will fit in well and provide valuable input to the project.

iSEDE Team

The iSEDE team has also been in contact with the press, having been featured already in the Strathclyde Telegraph. Andrew has also been in discussion with the Scotsman who wish to publish an article about the project with particular focus on the future applications of the project, which is an exciting prospect.


The 5th Year Electrical and Mechanical masters students presented today on the progress of the project to academic staff within the University of Strathclyde. This marks the last formal presentation required for a while so the team can now once again get down to some serious design and testing over the next month or two and start to build an initial prototype…doesn’t that sound exciting 😀

PDR & Training Week – Installment 2

Wednesday kicked off with a presentation on Thermal Design by Mark ‘Fitts’ Fittock who managed to keep everyone’s attention with an onslaught of hilariously poor sci-fi related jokes.  The teams then participated in another few sessions regarding data handling and REXUS experiment design before another very meaty lunch!  An eventful afternoon began with the team being taken on a tour of the International Space Station’s Columbus Lab Control Centre where the ground operations team communicate with astronauts orbiting the earth at 7.6 km/s.  That’s like, 27756 km/h!  The control centre is used to co-ordinate the astronauts’ schedules and act as a main point of contact for anyone aboard the ISS.

Following the tour, the iSEDE team joined the rest of the BEXUS programme for the ‘Ask your Expert – Electronics’ session with Koen DeBeule and Torbjörn Eld.  This proved very useful,  as we were able to quiz the experts on anything we couldn’t already figure out ourselves (which is a lot, by the way…).  The day’s formalities came to an end with presentations from each REXUS team about their experiments.   In the evening we were fed at dinner with even more meat (Bavaria is amazing) at Gasthof Dietrich.  Afterwards, the Italian CWIS team decided to declare war on the rest of the world and a bloody snowball battle ensued, leading us late into the evening and eventually readying us for bed!

Control Room


Day 4 again began with our Daily Bavarian Lecture by Alexander Schmidt who taught us the phrase: “Mächtig Hoiz vor da Hüttn”.  This roughly translates to “She has much wood in the front of her cottage…”; take from that what you will but we can assure you, the room was in hysterics.  Mr Schmidt also informed everyone that it was the 5 year anniversary of the Columbus ISS module and that we would be heading to the Deutsches Museum Flight Schleißheim, a renowned aerospace museum located near Munich that evening for dinner.  As you can imagine, this spurred quite a bit of excitement in the room, but first our tired eyes had to deal with a morning of lectures.  Lucio Scolamiero finished off before lunch with a very interesting talk on space mechanisms.
After lunch we joined the rest of the BEXUS teams for two more tours; to check out DLR’s robotics research lab and another where we would get to see the research aeroplanes kept on site.  I cannot begin to describe how cool the stuff they have in the robotics lab was.  ‘Engineering porn’, is about as close to summing it up as we’ll get I guess…  I mean, check out the giant robot arm behind us!  After being dragged away from all the cool robotics, we got shown around a massive hanger which contained DLR’s research planes.  The rest of the afternoon was taken up by the Mechanical Ask your Expert session and an Outreach Workshop.

With Astronaut

And so, following our day at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), we excitedly boarded the coach and headed off to Deutsches Museum Flight Schleißheim.  When we arrived, everyone was in sheer awe at the number of aircraft held there, and we soon found out we’d be joined by a number of Very-VIP guests.  Léopold Eyharts, one of the ESA astronauts that accompanied the Columbus lab on its journey to be commissioned on the ISS, started the night’s proceedings with an overview of the full Columbus mission from its launch aboard the Atlantis shuttle.  This was followed with a talk by the head of Columbus’ ground operations and an inspirational speech by ESA’s Director of Manned Spaceflight.  Finally, before the celebrations began, Léopold Eyharts was joined by fellow astronaut, Pedro Duque (pictured above with the team), for an eye-opening Q&A session.

Dinner was located in a spectacular location in the museum’s largest hanger between many, many aircraft from across the past century and a half.  Plenty of meat and beer was consumed (as we’d become accustomed to through the week) and an awesome night ensued.  We had the chance to meet an astronaut face to face, seen more planes than any of us had ever seen before in our lives and concluded that this was probably the coolest thing we’d ever done…  What a night.

Surprisingly, everyone managed to make it out of bed and into DLR on Friday, despite the previous night’s festivities.  The Friday was used to look back upon the full training week, provide feedback and then to look ahead to the next meeting at the Critical Design Review (CDR) stage in May.  The day concluded at lunchtime and the team left the German Aerospace Centre for the last time that week.  On Saturday, we travelled home to begin the next stage of design and testing – excited by the opportunity to implement the suggestions of the experts to prepare for the CDR.

The full iSEDE team are incredibly appreciative of the organisation and delivery of the Student Training Week at DLR Oberpfaffenhofen.  It provided us with a fantastic opportunity to improve and progress our experiment design and move onto the next stages of the project with a much wiser outlook.  Not only that but we have met many great people, saw some seriously awesome things, learned so much and had a very enjoyable time experiencing Bavarian culture!

We’ll try keep all our followers updated as much as possible through the blog over the coming months as we continue with the hard part – actually building this thing!

PDR & Training Week – Instalment 1

The team arrived in in a snowy Steinebach on Sunday evening after a long journey from Edinburgh. It was schnitzels all round at the restaurant across the road, and then off to bed in preparation for the most important day of the training week, as our Preliminary Design Review was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

We were up bright and early on Monday morning to start the week at DLR Oberpfaffenhofen. Throughout the day we attended lectures including how to design a payload, how to implement the electronics on a balloon or rocket experiment, and how to go through a Preliminary Design Review.

At 3pm we were called into the boardroom as the first student team to go through the Preliminary Design Review. Overall it went very well. The experts on the board provided us with a lot of valuable feedback on our experiment and its design, and spotted a few silly (and sometimes humorous) mistakes in our Student Experiment Document. There were no show stoppers, and we didn’t get quite the grilling we were expecting, but maybe the board was still getting warmed up in preparation for the rest of the week.

With the day’s formalities out of the way, it was onwards with the other students and the experts to the monastery and beer hall Kloster Andechs, where we had a traditional Bavarian time. Big pretzels, big beers, and a meal of pork, potato salad and sauerkraut. Later on in the evening we even had a pair of Lederhosen on show from one of the experts.

Tuesday was a variety of talks on different aspects of space engineering. Along with the other BEXUS teams, we built a mock up of our experiment out of cardboard and duct tape. This was a fun exercise, and got us working together with the other teams to fit the experiments in the gondola. We rounded off the day by presenting our experiment to the other REXUS/BEXUS teams, and then hearing about their experiments. It was then back for dinner to Gasthaus Dietrich, followed by a few games of Tichu (a pretty complex Chinese card game) with some new friends. We’re looking forward to what is in store for the rest of the week. Tschau for now!


PDR & SED v1.0

The iSEDE team are now preparing to attend the Preliminary Design Review in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. This the design review will be part of a training week at the beginning of February hosted by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

Prior to attending the training week, the iSEDE team must submit version 1 of the Student Experimentation Documentation. This document details the scientific background for the experiment and the design calculations for all subsystems and the interfaces with the BEXUS gondola and other student experiments.

A lot of background work is undertaken to ensure that the designs proposed are deployed successfully but I think we may be allowed to take a day off tomorrow.

Wishing everyone a fruitful and enjoyable 2013!!

Accepted for Launch!

Following our presentation at the selection workshop a ESAs ESTEC, we have been invited, subject to design reviews, to launch iSEDE on the BEXUS 16/17 campaign in September 2013.

We are extremely excited to have this opportunity and are now working hard to produce a detailed preliminary design for review in early February.

Selection Workshop Day 3

Day 3 of the selection workshop was the “BEXUS day”. 5 teams presented concepts all hoping to be accepted for the BEXUS 2013 launch campaign.

Presentations were made to a panel of more than 10 experts from ESA, SSC, DLR and the SNSB. The experts were from a variety of technical backgrounds and were prepared to question the teams on the more detailed aspects of the presentation.

Now the waiting game begins – we should hopefully here before Christmas if we have been accepted onto the BEXUS 2013 programme.

iSEDE presentation cover

Selection Workshop Day 2

The second day of the selection event focused primarily on the REXUS sounding rocket experiment proposal presentations.

There were 6 presentations including projects which measured CO2 concentration in the mesosphere, a novel method for attaching de-orbiting devices to space debris using expandable foam, an analysis of LASER welding in milli-gravity and an experiment to create milli-gravity. All presentations indicated significant research and development for all projects.

The day ended with a tour of the ERASMUS space centre, which is an exhibition of the different methods used to create milli-gravity for experimentation and included models of the ESA Columbus module attached to the International Space Station. There was also a 3D video of the ISS with virtual and real footage.

Tomorrow we present iSEDE to the experts.


Selection Workshop Day 1

Day one of the selection workshop focused on presentations
from the ESA Education Team on how best to approach the management, design,
build, test and deployment of a space project.

Teams were present from all over Europe –Italy, Romania,
Sweden, Poland – and there were a number of group exercises and activities to
generate discussion and explore some of the less obvious challenges. A number
of common design challenges were discussed.

There was a significant focus on management – project
planning, effective communication to all stakeholders, documentation and risk
management – which is essential in completing a project to the required
specification, on budget and on schedule.

We are really looking forward to the presentations from the
other teams – Day 2 REXUS, Day 3 – BEXUS!