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The sun sets on ESEO as ESA’s pioneering student satellite mission concludes

on 08 February 2021

After almost two years in space, ESA’s European Student Earth Orbiter mission – ESEO – is coming to a close. Designed by students, for students, it has raised the bar for what can be achieved by university student teams.

Numerous technical setbacks provided additional hurdles, but also extra opportunities for students to learn about the reality of working with advanced hardware and software in orbit around our planet.

A satellite by students, for students

ESEO was envisaged by ESA Academy’s hands-on space programme as a revolutionary educational project; nothing less than a fully-functional satellite, with scientific and technological payloads designed and operated entirely by university students. This provided a unique opportunity for students across Europe to gain significant practical experience in the design, development, launch and operations of a real space mission – for many, a dream come true.

In total, more than 600 students from ESA Member States have been involved in ESEO, from the project’s beginnings and during each phase and iteration, developing the scientific and technology demonstration payloads, key sub-systems, and the entire ground segment.

To make ESEO a reality, ESA teamed up with Prime Industrial contractor SITAEL. This leading Transportation and Aerospace Group developed the satellite platform, then performed the integration and testing of the whole spacecraft, including the integration of the student-built payloads and subsystems. In addition, they provided valuable and much appreciated technical support to the student teams under ESA’s coordination.

A lasting legacy

Originally designed to be in orbit for just six months, project extensions have seen ESEO circling our planet for almost two years. The spacecraft performed commissioning of the platform but was unable to reach its nominal attitude, and therefore, ideal operational mode. Due to a variety of technical challenges and hurdles, the mission operators were only able to activate a subset of the payloads, leading to reduced success in achieving the science objectives.

More details here.

Image credit: ESA