UofG students shortlisted in satellite design competition

Published: 11 February 2022

A team of University of Glasgow students have been shortlisted for the UK Government’s Nanosat Design Competition, competing for a share of the £600,000 Challenge Fund.

A team of University of Glasgow students have been shortlisted for the UK Government’s Nanosat Design Competition, competing for a share of the £600,000 Challenge Fund.
Students from the GU Orbit society are one of five from across the UK competing in the challenge, which tasks aspiring space scientists to design a small satellite for launch from the UK to help build solutions to climate change.
GU Orbit’s OirthirSAT team, drawn from students in the James Watt School of Engineering, the School of Computing Science, and the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, have proposed a satellite to analyse shorelines and coastal vegetation. This will help scientists and policymakers understand the impact of climate change on coastal regions.
Space and satellite technology play a key role in understanding and tackling climate change, as half of the 56 types of data needed to accurately monitor and model changes can only be measured from space.
More than 40 teams from across the UK and aged between 16 and 37 submitted detailed applications. Many had little or no previous experience of designing small satellites before entering the competition, which aims to encourage more young people to consider a career in the UK’s thriving space sector.
Five teams have now been selected to progress to the next phase of the competition, which includes a four-month mentoring programme with space industry experts, ahead of final judging in May.
On offer is a share of £600,000 to turn these designs into a functioning satellite which could be launched from a UK spaceport as soon as next year.
Joe Gibbs, one of the leads of the OirthirSAT team, said: “We’re thrilled to have been shortlisted for the Nanosat Design Competition. We believe we have a great proposal for how nanosatellites could be used to monitor the effects of climate change on coastal regions around the world, and we’re looking forward to moving on to the next stage of the competition.”
Dr Kevin Worrall of the University’s James Watt School of Engineering is helping to mentor the team as they progress through the competition.
Dr Worrall said: “It’s fantastic to see the team gain this level of recognition from the judges. They’ve been working hard to come up with a very practical proposal which could have a real impact on how we monitor climate change from space. They have a great chance now to scoop the prize and I’m pleased to be able to offer my support as we approach the final decision in May.”
The members of the OirthirSAT team are:

  • Joe Gibbs, PhD, Aerospace Sciences
  • Diego Hidalgo De Las Heras, MEng Aeronautical Engineering
  • Georgios Tita, MEng Electronics and Electrical Engineering
  • Freya Muir, PhD in Geographical and Earth Science (Coastal Modelling)
  • Theodoros Serghiou, MEng Electronics and Electrical Engineering
  • Ignacio Serrano Martín-Sacristán, BEng Aerospace Engineering
  • Gregor MacAskill, MEng Aeronautical Engineering
  • Ozgur Civan Dogan, Computing Science
  • Nektarios Chari, MEng Mechanical Engineering
  • Natalia Ibagon, MSc Robotics and AI

A picture of the members of the GU Orbit teamUK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: “It’s inspiring to see a new generation of scientists exploring how satellites can be used to help tackle climate change. I’m particularly pleased to see students from the University of Glasgow among the competition finalists, and I wish them the very best of luck.”

The UK Government is determined to secure the UK’s role as a global leader in the space sector and Scotland is a key part of this ambition, with the UK’s first vertical satellite launches set to take off from Shetland later this year.
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “With satellite launches due to start from British soil this year, it’s great to see our young people coming up with brilliant and innovative uses for nanosats in our important battle against climate change.
“From wind turbines to coastal vegetation, the shortlisted ideas display a wealth of ingenuity and original thinking which I commend.
“As we stand on the cusp of a new commercial space age, this type of technology will help create new, high-skilled jobs and bring economic benefits to communities right across the UK, helping us to level up and inspire the next generation of space experts.”
Ian Annett, Deputy CEO of the UK Space Agency said: “These five teams stood out in a competitive field and should be incredibly proud of making it through to the next round of the competition with their climate satellite designs.
From this year, we’ll have the ability to launch small satellites from the UK which opens up huge opportunities to inspire the next generation, create hundreds of new jobs and support research in important areas such as climate science.
As set out in the National Space Strategy, the UK is set to become the first country in Europe to host small satellite launches in 2022, building on the UK’s leading small satellite industry and creating high skilled jobs across the country. This will also help UK scientists use space technology to help tackle global challenges, including climate change.

First published: 11 February 2022