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Orbital Student

Space competition for university students

Build a spacecraft payload, integrate it with a satellite, qualify it, have it flown in space, and get data from orbit.

In collaboration with various space societies, OrbAstro is bringing a new kind of annual student competition to the world:

Teams mature the design of their novel spacecraft payload and program it up for satellite integration using hardware and software modules on the OrbAstro flat-sat.

The flat-sat is the electrical equivalent of an OrbAstro satellite along with related satellite/mission design, thermal, and radiation modules.

Technical support will be provided by OrbAstro through a secure forum.

Each team will present their payload to a panel of space industry experts.

Teams scoring in the top 10% will have the opportunity to put their payload through flight acceptance testing (vibration, thermal-vacuum, etc.) on-site with OrbAstro.

The top 2 teams that pass flight acceptance testing will have their payload integrated with an OrbAstro satellite and launched into orbit onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. The teams will carry out satellite and payload operations, gathering payload data, with support from OrbAstro.

Teams that make it to flight acceptance testing, but do not get their payload onboard, will still have the opportunity to get hands on with satellite operations.

“Many of the innovative and successful space start-ups are born out of competitions. It is important to look for new ideas and minds because they change things!”

Prof. Jan Woerner,

Director General of ESA

“The Orbital Student and Orbital Start-Up Competitions are an exciting opportunity for a new generation of space enthusiasts to begin their careers.  These are the people who will expand our global economy into space, settle other worlds and, later in the century make humankind not just a solar-system wide civilization but take us to the stars to make us a galactic species.”

Pete Worden, former Director of NASA Ames,

Chairman of Breakthrough Initiatives

 “Early experience of designing, building, and flying space hardware is a significant boost to a space career. The OrbAstro competitions offer an excellent opportunity for motivated students and young professionals to gain this.”

Prof. Chris Welch, Director of the Masters Programme,

International Space University 


Dates: Applications will close on the 31st of December 2020. Presentations are to occur in August 2021. Flight acceptance testing and delivery of flight hardware for satellite integration is to occur in September 2021. Launch is to occur in December 2021. If the timing is too tight, teams can enter the competition now but postpone submission of the presentation/payload to the next competition and satellite launch (similar dates in 2022).

Fees: Competition entry fee is £500; flat-sats will not be delivered until the entry fee is paid, and participation will be forfeited if the entry fee is not paid before 31st of January 2021. There is no fee associated with flight acceptance testing, launch, or flight operations. Universities can either hire a flat-sat and associated software modules at £300 per month, for the full duration of competition participation, or they can purchase a flat-sat outright for £2,500 upfront with associated software/technical support for one competition. A single team-entry can be made for each flat-sat hired/bought. Any costs associated with payload development, import/export fees, travel to test facilities or to satellite launch needs to be covered by the university.

Scoring: This is based on a 20-page summary report, 10-minute presentation, and on quality of the payload built. A panel of independent space industry experts will evaluate submissions with scoring weighted as follows: Technology (30%), Uniqueness (30%), Business Case (20%), Impact to Society (10%), Quality of Report/Presentation (10%).

Key Requirements: Mass ≤500g, Dimensions ≤90x90x45mm, Power: 20W peak & 5W average, Data ≤10MB/day over 3 months of operations. No Tx but Rx is fine, no deployable structures, no separation, no inflatables, no chemical propulsion, no pyrotechnics. Payload development and build must be wholly carried out by students at university.

Satellite/Mission: the 3U satellite will have precision ADCS, electric propulsion, and powerful onboard computing resources available. The satellite will operate in LEO in a Sun Synchronous Orbit and will actively deorbit after completion of all payload activities onboard.

If you have any questions, send them in an email to:


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