The University of Southampton

Electronic engineering skills lift off in international student satellite competition

Published: 17 July 2019
Adrian Kraft (third from right) with Team Soton engineers in the CanSat Texas final.

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Southampton designed, tested and launched an autonomous can-sized satellite in an international competition with the American Astronautical Society.

Team Soton spent a year creating the ‘CanSat’ that could release an auto-gyro on a controlled 400-metre descent, while recording telemetry and transmitting it to a ground station.

The group, which included MEng Electronic Engineering student Adrian Kraft, trialled their design at a final in Stephenville, Texas, finishing as a top 20 entry despite facing technical difficulties during their launch.

The CanSat competition challenged the world’s undergraduates and postgraduates to produce a design that used an auto-gyro descent control for a science payload when released from a rocket, protecting its contents from damage during the launch and deployment.

Charlie North, Team Soton Leader, said: “The competition provided an exciting opportunity for the team to gain experience of an end-to-end life cycle of a complex engineering project. The team has enjoyed the whole experience and gained valuable skills that we will take into our respective careers.”

Team Soton designed their concept by dividing responsibilities into specialised subsystems, with Electronic Engineering’s Adrian Kraft focusing on electrical power and designing the electric circuits including the payload PCB, while MEng Aeronautics and Astronautics students Charlie North, Matteo Trombini, Dimo Iordanov, Roberto Holmes, Jake Trowbridge, Seren Moeketsi, Nikita Maksimov and Arshad Fasiludeen covered mechanics, flight software, descent control, data handling and sensors. Adrian also designed the team logo.

The team was supervised by the School of Engineering’s Professor Hugh Lewis and supported by Faculty funding and industry sponsors Aesir Space (Volante Global) and the ESL Group.

Around 100 teams from around the globe entered this year’s competition, with the top 40 teams invited to the launch weekend after a preliminary design review.

Team Soton were ranked seventh overall entering the Texas event with only two British teams qualifying. However they slipped to a final placing of 19th after unfortunately losing communication to the payload prior to take off which may have been related to software issues or damage to the power systems.

This summer’s competition was won by Turkey’s Istanbul Technical University. Turkish teams, who attract tens of thousands of pounds of sponsorship money, traditionally do very well in the CanSat competition and place highly every year.

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