So, how do you build Ireland’s first satellite? This is the task currently presented to the EIRSAT-1 team, who have been selected to be part of the ESA Fly Your Satellite programme 2017. The team is made up of physics and engineering students and academic and industry mentors, each working on different parts of the satellite, for example GMOD, one of the experiments on board, or the Electrical and Power Subsystem. With each of us working on our own parts of the satellite, it is essential that all we meet each week and review our work.
The EIRSAT-1 team meets every Friday to look back on the work done over the previous week and to discuss any problems that have arisen. We also plan ahead and set goals for ourselves as we work to get our documents ready to be sent to the ESA Fly Your Satellite team, and continue to develop and test components of the satellite. We are currently writing our Critical Design Review – a series of important documents outlining our progress and plans.
Last Friday the 11th of August, the EIRSAT-1 team assembled in the UCD School of Physics. Each meeting starts with a ‘2 minute review’ from each team member. We all recount the work we have done over the past week and bring up any problems we have ran into.
The meeting proceeds with 2 students giving 10 minute presentations on their work so far. These presentations are really beneficial for the whole team – we get a detailed look into each subsystem. This week Lána Salmon presented the Outreach plans for the satellite, including social media, workshops and the website. Soumyaneel Mandal then presented his work on the Thermal analysis of EMOD, the Enbio module. His work involves determining the best components for measuring the temperature changes of the Enbio coatings on the EMOD experiment.
The team then takes a look at the documents we are preparing for the ESA Fly Your Satellite programme. Each document has a student who is in charge of overseeing its progress. Each of these students, called the book captains, present the document to the team and any sections which need to be written are assigned to team members.
This week, in addition to these weekly activities, we took part in a risk workshop. Risk identification is important in any mission as risks have serious consequences in a mission. Mitigating these risks is a key step in ensuring the smooth launch and operation of a mission.
We all wrote down any risks we could think of on post it notes, and we then placed them on the risk table, which categorises the risk based on its probability to occur and it’s affect on the mission. For example, one risk could be that an antenna may not deploy correctly. This is unlikely to happen, and has moderately severe consequences.
After categorising these risks we typed them out to be placed in the Risk Register – this is a document we are writing for ESA. At the end of the meeting, the book captains sat down with the team leader Ronan Wall to discuss the documents further.
Each week brings us closer to the Fly Your Satellite document submission deadline, so each meeting is getting increasingly more technical. Each of the students are working harder each week and the buzz at each meeting is infectious – we all know the excitement of this project, and also the technicality of launching a satellite. But we also know we are paving the way for future missions, and the first time will always be the hardest!