The event’s theme “Space for Earth and Humanity” will be the common ground for all the Working Groups in the European Space Generation Workshop 2021.

Concerns for our climate and environment have never been as pressing and current as now – especially due to the global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 and other natural disasters. We aspire to highlight and discuss sustainable solutions in this year’s edition of the E-SGW in how space applications can be used and / or developed to not only continue supporting our modern, digital and connected societies but to help shape a modern clean and sustainable world. The vast majority of space applications today are not developed for deep space exploration but for life here on Earth. It’s 2021, a new decade is ahead of us, let’s take this to the next level and use space applications to ensure we can stay on this planet!

The E-SGW 2021 will address the following Working Group Topics, that will be delivered in collaboration with our sponsors:

  1. Space for the Blue Planet (ESA)
  2. High Altitude Platform Systems (GMV)
  3. Sustainable Space (Airbus)
  4. Fostering International Relations (UK Space Agency)

Learn more in sections below.

WG1 – Space for the Blue Planet, with the support of the European Space Agency

Water covers more than 70% of our planet and plays a major role in regulating our weather and climate. Today, geostationary operational environmental satellites are used for short-range forecasts, warnings, and observations; and polar-orbiting satellites for longer-term forecasting. From space, we gather information on ocean bathymetry, sea surface temperature, ocean color, coral reefs, sea and lake ice. The ocean surface has broad bumps and dips that mimic the topography of the ocean floor, which can be mapped using a very accurate radar altimeter mounted on a satellite. 

One of the most significant potential impacts of climate change is sea-level rise, which can cause inundation of coastal areas and islands, shoreline erosion, and destruction of important ecosystems such as wetlands and mangroves. The measurement of long-term changes in sea level globally provides a way to test climate models’ predictions of global warming.

Temperature changes influence the behavior of fish, can cause bleaching of corals and affect weather along the coast. Ocean colour data helps researchers determine the impact of floods along the coast, detect river plumes, locate blooms of harmful algae that can contaminate shellfish and kill other fish and marine mammals, and helps to predict where it might drift in the future. 

Satellite data and systems are used to relay signals from transmitters for measuring tidal heights, the migration of whales and to relay position information from emergency beacons to help save lives when people are in distress on boats, airplanes, or in remote areas. Similar transmitters can be used to trace and save marine animals such as sea turtles and manatees. 

Key topics 

  • Water and climate change: heat in the Earth’s atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans, majority of oxygen production comes from the oceans
  • Water supply management / waste in industry / sustainability in the future
  • Water consumption by agriculture
  • Sea food production, oceans and wildlife 
  • Marine transport management
  • Sea disaster management
  • Security at sea (including tourism)

WG2 – High Altitude Platforms Systems, with the support of GMV

High Altitude Platforms Systems (HAPS) are aerial platforms that operate in the stratosphere, at an average altitude of 20km, above commercial airlines, strong jet-stream currents and the humidity of the troposphere. Broadly speaking, HAPS follow two structural design types: gliders, which are heavier than air (HTA), and airships or balloons, lighter than the surrounding air (LTA).

The relative proximity of HAPS to the Earth has clear technical advantages; these platforms remain in flight for weeks or months, returning to the base for maintenance when needed. The stable location of LTA airships allows recording data in video mode, while the mobility of HTA gliders allows recording data of the same object from different angles. HAPS improve spatial resolution remarkably as a result of their closer positioning to observed objects; data transmission enjoys lower latency compared to satellites, increasing the efficiency of the ground segment units. In addition, contrary to the discrete data gathering capacity of ground stations, HAPS register data seamlessly, for example of the atmospheric column and the sea surface, and without topographic interference. 

Despite the aforementioned advantages, some key-technologies remain still at a low level of maturity: lightweight structures, energy & thermal management, daily platform operation and system robustness. Based on the current HAPS state-of-the-art, this working group will discuss the main challenges that HAPS need to address to become a reliable, efficient, sustainable and feasible platform when compared with alternative solutions (terrestrial and satellite systems). 

Key topics 

  • HAPS, remote sensing, telecommunications

WG3 – Sustainable Space, with the support of Airbus 

This topic draws inspiration from ESA’s Clean Space Initiative and focuses on the design of satellites, rockets, and supporting ground equipment, all of which are essential for current and future space activities.  Responsible space actors are starting to subject their products and services in a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – to gauge and limit the environmental impact of space activities.

Past assessments have revealed the considerable environmental impact of space activities. Examples include the extraction and production of rare materials, transportation costs throughout the global supply chain, and the waste generated in the manufacturing and testing of orbital hardware.  Space has largely escaped the environmental scrutiny placed on the automotive and aviation industries. This is due to the benefits of space data in monitoring climate change and the environment. However, it is expected that the space sector will soon have to unequivocally justify the impact of space activities on Planet Earth.

As a concrete example of EcoDesign in action, Airbus strives to know and improve its products using various levers of improvement throughout the product life cycle:

  • Raw Materials– decreasing raw materials quantity and impacts
  • Manufacturing – optimizing the production process
  • Transportation – optimize logistics and packaging
  • Use – reduce the maintenance and operations impact (space segment but also ground segment); design for the right lifetime of the product
  • End of Life – optimize the end of life management (focusing mostly on ground equipment, test models, and ground segment)

Key Topics

  • EcoDesign and reducing the ecological impact of the space product lifecycle
  • European strengths and the role of agencies, industry, and academia 
  • Lessons learned from the automotive and aviation industries 
  • Engagement of students and young professionals

WG4 – Fostering International Relations, with the support of the UK Space Agency

International collaboration is fundamental to a successful and thriving space sector – whether this process is led by national and international space agencies or the industry. The unique example is the International Space Station, ISS, the largest space laboratory orbiting the Earth for the last 20 years – with scientific research conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields and involving several participating space agencies. This partnership is described in several intergovernmental treaties and agreements, and is driving continuous discussions about the future of space exploration and exploitation.

Discussions about establishing Moon and Mars bases, asteroid exploration, tourism and deep space exploration are led on a high level. These discussions can lead to the next leap of humanity in space. 

This workshop is organised in collaboration with the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Program (IPP). It is divided in two main parts: international development (Day 1) and international relations (Day 2). 

Key topics

  • Creating industry links
  • Space program funding
  • Space program and project implementation principles