Young Space Activities Overview in Slovakia
Opportunities for young people in Slovakia with interest to pursue a career in the space sector include mainly choosing space-related studies at universities and engagement in the non-governmental sector. Various Slovak Universities or the Slovak Academy of Sciences have their departments, offices and institutions dedicated to space-related research or engineering. These include the Slovak Technical University and Comenius University in Bratislava, the Technical University in Žilina, the Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice, the Institute of Experimental Physics of the Slovak Academy of Sciences or the Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences.
Scientists and engineers from above-mentioned academic institutions have been participating in international space projects for decades (e.g. Rosetta mission) and continue to do so in the present as well. As a result of the accession process of Slovakia to the ESA, various new interesting projects have been created at Slovak academic institutions, opening up new opportunities also for students interested in space-related studies. A new study field of space engineering was established within the Slovak University of Technology, which offers an engineering program aimed at developing general knowledge in the field of space technology. Students will go through subjects focused on robotics, electronics, sensors and actuators as well as artificial intelligence, gaining knowledge about how these fields are integrated into the space industry. This year, this department will also produce the first graduates of this engineering programme. Besides universities, a number of astronomical observatories and clubs in Slovak towns are also active.
Since 2009, the non-governmental organisation Slovak Organisation for Space Activities (SOSA) has been engaged in various types of space or space-related activities, including launching of stratospheric balloons, development of the first Slovak suborbital rocket ARDEA or development of a spaceflight simulator. The SOSA, together with Žilina University in Žilina, the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava, the Technical University Košice and a handful of private companies have developed the first Slovak satellite skCUBE, which was launched into space in June 2017. Companies spun-off from this activity successfully constructed and launched a second Slovak cubesat GRBAlpha in 2021, with an international research consortium spanning Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Japan, among others.
In the field of space policy, the non-governmental organisation Slovak Space Policy Association (SSPA) was established in 2015 with the aim to take active part in promoting and tackling issues of space policy, law and governance, which are related and relevant to the development of the Slovak space sector.
In 2021, the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency together with the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport established the Slovak Space Office, the first official body to manage space activities in Slovakia. The national Slovak regulatory authority in the sector of radio communication is the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Postal Services. The commercial space sector and space industry is currently the main focus of space industry development in Slovakia. Since Slovakia signed the ECS Agreement with the European Space Agency, professionals and companies in Slovakia have the opportunity to engage in space projects, particularly through the Plan for European Cooperating States program (PECS), which is an opportunity to apply for funding for space projects. By the end of 2021, six PECS calls for proposals have been completed with a final seventh call for proposals planned in 2022. Since Slovakia is officially an European Cooperating State to the ESA, Slovak students and fresh graduates also have the possibility to apply for traineeships in the ESA through the Young Graduates Trainee scheme, ESA internship programme, and ESA Research Fellowships for post-doctoral candidates. In 2020, a new procedure was approved in cooperation with ESA, when Slovakia approved to seek associate membership within the Agency. The approval of this step by the upcoming ESA Ministerial Council Meeting is required before this new form of Slovak membership in ESA is fully formalised.
There are several companies operating in Slovakia focused on space related projects, with this number rising thanks to the aforementioned ESA participation – for example CTRL, Needronix, Spacemanic or InSAR. All of these, and a number of others have participated in PECS projects. CTRL focuses on the development of sensors and components usable in the space industry and Spacemanic focuses on the development of custom satellites in the cubesat category. Needronix focuses on the development of components for cubesats, such as sun sensors and space-grade RF components, to name a few. It is also the first company in Slovakia to achieve cooperation with ESA beyond PECS projects, as it was awarded the implementation of the “Coarse Sun Sensor” project, a so-called “top down” project. InSAR is a company focused on mapping ground deformation using radar images of the Earth’s surface. In 2019 they won the Galileo Masters award.
In late 2021, the SGAC NPoCs for Slovakia organised a cooperation with Club for the Future, a foundation of Blue Origin. Thanks to this initiative, the Slovak public will be able to create and send their custom postcards to the Club, who will then arrange their delivery to and return from space.
Country-Specific Events in 2023
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