Report: National Student Space Conference 2014

astronomy, human spaceflight, ISU, science, science communication, SGAC, UKSEDS


On 1st and 2nd March, space enthusiasts descended on the University of Leicester for the UKSEDS National Student Space Conference 2014. Aimed at UK students, each year the conference is a key opportunity to meet and network with a wide range of people in the space sector from academia to industry, across multiple disciplines. It is also a great time for students from UKSEDS’ various branches to meet together in one place and discuss their activities. This year the event was in its 26th year.

The conference was a real sell-out once again with over 250 delegates* from many UKSEDS branches spanning the width and breadth of the country — from Edinburgh to Kent to Southampton, Exeter, Manchester and Strathclyde. We were also happy to welcome our international friends at SEDS-USA and EUROAVIA once again. We had a great range of talks throughout the weekend from spaceplanes to cubesats, ISS, outreach and education, space biomedicine, astronomy, Mars and beyond.

Highlights included a talk by British ESA Astronaut Major Tim Peake who Skyped in from Houston to talk about his mission alongside the outreach components of his mission, along with Jeremy Curtis (Head of Education and Outreach, UK Space Agency) (See featured image**). There was a good chance of a Q&A and for delegates to engage with Tim. He revealed how his mission is being prepared and how his food and drinks will be sent up in advance, sharing his love of Yorkshire Tea. Sheffield SEDS (ShefSEDS) tweeted this, amusingly re-tweeted and replied to by Yorkshire Tea:

It was great to see Tim enjoyed all the questions from the audience.

Our Saturday keynote included Prof. Richard Brown from the Centre for Future Air-Space Transportation Technology, University of Strathclyde who gave a very inspiring talk on ‘Shock Waves and the Design of Future Spacecraft’.

Following this, delegates were invited to a networking reception, kindly sponsored by Reaction Engines Ltd. After which, delegates could attend the UKSEDS social and enjoy a tasty buffet meal and mingle with other delegates.

Sunday morning started with Dr David Parker (CEO, UK Space Agency) who spoke about the latest developments on UK Space activities.

CEO of UK Space Agency, Dr David Parker addressing NSSC2014. Credit: Prof. Chris Welch

Credit: Telespazio Vega DE

Throughout the weekend Telespazio Vega Deutschland demonstrated their Satellite Operations Training simulator, allowing delegates to simulate real in-­orbit satellite operations throughout the conference.

The conference would not have been possible without the kind sponsorship of Reaction Engines, Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, UK Space Agency, HE Space, Printech Circuit Laboratories, Sapienza Consulting, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Royal Aeronautical Society, Serco Group, AstroGnome, International Space University, RAL Space, and Avanti Communications Group plc, and the support of the British Interplanetary Society, ESERO-UK, European Southern Observatory (ESO), ESA Education Office, AstRoSoc Leicester, University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy, Leicester Astronomical Society and EUROAVIA.

Many thanks also to all our wonderful speakers throughout the conference. Presentations will be made available on our conference site at:

If you have any photos from NSSC2014, please share them with us at

See you in 2015!

*figure includes all exhibitors, speakers and volunteers.
**Featured image: British ESA Astronaut, Tim Peake addressing NSSC2014. Credit: Jane MacArthur
Written by Ryan Laird for UKSEDS.

#ISUnet #AskAnAstronaut – questions answered by @RobertThirsk


On 30th July, ISU held its Astronaut Panel. We asked the public to get in touch with us though social media channels, mainly Twitter and ask some questions. We were overwhelmed with responses and had to select some of the best questions. Bob Thirsk, former Canadian Space Agency astronaut kindly has answered the following:

Q: What is something you regret not packing with you for life in orbit?

A: “If it had been possible, I would’ve brought along some house plants to ‘green up’ the ISS.  The interior looks pretty stark and sterile.”

Q: With successful missions with rovers and the ISS for long term stays in space, what’s the benefit for men to visit Mars?

A: “Humans on Mars could complement and enhance the wonderful prior work of robotic rovers.  Humans have amazing dexterity, speed and judgment.”

Q: What is your favourite thing to do in Space? Amelia age 8  

A: “1. Flying about like Superman.  2. Viewing our beautiful planet through the windows.  3. Chatting with my wonderful crew mates.”

Q: How much of your day is new or novel to you vs repetitive? Feel like a grad student/”lab monkey”?

A: “There is no such thing as a repetitive or routine day in space.  We gladly volunteer our time to push back the frontiers of science.”

Q: Is the weightlessness of space the same feeling as falling?

A: “Yes, weightlessness is theoretically like falling.  But it is a unique sensation – it feels more like flying or hovering than falling.”

In 2009, CSA Astronaut Robert Thirsk became the first Canadian to perform a long-duration mission on board the International Space Station. These videos present key aspects of his mission, including his training and the Canadian science he conducted.

Many thanks to Bob for giving us his time to answer these questions for us.

ISU Astronaut Panel


On Tuesday we met at La Maison de la Region once again, but this time for a special panel session – the ISU Astronaut Panel, which a long-standing highlight of SSP. It gives us participants and the public a chance to interact and engage with astronauts from different cultures and to hear of their experiences of their time in space.

This panel explored what the future holds for space travel from their differing perspectives. It comprised the following people:


  • Dr. T. Dwayne McCay – Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Florida Institute of Technology


  • Jean-Jacques Favier – Former CNES Astronaut, President of Blue Planet
  • Chiaki Mukai – JAXA Astronaut, Director of JAXA Center for Applied Space Medicine and Human Research
  • Bob Thirsk – Former Canadian Astronaut, Vice-President of Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Paolo Nespoli – Italian ESA Astronaut
  • Reinhold Ewald, German ESA Astronaut
ISU Astronaut Panel

ISU Astronaut Panel – Paolo Nespoli, Reinhold Ewald, Bob Thirsk, Jean-Jacques Favier, Chiaki Mukai. Moderator Dwayne McCay

Me with first Japanese female astronaut

Me with first Japanese female astronaut, Chiaki Mukai

Autograph by

Autograph by German astronaut, Reinhold Ewald

Signed autographs by all the panel of astronauts.

Signed autographs by all the panel of astronauts.

Bob Thirsk, former Canadian Astronaut signed photograph

Bob Thirsk, former Canadian Astronaut signed photograph

Visit to ESOC and EUMETSAT


On Monday, the Space Applications department along with the Engineering department visited both the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) and EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites).

An early morning start, we began at CROUS (our residence in Strasbourg) for a 3-hour journey to Darmstadt, Germany.

Outside ESOC

Outside ESOC

It was a great opportunity to see inside mission control and explore the facilities around the centre.

ESOC Mission Control

ESOC Mission Control

ISU Space Applications Department in ESOC Mission Control

ISU Space Applications Department in ESOC Mission Control

Classic ESOC sign

Classic ESOC sign

As we toured the site, I was amazed to see a full-size model of Rosetta – a mission on its way to explore comet 67P. A lander is due to land on the comet next year in 2014.

Rosetta full-size model at ESOC

Rosetta full-size model at ESOC

Around the corner from ESOC is EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

Outside EUMETSAT with Metop full-size model

Outside EUMETSAT with Metop full-size model

EUMETSAT is an intergovernmental organisation created through an international convention agreed by a current total of 27 European Member States: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. These States fund the EUMETSAT programmes and are the principal users of the systems. EUMETSAT also has 5 Cooperating States.

27 member states and 5 cooperating states

27 member states and 5 cooperating states

Me forecasting the weather at EUMETSAT

Me forecasting the weather at EUMETSAT

Visit to SES, Luxembourg

ISU, travel

On Tuesday, July 23, we were joined the Space Management and Business (MGB) and Space Policy, Economics, and Law (PEL) Departments for a professional visit to SES Luxembourg.

We were honoured to be joined by Dr Joe Pelton, Emeritus Director of the Space and Advanced Communications Research Institute (SACRI) at George Washington University and author of several publications and editor of this year’s textbook, The Farthest Shore.

Joe Pelton

Dr Joe Pelton speaking to us about some of the background of SES and some important facts about ITU, on our way to Luxembourg

SES logo

SES sign

We were given an introduction and background to the company, a tour of its facilities, as well as an opportunity to meet with several ISU Alumni at SES. The company is a global player in satellite communications and is constantly expanding his markets. It is attracting a number of space professionals such as those from ISU.


Walter Peeters

Prof. Walter Peeters, President of ISU thanks Jean-Paul Hoffman for his support to ISU

Space Apps department at SES

Space Apps department at SES

Me at SES

Me at SES