University of Malta research engineers working in collaboration with the French Space Agency (CNES) on the RESOLUTE and ASTREA projects have reached the important milestone of verifying the ability of various spacecraft components to withstand the rigors of space for long missions in orbit.
Glenn Zammit, Oliver Vassallo and Ing. Darren DeBattista, together with their mentor Dr Ing. Marc Anthony Azzopardi spent the past week running irradiation experiments at a high energy cyclotron facility in the Netherlands. They successfully subjected a multitude of electronic circuit components and systems to intense proton particle beams to mimic years of operation in the earth’s orbit.
The carefully choreographed experiment yielded a wealth of useful data regarding the robustness or susceptibility of various components that will be used to design better systems to withstand harsh space conditions: Outside the earth’s protective blanket, that is the atmosphere, high energy radiation from the sun and other galactic sources can damage delicate computer equipment.
. Devices set up inside the irradiation room
“The objective of these experiments is to help us develop a new class of low cost spacecraft that can still survive long missions at various orbital heights.” said Dr Azzopardi, who is leading research in this area. “Such spacecraft have the potential to bring space activities within the reach of many organisations, with far reaching impact on the development of human space activity.” he continues.
In Malta, the fledgling space sector is gaining some traction, with several research activities announced or completed during the past year. However, elsewhere commercial opportunities in the sector are also growing rapidly. So the next step for Malta’s space sector is to develop unique technology and valuable intellectual property that will allow the country to commercially capitalise on its substantial engineering talent as humanity transitions to a space faring species.
More information about Malta’s spacecraft projects spearheaded by the University of Malta may be found on the ASTREA website: www.um.edu.mt/eng/ese/astrea
Project RESOLUTE is financed by the Malta Council for Science & Technology (MCST), for and on behalf of the Foundation for Science and Technology, through the MCST-CNES Space Bilateral Fund. Project ASTREA is also financed by the MCST, through FUSION: The R&I technology Development Programme 2019.