This afternoon saw the official kick off of the TU Delft Space Institute by the Interact Rover. The Rover, developed jointly by TU Delft and ESA, was located at ESA/ESTEC in Noordwijk and operated remotely from TU Delft during the opening symposium of the TU Delft Space Institute. The new institute is intended to bring together and strengthen the university’s space activities.
‘TU Delft is engaged in a huge number of space activities, and not just in the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, says Eberhard Gill, director of the new institute. ‘The nanosensors from the Faculty of Applied Sciences, for example, are in great demand and can be found in the European space telescope Herschel, and the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences has a great deal of knowledge of earth observation. And I could give many more examples. Our aim for this new institute is to bring together the various experts more efficiently and to present our specific expertise more clearly to the government and industry.’
The new TU Delft Space Institute has three branches: Distributed Space Systems, Space Robotics and Sensing from Space. The main focus of Distributed Space Systems is on developing swarm technology: systems that work together spread across large numbers of often small satellites, known as nanosatellites. TU Delft has gained a lot of experience in this field, for example through the launch of its own two CubeSats, Delfi-C3 and Delfi-N3XT. At the end of April, Delfi-C3 celebrated its seventh anniversary in space and remarkably enough it is still operational. The Delfi programme produced a very successful high-tech start-up: ISIS.
An important research area for Space Robotics is the development of micropropulsion: small rocket engines that can steer nanosatellites very accurately. Sensing from Space works on developing sensors for observation from space and the earth. It has a particular focus on miniaturisation and processing data on board the satellite rather than on the ground.
Besides research, the institute has a strong educational role. The broad minor Spaceflight will be introduced for students from other faculties, and the institute works together with DARE, the Delft student rocketry society. The students in DARE are aiming for their Stratos-II rocket to be the first student rocket to reach the boundary of space.