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ESA / Education / PETRI programme

The following steps describe what is needed to apply for the PETRI programme:

  • Optional: Participate in the information webinars of the programme by signing up here ;
  • Form a team fulfilling the conditions to apply criteria  with an interest in performing research with one of the offered platforms;
  • Identify and speak to a professor or academic supervisor who is willing to act as an endorsing professor for the team;
  • Define the project, discuss it, and perform a review of the scientific literature documenting similar research. Ensure the research is in line with the webinar content;
  • Familiarise yourself with the documentation and technical constraints of the ZARM Drop Tower , the Large Diameter Centrifuge , the ICECubes Facility on the ISS and the Air Zero G . Also read the relevant sections of the European User Guide to Low Gravity Platforms ;
  • Write an experiment proposal following the experiment proposal template ;
  • Create at least one social media account on one of the following platforms: Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter;
  • Make an elevator pitch style video and upload it to the social media accounts of your team;
  • Ask your endorsing professor or academic supervisor to write a formal letter of endorsement;
  • Apply for the programme by sending one email entitled “PETRI: " to . Attach one zip file with the filled in experiment proposal, the letter(s) of endorsement, and the consent forms  individually signed by each team member.

Instructions for the experiment proposal

The experiment proposal should focus on the scientific and/or technology-related objectives of the project, their justification and on the technical details for the implementation of the experiment. In other words, participants are invited to explain what they intend to investigate, why, and how they are going to implement their experiment.

Prior to filling out the experiment proposal template, teams should carry out scientific literature research to see whether work has already been done on the same or similar topic. Literature references should be provided throughout the experiment proposal. Information on how similar experiments have been performed can also inform the experimental design process.

The experiment proposal must also explain the relevance of micro-/ partial-/ hypergravity in your project and/ or the relevance of using the selected platform to achieve the project objectives.

The proposal should be intelligible to scientists of various fields and engineers with a general scientific background.

Instructions for the video

The elevator-pitch style video should comprise the most important information about your science/ technology rationale, the basic experimental concept, and your platform selection justification. You shall not disclose any personal data within the video.

The realization of an Outreach programme is mandatory during the participation in the PETRI programme. Create at least one social media account for your team on one of the following platforms: Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter before submitting your application. Additionally, you can also set-up a website.

You shall upload your final video on each of the created accounts and provide us the link in your application proposal.

Conditions to apply/ for participation and eligibility criteria

The core team should be composed of two to six students (depending on the chosen platform and the complexity of the programme – more information below), all of which must fulfil the eligibility criteria. In order to be eligible, the following criteria must be fulfilled:

  • The student must be aged minimum 18 years old;
  • The student must hold the nationality of listed here ;
  • The student must be enrolled as Bachelor, Master, or PhD student studying, or researching a subject which is related to the programme, at an academic institute providing higher education (e.g. a university) in eligible state .

In addition to the core team, additional students who do not meet all eligibility criteria can also participate. These however cannot be sponsored for participation in events (e.g., the campaign). The final number of team members that can personally assist and participate in the execution of the experiments at the campaign is dependent on the requirements of the experiment itself. The decision on the number of students present is subject to acceptance from the selection board.

ESA Academy and relevant partners will only appraise applications from students who have no or limited professional experience in topics relevant to their proposal.

Furthermore, there are experiment platform related criteria:

Drop Towers in Bremen

  • The core team shall be composed of a minimum of four students who fulfil the eligibility requirements.

Large Diameter Centrifuge

  • The core team shall be composed of a minimum of two students who fulfil the eligibility requirements.

Air Zero G

  • The core team cannot include bachelor students and should be composed of a minimum of four students who fulfil the eligibility criteria.

ICECubes Facility

  • The team should be composed of a minimum of six students who all fulfil the eligibility criteria. At least the team leader, coordinating the project at system level and ensuring the milestones and deadlines of the programme are met, is highly recommend to be a PhD student since the project spans more than one academic year. The team leader and the position of a systems engineer must be part of the core team and must therefore fulfill the eligibility criteria, listed above.

Endorsing professors and letter(s) of endorsement

Student teams must show that the project has the support of their universities through a letter of endorsement from a professor or academic supervisor in which they pledge their support to all the team members and the proposed project. More specifically, the endorsing professor should clearly state that they support the students’ application and that they accept responsibility for their project. This letter(s) must be attached within the application package that is delivered to the ESA's Education Office.

The endorsing professor(s) must belong to the same educational institution as the core team members. The endorsing professor’s roles and responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Provide student teams with assistance in accessing and navigating university policies, and processes;
  • Assist student teams with accessing resources such as laboratory space, and equipment;
  • Endorse the entire application, and development process of the team;
  • Bear responsibility for the experiment;

If the team is made up of students from multiple universities, endorsement letters are required from each university. If there is a formal agreement between the involved universities, ESA Academy shall be informed of the terms of this agreement and updated should that agreement change.

ELGRA mentor

Additionally, the European Low Gravity Research Association ( ELGRA ) will offer each selected team, through a mentorship programme, the possibility to benefit from the support from a European scientist highly experienced in space research.

The objective of the ELGRA mentors' relationships with the students is to bring some support to the team and to advise them during their experiment development. The mentors will primarily focus on the scientific aspects of the projects.

The ELGRA mentor will follow the evolution of the team’s participation until the end of the programme, including the post-campaign activities. If conditions are suitable the mentor may to visit the institution of the student team to visit the team and their facility.

Selection criteria

The selection criteria will include, amongst others, the application’s

  • educational value, mission objectives, organisation, feasibility and compatibility with the programme’s/ flight platform’s schedule and milestones

as well as the proposed research’s

  • interest, novelty and relevance of micro-/ partial-/ hypergravity.

Proposals identical to those already submitted to ESA’s programmes of the Directorate of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration will not be accepted.

A particular experiment proposal can be submitted a maximum of two times to the PETRI programme. If two proposals are of equal quality, priority will be given to teams and/or projects that have yet to participate in another ESA Academy programme or for which the educational benefits are higher (e.g. number of students involved, relevance of the experiment for master or PhD graduation theses of one or more team members, and the scientific merit).

ESA strategic goals
We ask the teams to explain if and how the experiment’s objectives align with the ESA technology and research development goals . More detailed information will also be communicated during the webinar series. Teams are encouraged to choose the goals that align closest to their project and describe in detail how their project aligns with that specific goal.

Questions and contact details

If you have questions about the programme, please contact the PETRI programme team at:

Please note that the information detailed above is subject to change without prior notice.

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