Last week enthusiastic future engineers and scientists had the chance to participate in the ESA Academy’s inaugural Space Systems Engineering Training Course at the Academy’s Training and Learning Facility, ESEC-Galaxia, Belgium.
This pilot cycle brought together the 30 University students, representing 16 ESA Member States, with ESA current and retired staff, who, armed with a wealth of experience in Space Systems Engineering and Project Management, set about the task of divulging the rich and varied work of a System Engineer at ESA.
The 4-day training course has been under development for over one year, and aimed to tackle the sometimes-illusive area of System Engineering, with a particular focus on space systems. Students were taken on a journey through the lifecycle of a space system, and the role of a Systems Engineer at each stage of the journey, right from user needs to launch and operations and finally spacecraft disposal.
As per the role of a Space Systems Engineer the topics covered were diverse, ranging from requirements analysis, to verification and validation up to the use of project management tools and quality assurance issues.
As well as listening to lectures from the ESA trainers, the students had the chance to participate in three large group exercises. The exercises challenged the students to use documents from real missions to try and determine, for example, their own system requirements and basic system architecture. The third exercise introduced students to project management from a Systems Engineer view point and allowed them to tackle some of the challenges often faced in today’s space industry with respect to project scheduling and resource management.
“Taking part in the Space Systems Engineering training course has been an invaluable opportunity. Not only being able to learn from engineers in the field, but to be able to learn about real problems they had to solve, and even attempt to solve them ourselves during the exercises. I haven't studied space engineering at university, but this course taught me the endless possibilities of working in the space industry. Also being able to meet such interesting people from all over Europe interested in the same stuff was pretty incredible!” said a Spanish student from Heriot Watt University (Edinburgh).
As well as the course content, students had the chance to socialise with one another, and with the trainers, in the evenings and over coffee/lunch breaks. This is crucial and much appreciated aspect of many of ESA Academy’s training sessions, and one which helps form friendships and working relationships which will follow students well into their professional careers in the space industry.
“To come together with likeminded people from all over Europe and to learn together how Systems Engineering is applied at ESA was unique. I especially admired the commitment of the lecturers and was thankful about all the experience they shared. This course not only added valuable hard skills for my future career but also created an international environment of excitement one would expect to find within a space agency.” said a Swiss student from the ETH Zürich.
During the week the students and trainers were also treated to a tour of ESEC-Redu, the other site of the European space Security and Education Centre, a centre of excellence for space cyber security services and home to ESA's PROBA mission control centre and the Space Weather Data Centre.