ESTCube: grassroots community nanosatellites
Name of the initiative: ESTCube
Organisation form: Other
Country: Estonia (and Finland, Denmark, Latvia)
Domain: space research
Starting year: 2008
Keywords: makerspace, nanosatellite, science, co-work
ESTCube is a grassroots initiative aimed to turn Estonia into a space exploring nation (in the absence of their own national space agency) by collaboratively developing and launching CubeSats, while also aiming to provide a proof of concept for a sustainable spacecraft interplanetary propulsion system called electric solar wind sail. It started as an informal project relying on the support and promotion of senior members of Tartu University and Tartu Observatory.
In 2016, The Estonian Student Satellite Foundation was created focusing on the financial aspects of the project, its outreach communication, and coordination activities. The foundation supports the formation of the next generation of space scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs by providing hands-on education to students. It also promotes science through summer schools, camps, and other activities like visits to schools all over Estonia to popularize science among youngsters. More than 200 students were involved in the project as developers, team leaders, and managers. The senior staff had an advisory role in the project. Students wrote more than 30 bachelor theses and more than 20 master theses, published more than ten peer-reviewed journal articles, along with conference papers and technical presentations, workshops, seminars and more.
The initiative is funded from several sources: European Space Agency (ESA) and European Commission (EC) space research projects, scholarships, training programs; human, hardware, and software resources provided by partner universities, companies and sponsors; donations; a crowdfunding campaign; prototyping in-house technology as micro-cameras that should secure future returns; spin-offs led by members of the initiative; the use of incubation facilities from ESA to develop start-ups; pairing the BA, MA and PhD theses topics from the students involved in the initiative with work and tasks related to the project, thus substituting part of the work that should be provided by paid engineers with vocational hands-on learning co-work from volunteers.
Author:Lucas Lemos, P2P Lab (Greece) & Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
Date added: 16 Oct 2019