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Prestigious award for pico satellites

Prof. Schil­ling re­cently re­ceived the Eu­gen-Sänger medal from the Ger­man aero­space socie­ty DGLR for his and his team’s achieve­ments in the small satel­lite sec­tor. This space award is con­sidered the most im­portant Ger­man award in the space sector and hon­ored achieve­ments in­clud­ed the UWE small satel­lite pro­gram and the NetSat re­search sat­el­lites. Our Satel­lite Tech­nolo­gy stu­dents were part of his team in de­velopment of small satel­lites.

Small satellites in space and in Würzburg

The ad­vanc­es in min­iatur­iza­tion tech­nolo­gy ena­ble the de­velopment of even smaller satel­lites that make up the ma­jority of the satel­lites in orbit. Short con­struc­tion times sup­port rapid tech­nolo­gy cycles and inno­vative appli­cati­ons. The com­puter sci­ence de­part­ment at JMU Würzburg was able to con­trib­ute here: To­gether with nu­mer­ous inter­na­tional stu­dents and other scien­tists Pro­fessor Schil­ling de­veloped the 'University of Würzburg Experimental’ satellites (UWE). Step by step, nu­mer­ous tech­no­logi­cal breakthroughs with the objec­tive of “for­mation flight for small satel­lites” in orbit were achieved. In 2005, UWE-1 was the first Ger­man pico satel­lite with a mass of less than one kilo­gram. As the first of its kind, it has been ex­hibit­ed at the Deutsches Mu­seum in Mu­nich since 2012.

Space education and research in Würzburg

The high num­ber of inter­na­tional appli­cants for the Euro­pean elite course "SpaceMas­ter - Mas­ter in Space Sci­ence and Tech­nolo­gy" (2005-2018 with the sup­port of the EU pro­gram Erasmus Mun­dus) led to the ex­pan­sion of space tech­nolo­gy in com­puter sci­ence at the Uni­versi­ty of Würzburg and to the inter­na­tional Elite Grad­uate Pro­gram "Satellite Technology". The theo­ry in lec­tures is sup­ple­ment­ed by rele­vant exer­cises, ex­peri­ments and labor­atory work. Here the stu­dents also con­trib­ute to the im­ple­men­tation of chal­leng­ing small satel­lite pro­jects.

Early recognized technology trends

In 17 years, the scien­tific basis for self-organiz­ing satel­lite for­mations was step by step im­ple­ment­ed, which led to the start of the de­mon­stra­tor mis­sion of the 4 NetSat small satel­lites on Sep­tem­ber 28, 2020. Cur­rent re­search on for­mations of inter­con­nect­ed satel­lites ena­bles, for ex­am­ple, com­plex ob­serva­tions to be car­ried out joint­ly from com­ple­men­tary per­spec­tives, changes in the orbit to avoid space debris or, at the end of the satel­lite’s ser­vice life, a con­trolled en­try into the at­mosphere with the goal of avoiding space de­bris. For­mation tech­nolo­gies ena­ble new appli­cati­ons: by ex­ample CloudCT by its ten small satel­lites uses com­puted to­mog­raphy meth­ods to char­acter­ize the inte­rior of clouds, and thus ena­bles better cli­mate pre­dic­tions.

Numerous awards for the small satellites from Würzburg

The stu­dents and grad­uates of the aero­space courses re­ceived nu­mer­ous awards: VDE priz­es, VDI priz­es, facul­ty priz­es, 1st prize in the Audi inno­vation com­peti­tion, Rota­ry Cul­ture Prize 2011, ZARM Prize 2006, IABG Prize 2008, young scien­tist group Wer­ner von Sie­mens Foun­dation 2016 and 2019, Award of the Brit­ish Inter­plane­tary So­ciety 2006, gold medal at grad­uate stu­dent con­test IAC 2006, silver medal at IAC 2008, gold medal at IAC 2013, Leo­nar­do-da-Vinci-Award 2016, Women in Aero­space Award 2017, Frie­drich-Wil­helm-Bessel Award from the Alex­ander von Hum­boldt Foun­dation 2018. Schil­ling fi­nanced the de­velopment of the con­trol and self-organiza­tion ap­proaches with pres­tigious re­search awards from the Euro­pean Re­search Council (ERC): in 2012 he re­ceived an ERC Ad­vanced Grant for the ad­vanced con­trol ap­proaches with NetSat, and in 2018 the most valu­able Euro­pean re­search award to­gether with two Israeli col­leagues, an ERC Syn­ergy Grant for CloudCT (Cloud To­mog­raphy by Satel­lites for Better Cli­mate Pre­dic­tion). Inter­na­tional trade asso­cia­tions such as IFAC, IEEE and IAF ap­point­ed him to their expert com­mit­tees.


Text: Heidi Frankenberger, Elite Graduate Program "Satellite Technology"