The UKSEDS’ IOSM competition from 2021/2022 was the first of its kind. The aim of the competition was to come up with an IOSM-related mission and justify the project’s proposal from both a business and engineering perspective to then compete for a hypothetical investment in the project. Throughout the year we had to develop the idea and present our progress in 3 reports with deadlines spread across the year. Finally, in the final stage of the competition we were invited to the Satellite Applications Catapult’s facilities in the Westcott Space Cluster to pitch our project ideas to a series of experts from different companies in the IOSM sector that acted as hypothetical investors.
Since that was the first year that the competition was run, our team was the only one representing the University of Bristol. We were a group of 6 aerospace engineering students from different cohorts. Initially, we decided to design a Single-Person Spacecraft to carry out Extravehicular Activities (EVAs) safely outside the ISS or any future space stations. However, after conducting some research on the most common reasons for the decommissioning of satellites in Earth’s orbit, we found that the most common one was fuel depletion. This is way why we eventually pivoted our project proposal to developing electric micro-thrusters that would attach to the host satellite and extend its operational life. In addition, we introduced a plan to refuel these reusable micro-thrusters by placing large fuel depots in orbit. This way, the micro-thruster vehicles would travel back and forth between the fuel depots and the inoperative satellites multiple times.
In the end, the competition judges liked the idea so much that we were awarded two of the three possible prizes. The prize for the best presentation and the prize for the best report. Participating in a competition like this gave us the opportunity to learn about the current state of the industry as well develop our written and verbal communication skills not only from a technical sense but also from a business/managerial perspective.