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Starburst is Norway’s first cross-industrial student project that involves a large part of the Norwegian space industry. Throughout the summer, the students have worked at different businesses around Norway, aiming to launch a payload with a helium balloon from Andøya in August.
The payload consists of various cameras, sensors and broadband radios. The students have built a ground based station for receiving live video and encrypted data.
“The students were very excited to see if the technology they had been working on all summer would work. On Wednesday 2 August, the balloon was release from Andøya Space Center in Nordland county. The adjacent control room erupted with cheering when the payload started transmitting data during its journey upward to an altitude of 31,000 metres,” says project manager Dorthea Gjestvang.
“We experienced a few tense moments just after launch, where no data was received. Then, when complete data started coming in, we all cheered. It is very exciting after so many hours and weeks of work.”
Erlend Basso, sat at a screen nearby, can confirm that video footage from the balloon indeed reached the ground.
“Everything is working fine, and that is great,” says Erlend, who is a cybernetics and robotics student at NTNU in Trondheim.
Starburst is a programme for students who want to work in the aerospace industry. Fifteen students have been spread across the country to work on different tasks related to data, programming and physics. Kongsberg Space & Surveillance is heading the initiative, which has landed the support of many Norwegian aerospace businesses.
“Personally, I think it is important to view things broadly in Norway. We are a small nation, but we have a strong niche within the space industry. Working as a team and seeing how we can improve is definitely a motivating factor for this project,” says Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, head of Kongsberg Space & Surveillance.
Norwegian aerospace is an innovative and future-oriented industry on the rise. The industry employs more than 1200, who each account for a revenue of six million NOK annually. The number of employees has grown by almost 50 percent in the last few years alone.
Among supporters of the project, we find the Norwegian Space Centre and NIFRO (Norwegian Industry Forum for Space Activities), which is the interest group for the Norwegian space industry. The director of the Norwegian Space Centre, Bo N. Andersen, was also present during the launch. Andersen was very impressed with the skill shown by the student participants in the Starburst programme this summer.
“When I see how skilled people are today, I feel lucky that I am not competing with them for a job right now. This KONGSBERG initiative is extremely beneficial for the education of technical personnel in Norway, and they deserve credit for this,” says the director of the Norwegian Space Centre.
The Norwegian space industry has proven to be sustainable. For every Norwegian krone (NOK) contributed by the government to the European Space Agency (ESA), Norwegian space industry has won nearly five NOK in other contracts, which means creation of value, Norwegian jobs and strengthening of knowledge within Norway. The expertise and experience that the industry gains from delivering to the ESA is starting to create the foundation for success with other international programmes.
“In many ways, ESA is our home market. The market for Norwegian aerospace in itself is not very big at the moment, and the participation we have with the ESA through the use of national funding is crucial to the development of technology, whether we are talking about things to be used in outer space, or on ground level, where the data from satellites is actually interpreted and put to use. The importance of being a member of ESA simply cannot be understated. It is absolutely essential for the space industry in Norway,” concludes Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, head of Kongsberg Space & Surveillance.