Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space presents inaugural Spacelab Prize awards to young engineers

• Recognition for outstanding thesis papers on space engineering
• Airbus Defence and Space Spacelab Prize honours student scientists

Bremen, 22 November 2011 – On Tuesday Airbus Defence and Space, Europe’s biggest space company, presented the inaugural Airbus Defence and Spacelab Prize awards for outstanding student thesis papers on microgravity research and enabling technologies for space applications. The Spacelab Prize was created in 2010 to mark the 25th anniversary of the first German Spacelab mission, D-1. This year’s awards were divided into two categories, with two prizes for applied microgravity (mg) research and four prizes for enabling technologies in the field of transport or human spaceflight. The winners receive a prize of 2,000 euros, while the second prize carries 1,500 euros.

Germany’s ongoing successes in space research and human spaceflight began 26 years ago with the launch of the first German space mission, Spacelab D-1. These study prizes are awarded by Airbus Defence and Space in support of young engineers and to promote research in the fields of microgravity and enabling space technologies.

“The future of spaceflight is in the hands of the engineers and scientists of tomorrow, and that’s why we consider early, lasting support for tomorrow’s specialists to be so important,” said Dr. Michael Menking, site manager of Airbus Defence and Space in Bremen, at the awards ceremony that took place in the Hanseatic city on Tuesday. “We want to give young people encouragement during their studies and nurture their future career prospects in a high-tech sector.”

The Spacelab Prize is awarded by Airbus Defence and Space in collaboration with leading German universities in Aachen, Berlin, Braunschweig, Bremen, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart that offer study programmes with an emphasis on spaceflight. Professor Dr. Ernst Messerschmid of the Institute of Space Systems in Stuttgart, who was one of the astronauts on the Spacelab D-1 mission, values the competition highly: “This initiative promotes exchanges between science and industry by bringing together theory and practice, which leads to closer and more effective cooperation between the two sides. The prize encourages universities to make sure the courses they offer their students have a high degree of practical content that is applicable to industry, as well as promoting strong commitment from students.”

Airbus Defence and Space awarded a total of six Spacelab Prizes in two categories, with three first-place awards and three second-place awards.

The first prize in the field of microgravity (mg) research went to Sascha Kopp of the Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University of Applied Sciences. His bachelor’s thesis entitled “Impact of gravity on the actin filament system of the macrophage cell line RWA 264.7” considers the question of why immune cells can no longer be activated under weightless conditions, which can impair astronauts’ health during longer periods in space. This piece of research also holds out the promise of being applicable to the clinical picture of relevant diseases on Earth.

One of the winners is a young female engineering student. “Although engineering as a career is still largely a male domain, I am particularly pleased to award the Spacelab Prize to a young woman,” said Messerschmid. “Women have long since proven that they, too, can produce excellent work in technical disciplines.”

Christine Hill of the University of Stuttgart was awarded the second prize in the mg research category. Her masters’ thesis focuses on interpreting data from the passive detectors in the DOSIS I and DOSIS II experiments (Dose Distribution Inside the ISS). These experiments, which were installed in the International Space Station until November 2009 and May 2010 respectively, set out to determine the level of radiation exposure inside Europe’s Columbus space laboratory. Hill’s analysis made it possible to create three-dimensional maps of the way radiation exposure is distributed within the Columbus module, and these maps will help to make future assessments of likely radiation doses more accurate.

Another four prizes were awarded in the category for enabling technologies in the field of space transport.

The first prize in this category went to Vitali Braun of the Technische Universität Braunschweig. His masters’ thesis entitled “Propagation of status vectors and their inaccuracy” outlines a possible European space surveillance system aimed at better calculating the risks of potential satellite collisions.

A further first prize was awarded to Andreas Fink of the University of Stuttgart. In his masters’ thesis he worked up a concept for a standard androgynous adapter for linking modular space transport systems together. This design will serve as a basis for further development of connecting elements between spacecraft. Androgynous docking systems allow greater flexibility in mission design and they are also easier to operate, which helps to bring down costs.

Second prize in the enabling technologies category went to Daniel Birgel of the Universität der Bundeswehr München. His masters’ thesis examined radiation effects in liquid-fuelled rocket combustion chambers.

Adam Boxberger was also awarded second prize for developing a thermal model for the AF-MPD ZT1 electric engine at the Institute of Space Systems in collaboration with the Institute of Aerospace Thermodynamics at the University of Stuttgart.

“The importance of promoting young people is clear from these outstanding thesis papers. Tomorrow’s engineers are full of creative ideas and they will provide essential fresh impetus to the field of space travel – whilst at the same time underlining Germany’s ability to innovate,” said Menking at the awards ceremony for the Airbus Defence and Spacelab Prize.


About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space is the number one company in Europe and the third in the world for space technologies. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services.

In 2010, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €5 billion and more than 15,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Airbus Defence and Space Satellites for spacecraft and ground segment, and Airbus Defence and Space for comprehensive end-to-end solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, bespoke geo-information and navigation services worldwide.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2010, the Group – comprising Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 45.8 billion and employed a workforce of nearly 122,000.


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