Lancaster team wins UK competition to tackle space debris in orbit


21 May 2019 12:27
The winners were given a tour of the Mars Yard at Airbus which is a simulation of the Martian environment © Airbus
The winners were given a tour of the Mars Yard at Airbus which is a simulation of the Martian environment

Two Lancaster University physics students have won Airbus Space’s 2019 UniCOM New Space Challenge in the face of stiff competition.

The contest involved pitching a new commercial business idea related to space in front of a judging panel made up of senior staff from across the defence and space industries, including representatives from Airbus’ space, geo-intelligence, and secure communications businesses.

The Lancaster team - James Smith and Liam Colman – competed in the finals at the Airbus site in Stevenage where they were invited to present their ‘New Space’ innovation ideas.

Liam said: "It was an amazing experience to be able to have the opportunity to present our ideas to experts working for a world renowned company. All of the other competitors brought really innovative and creative ideas to the table, but I'm pleased that our idea ticked all of the boxes."

Their proposal involved designing products that would address the dangers of space debris in orbit with a net made of several layers of mesh to trap debris.

James said: “We now have new networks with the senior engineers and managers in Airbus who were the judges of the competition. There was some fierce competition, but we won through on the innovation, technical feasibility and commercial viability of our space business model.”

They were one of five teams to reach the final after several rounds to whittle down hundreds of entries from across the UK.

After the presentations, Liam and James were given a site tour and visit to the Mars Yard, created to mimic the environment on the planet Mars in order to test the ExoMars rover project.

The competition organiser, Airbus UniCOM (University Careers Outreach Management), aims to increase engagement with universities promoting Airbus’ graduate development and internship schemes to attract future talent.



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