Physics students win Airbus New Space Challenge 2019


14 May 2019 14:13
Finalists of the Airbus New Space Challenge 2019
Finalists of the Airbus New Space Challenge 2019

Two Lancaster University Physics students won the 2019 Airbus New Space Challenge, beating hundreds of teams that entered the competition.

Students James Smith and Liam Colman, both studying MPhys Physics, entered the competition with a one page abstract on a new commercial business idea relating to space. Aircraft manufacturer Airbus ran the competition and invited five teams to the final. Their business idea - "Taking out the Trash" - was a proposal for reducing the amount of debris in space, particularly in the orbit of Earth, such as waste from rocket launches.

Their plan involved designing a strong mesh or web to be deployed by a satellite to scoop debris out of orbit where it could cause damage to other satellites and spaceships, ranging from holes pierced through sensitive equipment to the potential for large-scale collisions, as seen in the film Gravity.

James Smith said of the win "It's the educational environment that Lancaster provides that gave us the best opportunity to win. Being able to work in the Faraday lecture theatres, computer labs and study spaces around the Physics building at any time we needed, with our lecturer's support, really encouraged the creative juices to flow. What can I say, I love working on whiteboards."

Dr Andrew Marshall, Director of Teaching, said "it is excellent news that James and Liam won the Airbus New Space Challenge 2019 with their innovative proposal on how to reduce space debris. We enjoy supporting our students beyond the curriculum and encourage complementary activities like this. I have been pleased to support them with discussion, space to work and laboratory access."