Page last updated at 19:36 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 20:36 UK

Student team wins satellite prize

Artes satellite. Image: Surrey Satellite Technology Limited.
SSTL is a major UK manufacturer of satellites

A team of students from Shrewsbury school has won a contest to design an experiment that will fly on a British-built satellite in 2010.

Their winning entry is a small instrument called POISE, which will measure variations in the ionosphere - the outermost layer of the atmosphere.

These variations can affect the accuracy and safety of satellite navigation (sat-nav) systems.

The team was required to build an experiment weighing no more than 1kg.

The competition was organised by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL).

The competition, launched earlier this year, challenged teams of 14-19-year-olds to design and build a small, compact satellite instrument.

The experiment will be flown as an additional payload on a low-Earth orbiting satellite being built by SSTL.

Conceived by Dr Stuart Eves, from the satellite company, it was set up as an initiative to boost interest in space science among young people.

The winning entry will be given a developmental budget of up to 100,000.

Shrewsbury School, in Shropshire, beat five other highly competitive entries from around the UK in the final stage of the contest.

Dr Eves praised all the finalists. He said of the winning entry: "We're very excited about the potential for the experiment, since, in addition to supporting navigation safety, some scientists in the US and Taiwan think variations in the ionosphere might also help provide indications of impending earthquakes".

Dr David Williams, director general of the BNSC, said: "The UK has a fantastic capability in the space arena and ambitious plans for exciting programmes such as a lunar exploration mission, MoonLITE.

"We hope this competition will help to inspire the next generation of space scientists who will make those plans a reality."

The winning instrument was required to be no larger than the size of a lunch box, weigh no more than 1kg and operate on less than one Watt of power.

Ian Pearson, the former minister for science and innovation, concurred: "It's staggering to see the effort and imagination that has been generated by this competition."

He added: "I had the opportunity to meet some of the finalists earlier this summer and all of their ideas were excellent evidence of innovative thinking in our schools."

Dr Eves said the standard of proposals was so high, he had been trying to secure the money to fly the second place experiment, from Langton School in Canterbury.

This proposal was for an instrument designed to detect cosmic rays hitting the Earth's atmosphere.

The teacher who supervised the project has already raised 30,000 of the total needed to fly the experiment.

Space experiment contest launched
13 Dec 07 |  Science & Environment

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