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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
First student satellite lifts off
Kosmos 3M rocket launches, Esa
The rocket blasted off from Plesetsk in Russia
The first satellite built entirely by European students has launched from Plesetsk in northern Russia.

The 52 kg micro-satellite, Sseti Express, was designed and built by 100 students from 10 universities in nine countries.

It blasted off aboard a Russian Cosmos 3M rocket in the first launch from the cosmodrome since the loss of Europe's ice mission, Cryosat.

Sseti Express shared a ride with satellites for China, Iran and the UK.

Graham Shirville, who masterminded the telecommunications side of the project, said it was essentially a demonstration payload.

"It's the first European-built satellite that has been built largely by using the internet as communication between the teams," he said.

"The prime purpose is to demonstrate that students, with assistance from an organisation like the European Space Agency, can design and build a satellite well-enough constructed to be flown with other passengers."

Moonlander project

The satellite is the first mission of the Student Space Exploration and Technology Initiative (Sseti).

In conjunction with the European Space Agency (Esa), which funds the project, the students hope to construct and launch several micro-satellites and potentially more complex projects such as a moonlander.

Image: Esa
Sseti is one of several satellites being launched (Image: Esa)
Sseti Express carries a camera to take images of the Earth and three tiny "cubesats" to carry out experiments. It will also act as a transponder to relay amateur radio signals.

"The main objective of this mission is not what happens in space, it is the educational objective - to enhance the literacy and motivation of European students for space engineering and space science," project manager Neil Melville of Esa's education department told the BBC News website.

Other passengers

Sseti Express shares a ride into space with China's Beijing-1 microsatellite built in the UK by Surrey Satellite Technology.

Beijing-1 carries the China Mapping Telescope, a very powerful high-resolution instrument build by UK scientists at Sira, instrumentation and measurement experts, to map and photograph Chinese territory.

It will help plan projects associated with the 2008 Beijing Olympics and monitor and manage natural as well as man-made disasters.

Also on board are a satellite built by Russia for Iran, and Topsat, an Earth observation microsatellite funded by the UK government.

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