Adam Baker - SSP94

StudentAtWorkAbout ISU's Network

Some time ago I was working hard on a bid for European Space Agency money to do some potentially creative work on a new, ultra-miniature (MEMS or Micro Electro Mechanical Systems based) rocket engine design.

Although largely demanding study work (pervasive in our space industry), the statement of work also required some detailed fluid flow modelling at the micro scale of the proposed design, and a capability to fabricate MEMS components to test the prototype.


Whilst I had no shortage of ideas, and the backing of my company, SSTL, it was clear we didn't have the resources to offer a credible proposal alone. Thinking hard about possible collaborators who would have expertise in these challenging areas, while at the same time satisfying the seemingly nebulous requirements for geographical return imposed by ESA, I turned to the ISU network. This was in fact the first, and as it turned out only place I needed to go.

Although I generally monitor ISU-talk and news, contributing but rarely, and therefore didn't feel justified in expecting an overwhelming response in return to my request, my query was answered by exactly the right people for the job. One of whom had even been to the same summer session!

So, myself, Berry Sanders from TNO-PML in Holland (SSP 94) and Fredrik Bruhn from Uppsala University in Sweden (SSP 01), and a colleague from QinetiQ in the UK who has not yet had the good fortune to experience an ISU programme teamed up over last summer and wrote a proposal to design, build and test a new type of MEMS rocket technology.

ESA in its infinite wisdom then considered the proposal for 8 months, for a variety of reasons, but that is not my point: What matters is that earlier this month the team members were informed that we were to be granted funds to proceed, more than 0.5M Euro, enough I hope to really achieve something new and not just another paper study. It's not just about winning $$$, either, although this helps if you want to impress the management!

The project will also, I hope, offer the participants the chance to experience the different working practices of the companies and institutions involved, learn some new skills, push back the boundary of the known, and indulge in some foreign travel. I'm really looking forward to this, and it wouldn't have been possible without ISU and the open minded, international environment which we have created and strive to continuously improve on.

In the international space arena of today and tomorrow, the opportunity to find the right collaborators to create innovative, winning solutions is, I think, really helped by ISU if we can keep the momentum going then we have a great future ahead of us!