eSpace History and structure

A bit of history!

Working for space projects has always been a tradition at EPFL since the early 1980’s. Some of the key domains of expertise developed in Lausanne include aerodynamics, antennae and robotics for planetary exploration.

In 2002, this high interest was confirmed by including space research in the EPFL 2004-2007 strategic plan. Under Professor Roland Siegwart’s guidance, the Space Center EPFL was formally created in June 2003 with support from  RUAG Aerospace.  Soon after it was created, Ms. Muriel Richard, a mission scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), was recruited to spearhead work towards the launch of a nanosatellite, SwissCube.  One year later, Dr. Anton Ivanov, also a scientist at JPL, joined the team, bringing expertise in planetary science.

Soon after, in 2009, SwissCube was succesfully launched from an Indian rocket, becoming the first Swiss satellite in orbit.  More than 200 people, including students and engineers contributed to this extraordinary achievement.  The continued operation of the satellite after 5 years and 30 000 orbital revolutions is a testament to the quality of the satellite design and reliability.

The center continued growing and, in 2012, accepted a larger mandate, becoming the Swiss Space Center under the new Direction of Dr. Volker Gass, a Swiss scientist and entrepreneur with over 20 years experience in the industry.  This new center expanded beyond its teaching and project responsibilities to act as national coordinating entity for space activities in Switzerland, facilitating networking between stakeholders.  With increasing mandates from the Swiss Space Office (SSO) and the European Space Agency (ESA), acting as technical evaluators, it became difficult however for the Center to participate directly in projects.

Thus in 2014, the Swiss Space Center was split in two, creating in the process eSpace, the EPFL Space Center. Ms. Muriel Richard and Dr. Anton Ivanov were assigned to this new center, under the direction of Professor Herbert Shea, head of the Microsystems for Space Technologies Laboratory (LMTS).  This new center was meant to focus on education and R&D at EPFL, working in collaboration with the local laboratories.  In 2015, Dr. Simon Dandavino, an expert in microsystems for space and electrical spacecraft propulsion, joined the core-staff of the center as Executive Director.

In 2016, EPFL expanded the mandate of eSpace to include Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAS) within its activities.  eSpace is thus bringing its space mission design and system engineering expertise down to Earth, taking a system of systems approach.