Autumn Semester 2021
The projects listed below are available to EPFL students
and exchange students registered at EPFL
Full conditions and registration HERE
MAKE projects are officially attached to various labs at EPFL and include semester, Minor and Master projects
Sustainable Space Logistics
Supervisor : eSpace (Flavio Brancato, Marc-Andre Chavy-Macdonald)
Type of project : Minor or Semester Project, 1 student
Recommended : interest in web development, Python, and user interface design (IC/STI).
Modelling tools are needed to assess new material flows in space: optimizing orbital trajectories and spacecraft subsystems to improve volumes and timelines of payload deployments. This is useful for technology road mapping, for example by the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA has requested tools to deploy trough web interfaces.
The EPFL Space Center currently has a tool that can partially optimise orbital transfers, propellant and spacecraft subsystem mass for active debris removal, satellite constellation deployment and lunar exploration missions. To date, it can be used locally through an IDE, but needs to be made usable remotely. It is also essential that it become user friendly for those who have no programming knowledge. The goal is to create an interactive web interface that acts as a bridge between the source code and the user. This interface must allow the user to enter data of a predetermined type or to choose from a series of options, and possibly to interactively modify the inputs in order to display the changes in the outputs in real time. Outputs will be graphs and orbit representations.
Tasks will include obtaining requirements from ESA and eSpace experts, creating web pages with a functional user interface, related debugging work and implementation of feedback.
Supervisor : eSpace (Michael Juillard)
Type of project : Minor/Semester project, 1-2 students
Recommended : This project is suitable for a student interested in space avionics with a strong background in coding (Matlab). Prior knowledge of Optimal Control is a plus
eSpace has developed a Matlab tool to optimize avionic architectures for ADR missions such as ClearSpace-1 (CS-1). The current version uses an Optimal Control (OC) approach by considering a mathematical model of the architecture. Its primary purpose is to minimize the number of elements used in the avionic and optimize its output in terms of accuracy on target detection and tracking. The model contains descriptions of the sensors and the algorithms. It additionally includes information on the On-Board Computer as well as the connection between the various elements. The process is to run specific scenarios over time with varying constraints like power consumption. The optimizer will try guessing the ideal configuration of algorithms and sensors given the current constraint and the objective function. The latter dictates the most critical parameters to optimize in the simulation. (Last publication on the topic: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/smallsat/2021/all2021/182/)
The goal of the project is to use this tool for the analyses of multiple cases with an emphasis on modeling existing avionic architecture. The student should also modify and improve the tool to accommodate these various models.
The work performed might lead to a conference publication.
- Assess current and future avionic design of Active Debris Removal and formation flying missions.
- Assess the Optimal Control tool and identify its weakness.
- Implement models of avionic architectures in the tool and analyze the results.
- Improve the tool to allow a broader range of optimization and increase its flexibility.
Space Sustainability Rating
Supervisor : eSpace (Emmanuelle David, Flavio Brancato)
Type of Project: Semester project, 1 student
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in space sustainability with a strong background in coding (Python and HTML/CSS)
eSpace has been selected as the organization taking over and putting in place the Space Sustainability Rating (SSR), a system that will evaluate the grade of sustainability of space missions. It has been developed in the last two years by a consortium of organizations including the European Space Agency (ESA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Media Laboratory, University of Texas at Austin, Bryce Space and Technology, World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Space Technologies. The objective of the SSR is to push forward sustainability in the space sector and reward operators whose missions comply with the sustainability norms and guidelines.
eSpace is starting the pilot phase on the Sustainable Space Rating implementation from May 2021 to December 2021. The semester project would be part of the overall project. More information on the rating is available HERE.
Figure 1: Example of SSR Tiers and Step indicators at different mission phases
The following main modules contribute to the SSR (Figure 2). Of the 7 modules, 2 are represented by two independent software developed by ESA (Mission Index) and MIT (Detectability Identification Tracking). The Mission Index is accessible via a web platform and an API will be available soon. The Detectability Identification Tracking module is being finalized and will probably be deployed as a Python package.
Figure 2: Overview of the Modules that build up the Space Sustainability Rating
For the rating, eSpace envisions the following platform development phases. In particular, the first step shows the system set up in its current state. The second step involves the creation of a web interface for data input (front-end) and manual rating calculation. The last step involves a web interface as in the previous case, but which is also able to communicate with two tools provided by ESA and MIT and automatically calculate the rating.
Figure 3: Platform development phases
During the semester project the student shall:
- Work on the rating platform development and testing along with the Technical Officer and a system engineer student
- Support the drafting of reports and presentations
Desired skills: systems engineering, computer science, strong skills in coding in MATLAB/Python, Java appreciated, understanding of the functioning of the different modules and their interconnection, database (optional), basic web developer skills.
Objectives at the end of the project: you have developed the back-end part of the platform (step 1 and step 2) based on the requirements developed by the system engineer. You have connected the front-end of the platform with the ESA Mission Index API and MIT tool.
Supervisor : eSpace (David Rodríguez)
Type of Project: Semester project, 1-2 students.
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in lunar exploration technologies, radio astronomy, and conceptual design/rapid prototyping with a background in Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics Engineering and/or Physics. Hands-on skills for rapid prototyping are an asset.
The European Space Agency’s Directorate of Human and Robotic Exploration (D-HRE) is studying the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3) mission as part of its preparations for future exploration of the lunar surface. The objective of this mission is to prepare sustainable human exploration activities on the Moon. The EL3 mission’s currently planned launch is in 2028.
Preliminary internal studies have identified various payloads for the first mission called “Polar Explorer”. One of these is a radio antenna payload, to demonstrate the suitability of the lunar surface as a platform for low-frequency radio astronomy and to try and provide a first measurement of the long wavelength radio emission (2 to 60 MHz) from the heavily red shifted (z=80) Hydrgoen I emission from the cosmic dark ages.
Artistic representation of the European Large Logistics Lander return
You will be tasked with defining a preliminary design of the radio antenna payload (inc. concept of operations) based on the requirements and current design constraints for the EL3. Possibility to develop a scale-down prototype (particularly to showcase mech. design/ deployment capabilities) as part of this project.
- Assess current mission goals and requirements. Understand existing studies and science requirements for the radio antenna payload and derive high level payload requirements.
- Assess the engineering constraints and technical as well as operational challenges of long-term (at least 2 years) operation of a radio antenna payload in the lunar environment, particularly for a) geographically high latitudes (>85), and for b) the lunar farside at all latitudes while noting the requirement for lunar night survival/operation.
- Develop a preliminary payload design, including potential interfaces and the operation of such a payload as part of the EL3 Polar Explorer mission. Build a small prototype/scale-down model of the payload mechanical design.
Supervisor : eSpace (David Rodríguez)
Type of Project: Semester project, 1-4 students.
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in space systems engineering, lunar exploration technologies, and conceptual design with a background in Aerospace, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics Engineering and/or Physics.
As part of an upcoming mission to the lunar surface, EPFL has been offered the opportunity to develop a camera payload that will be used to reenact the famous “overview effect.” The mission primary goals and customer specifications have been broadly defined. In this project you will act as the lead payload system engineer (other tasks are available such as structural design, optical system design, electrical/electronic system design, etc.; get in contact for more information).
You will be tasked with defining the preliminary system architecture and concept design of the camera, breaking down known information into high-level requirements, performing a functional analysis of the payload while identifying major systems, subsystems, and components required. A model-based systems engineering approach will be taken.
- Assess current mission goals and customer needs. Assess and understand engineering constraints and technical as well as operational challenges of the mission.
- Create a model of the system in Valispace.
- Perform a functional analysis, breaking down system needs and constraints into high-level requirements, tracing applicable standards and failure modes (conducting a preliminary risk analysis), and defining the system architecture (functional analysis, system modes of operation, and subsystems sizing).
Supervisor : eSpace (David Rodríguez)
Type of Project: Semester project, 1-4 students.
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in space systems engineering, lunar exploration technologies, and conceptual design with a background in Aerospace, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics Engineering and/or Physics/Planetary Science.
Upcoming exploration missions to the lunar surface demand robotic assets with the capability to explore longer distances (>100 km) under highly constrained time windows (e.g., focused missions to the polar regions, < 8 days of surface operations). Effective, faster, and resilient surface mobility requires the use of high-resolution mapping and imagery. Airborne robotic systems are currently being tested and deployed on Mars to assist with the mobility and mission planning of rovers on the surface. A similar application to that of drones on Earth and Mars can be explored for the Moon via the use of long-distance robotic hoppers.
You will be tasked with drafting a conceptual design for a lunar hopper, performing the required analyses and system/subsystem trade-offs, defining a preliminary system architecture, and deriving product and functional breakdowns based on a set of mission profiles (nominal, PSRs, lunar pits).
- Understand the technical requirements, scientific drivers, and constraints of upcoming missions to the Moon.
- Define a set of mission concepts in which a lunar hopper would be of utmost value (enhancing mission ROI), performing a preliminary missiona analysis (mission definition, basic conops, required functionality).
- For the set of applicable mission concepts, derive required technical and operational capabilities and constraints (baseline set of mission constraints and system requirements).
- Based on the information so far gathered, explore a set of preliminary concept designs for a lunar robotic hopper, including but not limited to defining a preliminary system architecture definition (1) functional analysis, 2) system modes of operation, and 3) subsystems sizing) and performing necessary analyses for system/subsystem trade-offs.
Supervisor : eSpace (prof. Jean-Paul Kneib)
Type of project : Minor, Semester, or Master’s project, 1-2 students
Recommended : interest in material science or aerodynamics and thermodynamics or control and data science, systems engineering.
The concept of an airship for Martian exploration is promising as it would be complementary with the other existing means (orbiters and rovers) in terms of travelled distances and observable features. A feasibility analysis was made by a master student during a previous semester to establish the conditions in which such a vehicle could fly on Mars and do a preliminary sizing of its main subsystems (envelope, propulsion and power).
To advance the technology readiness level, one or more of the following topics need to be investigated in more depth:
1 - Envelope material and shape:
The previous study chose a spherical envelope, but more complex shapes could be considered (e.g. pumpkin shapes studied by NASA). A more thorough analysis is required to perform a trade-off regarding the following aspects: resistance of the envelope to pressure variation, interface with the rigid gondola and solar cells and potential folding strategy for fairing to Mars.
2 - Propulsion and altitude control:
The previous study assessed the feasibility of a propeller-based propulsion for horizontal control. A more thorough study, in particular the design of blades adapted to the thin Martian atmosphere, is necessary. For vertical control, an inner balloon system is considered, which is commonly used and well documented for Earth applications. A trade-off analysis between the different options for control should be made, proposing different options of sizes and geometry, and assessing corresponding mass and power budgets for the different options.
3 - Navigation and data handling:
The airship will require the design of complex and robust control laws, as well as a high level of autonomy (E3/E4). Indeed, while a rover can stop and be in safe mode, an airship will need to keep flying against adverse conditions and the communication delay with Earth taken into account. Different strategies for navigation as well as for the processing and communication of housekeeping and scientific data need to be investigated.
The project is led in partnership with the Mars Society Switzerland and engineers from the WoMars organisation. The objective would be to submit the resulting work for the IAC 2022’s call for abstract in February 2022, with the conference taking place in September 2022.
For this project students should contact Romeo Tonasso to discuss their interest.
EPFL Rocket Team
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EPFL Spacecraft Team
- COMING SOON -
Earth Observations for Sustainability
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