Russian Universities Encouraging the Innovative Development of Space for Peaceful Purposes: to Improve Life on Earth and Advance Humanity into SpaceJune 13, 2019
Space technologies are not for space research alone. Today, they are used around the world for terrestrial purposes such as communication, navigation, and Earth remote sensing and observation. Those who design the best-performing, lightest and least expensive satellites, electronic devices and delivery systems gain a critical edge in the job marketplace. Would-be aerospace engineers can learn the theory, acquire practical skills and engage in Russian-led research in the field at universities that participate in Project 5-100, a government-funded program aimed at making Russia’s top higher education institutions more competitive globally.
Developing Spacecraft Hardware
Experts see global demand for aerospace products and technologies, as well as for joint space research, growing apace over the next decade. This market is expected to be worth $1,500 bln by 2030. Russian universities are taking advantage of the emerging opportunities to enhance and pass on their expertise.
Sergey Negodyaev, who heads the Phystech School of Aerospace Technology at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), enumerates key industry trends: satellite miniaturization, deployment of satellite constellations, electronic components standardization and transition to SoC (System on Chip), fully digital product design, and development of lightweight, high-performance spacecraft instruments.
The international space industry today requires increasingly sophisticated expertise and equipment, as it seeks to build new types of spacecraft and superpowerful rocket engines.
MIPT runs multiple master’s programs to train engineers capable of producing the applied technologies and solutions that would help take this agenda forward, such as measurement instrumentation for high-resolution infrared laser spectroscopy (MSc in Environmental and Industrial Monitoring).
MIPT research laboratories have experience setting up space radio links and designing onboard computing systems and hyperspectral imaging equipment for Earth-orbiting spacecraft, the International Space Station and deep-space exploration missions (such as the ExoMars project).
Building Small Satellites
Students and staff at Far Eastern State University (FEFU) plan to have a scientific research satellite put in orbit before the end of 2019 to test solar sail components and an onboard computer as well as conduct experiments in Materials Sciences.
FEFU has recently launched a master’s program that teaches students to apply Earth remote-sensing technologies and data to managing territorial development. In addition to getting instruction in remotely sensed data acquisition, processing and use in this field, they study small spacecraft and satellite constellations and engage in assembling a CubeSat, which is a miniature satellite weighing up to several kilograms.
FEFU also offers an English-taught master’s program in Small Satellite Development for Private Space.
Ilya Mirin, Director of the FEFU School of Data Economy, says that private companies, including satellite platform manufacturer SPUTNIX, have collaborated on the program, and points out that there is a clear demand for its graduates.
Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) students and staff have worked together with Russian scientists and aerospace engineers to build this country's first 3D printer capable of operating at zero gravity and used it to print the Tomsk-TPU-120 satellite, also a Russian first.
As many as 10 satellite frames are to be printed by the end of 2019, says Alexey Yakovlev, head of TPU's School of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies.
Samara University students and young researchers have collaborated with the Progress Rocket Space Center on the AIST series of small, 39-kilogram satellites and on the next-generation craft, the AIST-2D Earth remote-sensing satellite with a mass of more than 500 kg. The vehicles have been successfully launched into orbit.
Ivan Tkachenko of the Samara University Space Engineering Department says that the satellites have proven themselves to be a robust and versatile platform that could be used to design a series of low-cost space vehicles for performing technological and biological experiments.
Studying Extraterrestrial Materials
Ural Federal University (UrFU), which has a vast expertise in searching for meteorite material all over the world, is designing Russia's first, master-level educational program in Instruments and Techniques for Astromineralogy that comprises courses in astronomy, mineralogy, the physics governing the decay and destruction of astronomical objects, etc.
As meteorite research is an interdisciplinary science, students with different academic backgrounds can apply, says UrFU Professor Viktor Grokhovsky, who supervises the program. They will learn to determine meteorite composition, analyze fireball trajectories, distinguish terrestrial from extraterrestrial materials, etc.
Space research at Kazan Federal University (KFU) goes back to 1844 when Professor Ernest Knorr pioneered astrophotography.
In December 2019, KFU students and staff intend to start examining lunar rock samples brought back by the Chinese Chang'e 5 mission. There are also plans to conduct a joint study of Martian rocks and meteorites.
Alexander Gusev of the KFU Geophysics and Geoinformation Technologies Department insists that the notion of the Moon having been geologically dead these 3 bln years could not be more wrong. In fact, the more than 3,000 signs of its geological activity detected so far prove it to be very much alive.
One of the university's top-priority research areas, dubbed Astrochallenge, involves an integrated monitoring of near-Earth objects, such as comets, asteroids, meteorite material, space debris, etc. KFU scientists are seeking to put space research findings to good use on Earth. They are developing space geodesy techniques and applying space technologies to cartography, environmental studies and territorial development.
Space-Based Monitoring to Address Global and Regional Problems
Siberian Federal University (SFU) has been involved in space-based monitoring of natural and man-made ecosystems for the past 10 years. Its students and researchers use satellite technologies for a broad range of purposes, from evaluating urban environmental conditions to tracking reindeer migrations across the tundra.
SFU researchers have been instrumental in setting up an automated agricultural monitoring system for the region. They have also put together a unique digital terrain map of the city of Krasnoyarsk which allows for predicting the progression of man-made and natural disasters.
Both projects have been of essence to the master's program in Remote-Sensing and GIS Technologies for Monitoring Natural and Anthropogenic Ecosystems.
Enrollees engage in devising techniques for creating thematic maps of natural and man-made landscapes and analyzing remotely sensed data. They learn to track natural and anthropogenic forest change, detect forest pest infestations, determine the state of man-made, ‘technogenic’ ecosystems and monitor forest fires, says Vyacheslav Kharuk, head of the SFU Geoinformation Systems Department.