Launched in 2016, the Auckland Programme for Space Systems (APSS) is designed for undergraduate students of all fields of study throughout the University of Auckland to collaborate to reach a common goal – contributing broadly towards the field of space research.

Second and third year undergraduate students are invited to form teams, work together to identify a societal need, and design a solution using a CubeSat, a 10 × 10 × 10cm, 1kg cube. Students from all faculties are invited to participate – no experience in engineering is necessary. Upon completion, the satellite will be launched into space by an orbital provider.

Since then, we have established new opportunities for space systems research across the University. With input from researchers from the Faculties of Engineering and Science, we are expanding our – and New Zealand’s – impact in space exploration, in tandem with the recent achievements in our government and industry.

The process

Students will be required to define a societal need and propose a solution that can be accomplished using a 1U CubeSat. Working in teams, they will apply their academic knowledge to the unfamiliar environment of outer space.

We recognise that a satellite mission is a truly complex interdisciplinary undertaking, and encourage students to bring together expertise from outside their own subject areas. APSS is therefore open to students of all faculties, as even cursory knowledge of satellite technology demonstrates the need for cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Your proposed mission can cover a broad range of topics – from agricultural or traffic monitoring, to astrophysics or archaeology. This breadth of coverage requires knowledge in subjects taught throughout the University, including geography, environmental science, urban planning, big data, computer science, archaelogy, sociology, physics and economics.

Your team’s results are to be submitted in the form of a technical report, supported by a video recording and a poster.

 

GET INVOLVED

Who can apply?

  • This competition is open to all full-time second and third-year University of Auckland students.
  • Your team must be made up of students from at least two faculties.
  • The ideal team size is six students.
  • No more than half the team is to be represented by students enrolled within a single faculty.

NOTE: Students of other year levels, or teams who do not meet the multiple faculty requirement may be accepted at the discretion of the organisers.

 

Why apply?

Beyond this being an excellent opportunity for you to launch something into space, the APSS is also designed to be a beneficial experience for students – here, you will learn to collaborate with those outside your specialisation, practise project management skills, and gain invaluable experience in teamwork and communication. You’ll also learn about systems thinking: the need to consider the many interacting parts and linkages that influence decision-making processes. You will receive a certificate of participation that can be included in a CV. Last (but not least!), there will be several different categories of prizes.

 

What happens next?

Students who enter the MPC are encouraged to continue with the programme regardless of their success in the competition. Project teams are urged to enter their ideas into overseas satellite competitions which in some instances, can lead to publication or conference inclusion.

There will also be opportunities available for teams to build and test unique parts of their satellite missions in an actual flight using the established CANSAT mission format. After completing the design, construction and flight qualification, you’ll be able to launch the payload to an altitude of approximately one kilometre on a small rocket, and conduct an experiment via telemetry as it descends under parachute.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Is there a cost for the programme?
No costs beyond putting in your time!
Do I get credit for this?
There will be no course credits, but those who complete the full mission competition will receive a certificate from the University acknowledging their participation.
What will I actually learn from this?
You will gain formal practical experience working in diverse teams on complex problems that include aspects from social sciences, business, technology and more. You'll learn how to complete and present your results in a clear fashion. These are soft skills that most, if not all employers desire.
Will I actually get a chance to build a satellite?
In the 2017 round, yes. We encourage teams who participated in the 2016 run to re-polish and re-submit their entries for 2017.
Will I actually get to play with rockets/are rockets involved in this somehow?
Yes. A number of teams will be involved in constructing the satellite, both directly and on individual components. Tests of some of those components will be done using scale rocket launches.
If I don't win, can I still be involved in building a satellite?
Yes, a number of those who complete the annual round will need to be involved to help work on satellite construction. There will be a core team of around 10 people working directly on the CubeSat, but several other teams will also be needed to work on individual systems and carry out test work and rocketry experiments.
Why did the University of Auckland launch this programme?
A number of reasons, though most importantly, because space is a huge opportunity for us all – it is a challenging environment where different skill sets and types of people need to work together to achieve success. The skills you'll develop through this programme are ideal and applicable to problem-solving on earth too, but sometimes there is a need for something as unusual as space to make us all realise and understand it.