With €4 million in European funding backed by Horizon 2020, the Stardust Reloaded program brings Europe’s space agencies together to prevent inevitable collisions and make sustainable use of space.
The goal of Stardust Reloaded is to conduct cutting edge research by training young researchers with skills that go far above the norm, ranging from entrepreneurial to regulatory, looking forward with leadership skills for their futures and developing educational platforms for the even younger generations to come.
“There are so many people launching satellites now – particularly smaller and smaller ones – that the risk of collision, and with it the risk of setting off a cascade, is greatly increasing,” said Professor Massimiliano Vasile of the University of Strathclyde.
“With this project we aim to understand how the growth in satellites orbiting Earth affects the evolution of the space environment and how we can best manage that,” he added.
The Stardust Reloaded project, led by Vasile, was awarded the money through the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Initial Training Networks (ITN) of the EU’s Horizon 2020 program.
“These funding opportunities are extremely competitive with a success rate of around just six or seven percent. So it is incredibly satisfying to have been so successful with our applications. It is a reflection of the quality of the projects and the prestige of the partners involved.”
The ITN award is the latest of three Professor Vasile has won over the last six years, totalling €12 million, following the first Stardust project in 2012 and his UTOPIAE project in 2015, which looks at advanced mathematics to design better aerospace systems.
The original Stardust project, which kicked-off in 2013, pioneered new techniques for asteroid and space debris monitoring, removal and deflection, exploiting for the first time the synergies between the communities studying asteroids in and around the solar system, and the one studying space debris locally around the Earth.
Stardust Reloaded – which is backed by the European, German and French space agencies, as well as other backers – is also set to research sustainability in space over four years.
“Stardust Reloaded will take a leap further, to understand the evolution of the space environment around Earth and how the ever-increasing traffic in space can be safely managed to prevent inevitable collisions and allow a sustainable use of space. A necessity for the future that is increasingly reliant on space-based products,” said Vasile.
The four-year project will also increase our knowledge of the shape, gravity, composition and dynamics of asteroids and comets in view of possible actions to prevent a catastrophic impact with the Earth, and how mineral resources on these celestial minor bodies could be exploited to enhance our exploration of the Solar System.