IAF Student Paper Competition 2020

Despite the distractions of the current situation, the IAF Student Paper Competition again had a very good level of entries this year; our thanks are due to all the students and their supervisors who helped make this a very high-standard competition. The BIS would also like to extend its thanks to the IET for co-sponsorship and adjudication, and to SEDS and the Space Universities Network (SUN) for assisting with the judging.

On 2 May, three undergraduates and three postgraduates faced a panel of judges in the UK final.

It will be immediately apparent that, this year, the final had to be an online event. Fortunately, the finalists coped admirably with the challenge of presenting, and answering questions, via Zoom.

In the undergraduate category, Harry Llamas described the potential use of Martian regolith as protection against radiation, and Leander Iven spoke eloquently about orbital lifetime prediction for cubesats, but in the judges’ opinion, James McKevitt’s presentation on Astraeus, a concept for an ambitious airborne vehicle capable of emulating a gannet and diving into the oceans of Titan, was the winner.

Turning to the postgraduate category, Aled Davies talked optimistically about spacecraft manufacture and assembly in orbit, and Andrea Bellome presented a significant amount of material on optimising trajectories between multiple targets in space during his 15-minute slot. But it was the judges’ unanimous view that Alexander Schwertheim’s research into a novel Hall-Effect thruster, which exploits water as the fuel, was the most compelling.

It is not yet clear when the two winners will have the opportunity to represent the UK in the International Final at the International Astronautical Congress, but when they do, they will have an excellent chance of adding to the UK’s record of success in the competition.

IAF competition judges via Zoom

IAF competition judges via Zoom

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