Turku Science Park goes Space!
"High demands on reliability and quality are set for the space technology. On the other hand, that’s why the technology used in satellites is also very traditional: the components and solutions must have a history of use, so that their functioning can be relied on in space", writes Timo Huttunen, our specialist for space technology projects.
Should I take the umbrella with me to work today? Will the GPS navigator guide me quickly to the customer’s place? These are mundane questions to which we are used to being answered promptly and regardless of the place by means of space technology. We have been pondering in Turku Science Park for over ten years what other questions or problems space technology could solve.
I’m involved in the activities of the European Space Agency that aim at finding new ways to use and commercialise the technologies that were originally designed to endure the extreme conditions and imaginative challenges in outer space. ESA’s technology transfer programme (http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Engineering_Technology/TTP2) has discovered items of application in most curious areas: potato crisp packing machines, ham cutting, vehicle airbags etc.
The operating environment and functional requirements of space equipment are exceptional. The equipment should be light and it should operate on as low energy consumption as possible. In addition, it must endure the vibration, shocks and rapid fall of the air pressure during the launch. In space, the equipment encounters broad temperature ranges, temperature cycles and radiation. As you could figure out from the landing of the space probe Rosetta on the comet, the equipment and software has to be able to function independently, interpret the information it receives without human control, and recover even from difficult faults. Naturally, new solutions have to be continuously developed also for maintaining the human health in space.
Consequently, high demands on reliability and quality are set for the space technology. On the other hand, that’s why the technology used in satellites is also very traditional: the components and solutions must have a history of use, so that their functioning can be relied on in space.
Similar reliability requirements are applied in e.g. aircraft, mining and maritime industries. Applications may be found for e.g. electronics systems and components, solar and fuel cells, structures and materials, as well as information processing and data transfer systems. Turku Science Park Ltd encourages the players in the relevant fields in Finland to come up with new and wild applications through the “ESA Down to Earth Idea Challenge” competition (http://www.turkusciencepark.com/down-earth-competition/).
The everyday applications of space technology will increase in the future. The markets related to personal location information in particular are expected to continue their strong growth in the next few years. Releasing the information provided by satellites for public use by anyone may open up whole new markets. Here, too, the only limit seems to be set by imagination, as the technology continues to develop at its current rate.
To feed the imagination, Turku Science Park Ltd is arranging together with the European Space Agency and SAP in January an “appathon” weekend, a competition for application development (http://www.app-camp.eu/finland). The participants are given access to SAP’s powerful systems and the information from ESA’s observation satellites and, using those, they will come up with new ways to run society in a safer, more energy-efficient and environmentally sound manner.
Senior Advisor for space technology projects in Turku Science Park Ltd