To boldly go…. =)

With just a couple of days before half of the team heads to the PDR (Preliminary Design Review) in Germany work is proceeding full steam ahead! Slides are being revised and polished and presentation voices are being practised =). The excitement is building!

Over the past couple of weeks the IR spectroscopy  team has made some fantastic progress documenting  the physics behind the experiment. Although some information on what ISAAC does can be found in the ‘About’ tab I shall try to illustrate why this experiment is so unique =) and cool. The aim of course, is to generate a Carbon dioxide concentration  profile of the middle atmosphere. The middle atmosphere is a strange region of the earth’s blanket, to high for aircraft and most balloons yet to low for orbiting satellites. (Note: non orbiting satellites pass through here all the time but… =)  ). This means that relatively little is known about the distribution of carbon dioxide at these altitudes. That is something we hope to change! =)

However there are a lot of things to do before we get there. Since the completion of the SED  (For now=) ) we have begun looking more in depth at the components that will go into the optical systems. As we continue to transform our scribbles into CAD drawings we shall keep you updated on the most exciting news =).

Until next time,



Hello From the Tracking Team!


This little guy (the CMOS sensor in middle to be exact) will play an important role in our fun, but nonetheless challenging task to allow one of our Free-Falling Units (FFUs) to track the other. This is a very important part of the ISAAC project – without a good tracking solution the IR spectroscopy that we’re setting out to perform won’t be happening at all! And here’s how it’s going to work:

The transmitting FFU (which we call the ISAAC-Tx) will, apart from the IR source for the spectroscopy, be equipped with an LED that emits visible red light. The receiving FFU (called the ISAAC-Rx) will be able to sense the LED source using its onboard CMOS camera. But before doing so, the the ISAAC-Rx will make (very educated and pre-determined) guesses as to the whereabouts of the ISAAC-Tx using a sun sensor. Afterwards, it will proceed with taking pictures of the sky with the CMOS camera in hopes to find the LED source using a tracking algorithm. It will then direct mirrors and adjust stepper motors in order to align the FFUs with each other so that the spectroscopy can take place. Simple as that, right?!

The concept is neat and simple, but imagine doing this with the FFUs falling rapidly towards the ground a kilometer apart. It isn’t your average tracking project to put it mildly. Us (Emil and Markus) and the other electronics people have a year of hard work ahead of us. But it will be so much fun!

The REXUS/BEXUS Programme

The title of this blog is “The ISAAC Rocket Experiment” – but we should make one point clear: we don’t build and launch a rocket ourselves. We can’t. A lot of scientists struggled for the better part of the 20th century to make reliable rockets, so it’s impossible for a group of students to do the same in just one year. So you may ask now what rocket we will fly on, and what organisation or company is behind all this? Actually, there’s a whole bunch of organisations. And this post shall explain the programme that allows us and other students to launch experiments sounding rockets, and who is responsible for it.

First of all, we participate in a programme called REXUS/BEXUS, which stands for Rocket/Balloon Experiments for University Students. As the name suggests, it consists of two parts, REXUS, where up to 40 kg of student experiments are launched on a sounding rocket to an altitude of about 90 km, and BEXUS, where 40-100 kg of experiments are lifted to about 30 km by a balloon, with a flight duration of 2-5 hours. Each year, two rockets and two balloons are launched from the Esrange Space Center in northern Sweden.

The programme is realised under an agreement between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB). SNSB has made its share available to students of other European countries through a collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). So these three organisations manage the programme, DLR holds half of the payload (available for German students), while SNSB & ESA hold the other half (available for students of other ESA member states).

However, the launch itself, including the necessary preparations and the whole launch campaign, is under the responsibility of EuroLaunch, a cooperation between DLR, particularly its Mobile Rocket Base (MORABA), and SSC, the company that operates the Esrange Space Center.

Now that we’ve sorted out all those organisations: what is included in the programme, what do we students get? Well, the main thing is certainly the “flight ticket”, our place on the REXUS 15 rocket. But there’s more than that: we also get technical support from experts from ESA, SSC and DLR, mainly in form of reviews, where we present our experiment and then get feedback, both to improve our design and to ensure that all safety requirements are met. We also get the opportunity to meet the other students who are participating in the programme.

All things considered, the REXUS/BEXUS programme is a great opportunity to get some hands-on experience as an engineer and to get involved in a space project. If you want to know more about it, or if you’re a student and want to participate in the next round: check out the website:

The real work has begun!

With the semester just starting, here at KTH, all members of team ISAAC are recovering after a long and relaxing holiday and putting their work hats back on.

Over the past week everybody has been working hard towards a common goal: filling out the Student Experiment Documentation (SED) required for the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) with all the relevant information about our experiment. We met the deadline with just a few minutes remaining, but of course after the submission the work continued. The documentation will help the experts give useful comments and show us the “right way” at the PDR, in the beginning of February, in Oberpfaffenhofen (Germany).

Based on our experience from the Experiment Proposal we made an “unspoken pact” to avoid as much as possible the “deadline rush”. And we were successful, with only the final touch to be done during the last day. This could have happened due to a better work approach, but I would like to ascribe it to the new members that joined the team after the Selection Workshop. And since I mentioned it already, let’s make it official: Saman and Viktor (Power System), Victoria, Johan and Matthew (Infrared Spectroscopy), Emil and Markus (Tracking System) welcome to the ISAAC family!

On a final note, I shall return to work (taking 10 minutes off to write the blog post was just the break I needed) since the CAD drawings are not going to draw themselves 🙂

Oberpfaffenhofen here we come!

The Selection Workshop – We got selected!

The REXUS/BEXUS selection workshop took place in the beautiful city of Noordwijk near Amsterdam! Noordwijk is not only a nice seaside resort; it is first and foremost the location of ESTEC! You might wonder what ESTEC is? ESTEC stands for European Space Research and Technology Centre, the largest centre of the European Space Agency and above all its technical heart, where most projects are born. As space enthusiasts, you can imagine that we were more than willing to trade our red “visitor” badges for the blue ones owned by the ESA engineers! (And not only because the food was really good…)


Erasmus User Center

The workshop lasted three days from December 11th to December 13th. The first day was dedicated to space project management training while the REXUS presentations were held during the second day. ISAAC was the first team to present its project! We were very excited and quite nervous to submit our work to the ESA experts.  This year, six teams competed for a place in the REXUS sounding rocket. The other teams came from Romania, Italia, UK or Spain… The competition was tough. Later that day, we had the chance to meet the only Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang who also studied at KTH! During the last evening, we finally had some time to relax, enjoy the hospitality of our hosts from Hotel Mitchbi and even take a stroll on the beach nearby. The last day was dedicated to the BEXUS proposals and the trip home. Exhausted but amazed, we returned to our snowy and cold Stockholm, waiting for the Selection Board’s decision…

… Which eventually arrived on December 18th as one of the best Christmas presents we had ever received: the ESA acceptance letter, our pass to work on a real space project for one year and a half!


Hotel Mitchbi, Jorge, Georg and “douche” Vlad!


Vlad and Ricardo at the 3D visit of the ISS


Enjoying the beach!