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: www.rexusbexus.net

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