9 November 2023

Since he was a child, he dreamed of space. Now he wants to put the first student satellite into orbit

Adam Hláčik has loved space since childhood. After school, he is considering a career at the European Space Agency | Autor: Václav Koníček
Perhaps in a few years the first satellite in the Czech Republic will be in orbit, made by the student group YSpace from the FEEC (Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Communication Technologies) BUT (Brno University of Technology). Although the student team, led by Adam Hláčik and his classmates, was only officially established this summer, it has already had its first successes in the form of positive feedback from the European Space Agency and invitations to conferences. According to Adam Hláčik, the aim of the association is to offer students practical experience.

Adam Hláčik says he knew from childhood that he wanted to build planes or satellites. After high school, he headed to BUT, and when the new master's degree in Space Applications opened last year, he didn't hesitate. “Eleven of us signed up, nine stayed. A few of us have formed a group of really good friends who understand each other very well,” says Adam Hláčik. It's no coincidence that he mentions a group of friends. They decided to start a student association together. “During the first semester we had to develop simulated missions. It wasn't anything specific, it was more of a learning process. But then I found out that there was a possibility to plan a mission at school and then apply for a consultation at the European Space Agency. Their expert team will evaluate the plan, advise on what to improve. I was interested because we didn't have anything so purely practical at school. So my friends and I decided to give it a try,” he says.

YSpace is designed to give students real-world experience | Autor: Václav Koníček

Initially, they had a few ideas on what to focus the mission on. But when they met Libor Lenža, who is the head of biological research at the Space Agri Technology laboratory at Mendel University in Brno, the decision was made. “We invented together a nice experimentbased on reviving bacteria in orbit to generate oxygen. This is a CIMER mission. We started working on it and got feedback from the European Space Agency that they liked it. We were invited to present our work. Consequently, we felt it was a shame to end this and put it behind us. That's how we started the process of establishing the association,” says Adam Hláčik about the path to founding YSpace.

The journey to your own satellite is long and expensive

They managed to complete the whole process this summer, when the student association was founded under the patronage of the professional leader Tomáš Götthans. “Such associations are a common part of complementary education abroad. This enables aerospace engineering students to apply their knowledge in practical projects. There has been nothing like that at FEEC,” he adds.

YSpace's dream goal is to actually put the first Czech student satellite into orbit. “But we have a development divided into several parts. The ultimate goal is to complete the cooperation with Mendel University. First, however, we want to build a smaller and less complex satellite and test the technologies from the Institute of Aeronautics of FME (Faculty of Mechanical Engineering) BUT within the KOSTKA mission. It should be ready in two or three years,” says Adam Hláčik, adding that it also depends on whether enough funding can be found. “We are currently looking for sponsors because development is not a cheap affair. We have to buy a test environment for software development first. For this school year we would like to get a so-called flatsat for the laboratory,” says Hláčik.

In addition, they are also in the process of recruiting new members and setting the rules of the association. “We define a strategy for how to teach new members the development process in general, the basics of writing requirements, development plans,” he notes, adding: “We are still at the beginning, but we are already quite successful. Building a satellite is of course a key goal, but the learning process and the things around it are equally important. For example, we have now been selected to present the CIMER mission at the European CubeSat Symposium.”

Several members of YSpace, including Adam Hláčik, have also completed internships in Belgium. “Subsequently, I was selected for the European Space Agency school in Austria. This year I will attend another course in Belgium,” adds Hláčik.

Brno - a European Space Unique

In addition to the study and co-management of the association, he also manages work in the commercial sphere. “I work as a systems and project manager in a company that also develops satellites,” he says, adding that the satellite he is involved in is due to launch next year. He also highlights the fact that Brno is a unique place for space engineering enthusiasts. “Brno is unique in Europe. There are so many projects that there aren't even enough local experts. So companies hire people from all over the world – Italy, India, the USA,” he points out. He is still considering his future plans. “I'm thinking of applying for a graduate position at the European Space Agency. But my current job is interesting, so I haven't decided yet,” he adds.

Thanks to the association, Space Applications students have already been able to attend conferences and internships | Autor: Václav Koníček
But he said the members of the association will not be lost in the world. “Several people from the association have pitched their ideas in business competitions or have already started a company. It naturally generates spinoffs. The association allows us to train in the industry, to get the necessary contacts, to find out how it works. We know what subsidies to apply for when we want to develop something or start our own company. It's not just about building a rocket or a satellite, but also about learning how to approach sponsors and how to negotiate. We are getting excellent life lessons that one cannot learn in the classroom,” concludes Adam Hláčik.



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