NSA SymposiumSpring is a time for reflection, renewal and for new growth. Each year, for three days in April, the National Space Academy brings together its teachers, scientists and core team to reflect on the year, to renew old partnerships and to develop new connections between the Space Sector and Education.


This year, the National Space Academy was hosted at the Harwell Space Cluster where the growth in the space sector has been reflected in two new facilities which the teachers were able to visit: the new ESA European Centre for Satellite Applications and Telecommunications and R100.  The latter is the brand new RAL Space Testing facility, where instruments from large scale satellites such as the ESA Sentinel 4 UVN (Ultra-violet/Visible/Near-infrared) instrument can be tested in the largest thermal vacuum chamber of its kind in the UK. 

Growth was also found in the small scale, with Oxford Space Systems, presenting for the first time at the symposium, showcasing their 'Astrotube' flexible deployable structures. One of the major issues with the cost of launching spacecraft is their size and weight: Oxford Space Systems have utilised new materials and origami techniques to deploy antennas, boons and even solar panels in an effective way to both save weight and space within spacecraft.

NSA SymposiumFollowing on from the success of the Astro Academy: Principia experiments with Tim Peake, the National Space Academy was also asked to write classroom based education experiments for schoolchildren based on the work done on board the ISS by ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet. This was showcased at the symposium with a simple experiment on the action of enzymes using jelly and pineapple.

The UK Space Agency was present at the symposium, and shared early results from a report indicating that the various Tim Peake Education Projects reached over ine million school children during his time in orbit.

Without the support of its partners the National Space Academy would not be able to reach the same number of audiences, which is why it was delighted to renew those relationships: a particular focus was the relationship with STFC, who hosted the symposium. Talks and updates were heard from the Royal Astronomical Society, MSSL, ESERO-UK and the Satellite Applications Catapult.

2016/17 for the National Space Academy also presented growth via new horizons, with team members and Lead Educators delivering Academy products in new locations such as the Gulf States, as well as a teacher expedition to Greenland with the Fuchs Foundation.

Lead Educators also heard updates from specific missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the 'successor' to the Hubble Space Telescope and LIGO, the gravitational wave detector, which is able to measure the collision of black holes 1.4 billion light years away. A new topic from STFC was the update of the UK's deepest underground science facility: Boulby Underground Laboratory. Located at 1100m below Cleveland, it is a 'quiet place in Universe' where unique science can be conducted. The Public Engagement team at STFC were keen to hear from Academy Lead Educators on how they thought teachers could engage with the science involved in these projects.

With 2018 being the 10th year anniversary of the National Space Academy, the opportunity for growth and new horizons is seemingly limitless.