Every year, a group of young adults comes together at Andøya Space Education in Northern Norway for a week-long space camp. Throughout the week they’re immersed in hands-on sessions, rocket-building, and lectures from some of Europe’s top engineers, scientists and educators – and the NSA’s Sophie Allan is one of those lecturers! Sophie reports on this year’s camp…

After an adventure getting to Andøya, with planes cancelled due to fog and multi-hour taxi journeys at silly am through still-light amazing landscapes, I arrived! The exciting task ahead of me: to help bring space to life for this year’s cohort of attendees. We began with the opening ceremony and it was honestly a sight to behold: 21 students from across the world, all between 17 and 20 years old, ready to learn about space and the world-wide space industry, ready to work in groups to build, launch and analyse data from a sounding rocket, and to begin the process of building up their networks. The excitement was real!

Next up, the participants learnt about the history of Andøya Space Centre, before heading off on their tour. Highlights included the tower shown in the photos, which is used to track the wind speed and direction on rocket launch days. We also saw the bunker control room where the student rocket will be launched from, and one of the scientific launchers used for research rockets.

The students were then split into their teams to learn about how to build and control various aspects of the sounding rocket. Many skills had to be acquired along the way and the students really got stuck in.


On the third day of the camp, after a busy morning of group work, it was my turn to take over the afternoon and evening activities. First up was a lecture on the science and engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, which gave me a chance to bring out a favourite artefact: solar cells from the Hubble Space Telescope!

My second session was on the frontiers of human space exploration, looking at Artemis, Lunar Gateway and beyond to Mars. Participants got hands-on with experiments looking at the effect of low pressure on the human body, and of high energy UV radiation. To finish, participants had the opportunity to handle pieces of Martian and Lunar meteorites as well as some others from our collection.

Finally, a long but exciting day was rounded up with a test of everything the participants have learned about rockets so far. The challenge: to build and launch a compressed air rocket, employing engineering design features covered in lectures so far. I was very excited to have the chance to try out Andøya Space Education's fabulous new compressed air rocket launcher design and the participants did themselves proud with some amazing rockets.

My final day at camp saw the students launching a weather balloon! Participants had built the payload to collect and transmit data that would be compared to the rocket data the following day.

For me, this was the end of the adventure, but I returned home happily knowing I had left behind an incredible bunch of people who would continue to show their initiative, passion, and persistence throughout the rest of the camp. Unfortunately, we later discovered that the students’ rocket wouldn’t be able to launch due to a computer malfunction. The plan is to livestream the launch at a later date and I hope I'll be able to join the students to celebrate their success. Of course, as I told the students via video message, space is hard and you’re not a real rocket scientist until you’ve got a launch delay under your belt!

Find out more about European Space Camp, learn about the work of Andøya Space Education, or enquire about booking Sophie to deliver lectures and talks here.