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An illustration for comparative plasma physics in the universe
Copyright: ESA

Sixty European engineering and science students will be selected to particpate in a ten-day learning opportunity held in the village of Alpbach in the beautiful Austrian Alps. Participants will be engaged in an in-depth learning experience, attending stimulating lectures on relevant aspects of space science and engineering, and working intensely within four groups to define and design a space mission under the supervision of noted scientific and engineering experts.

The topic of the Summer School Alpbach 2022 is Comparative Plasma Physics in the Universe and will focus on different scales observed at Earth, Planets, Sun, Across the Universe.

Large parts of the Universe are filled with plasma, a highly ionised form of matter. The plasma environments are always highly dynamic, and can be observed from nearby in the Earth's magnetosphere out to far away supernovae and active galaxies. Ionised matter is threaded by magnetic fields, producing complex interaction processes and phenomena such as shock waves and charged particles accelerated to high energies. Observations of cosmic plasmas can be made both in situ (in the solar system) and remotely.

You will be exposed to real-life challenges, such as long working days (before proposal submission) and an expectation that you are able to immediately apply knowledge and techniques that you have only recently been exposed to. You will also have to handle the trials of establishing and maintaining an international and multi-disciplinary team composed of both scientists and engineers. You will need to balance the mission's scientific objectives and requirements with the realistic constraints of mission-design, spacecraft-design, technology and mission cost.

On the final day of the Summer School, each team presents their mission proposal to a jury of experts (and to all Summer School participants). Occasionally, some designs have actually gone on to represent a real space mission in ESA.

As expected learning outcomes and benefits for Summer School Alpbach participants:

  • Will view space as an exciting and challenging enterprise
  • Will be challenged to overcome the trials and reap the rewards of working in an international and multi-disciplinary team
  • Will be exposed to a range of scientific and engineering topics relevant to designing space missions
  • Will learn to balance scientific objectives and requirements with the realistic constraints of mission-design, spacecraft-design, and mission cost
  • Will develop the ability to work together as a team towards the common goal of preparing presentations and reports under incredible time constraints
  • Will forge long-term friendships that might eventually evolve into professional collaborations later in life
  • Will enjoy the unique and enriching "Alpbach experience".

The Alpbach Summer School is complemented by the Post-Alpbach Summer School Event, which will take place from 21-25 November 2022 in the ESA Academy's Training and Learning Facility at ESEC-Galaxia in Belgium.