Building a training satellite during an internship


Nadine Duursma is a double master’s student in Robotics and Space engineering at Delft in the Netherlands. For four months, she was a trainee at Andøya Space Education, developing a satellite training platform.

A girl is standing up, holding a square CubeSat in her hands.
Photo: Andøya Space Education

The internship was not the first time Nadine visited Andøy. Five years ago, in 2019 she was one of the 24 participants in the Fly a Rocket! student rocket program through the European Space Agency. 

– I knew about this place already, and when I saw they had an internship vacancy open, as I had come to love Norway, this would be a very nice opportunity for me. I applied and was very lucky to get the job, says Nadine Duursma smiling widely.

Developing a satellite for training purposes

Nadine set out to develop a CubeSat loosely based on the CanSat learning platform. The finished CubeSat will be used in a student satellite training program often referred to as AIT (Assembly, Integration and Testing). 

– Nadine’s internship is part of an ongoing national project where Andøya Space Education works closely in collaboration with academia, industry, and other partners to offer activities for university students, explains Jøran Grande, president of Andøya Space Education.

The CubeSat works just like a regular satellite with onboard sensors and communication systems, just not one that would work in orbit. It will be just for training and educational purposes. 

Her new satellite measuring 10 cm x 10 cm x 10cm will be used to practice and perform AIT and cleaning procedures in a clean room

A close-up of a girl holding a square Cube-Sat.

– You need to have very thorough cleaning procedures when working on space equipment. First, you remove all the big particles, and then all the small particles. It is important to clean equipment that will be sent into space, as dust and humidity can damage instruments, Nadine tells us while holding the CubeSat in her hands.

– Nadine’s work has improved several parts of the hands-on activities within our AIT program offered to university students, says Grande.

Training programs like this are very valuable and points directly to operations at a spaceport. It gives students real experience before they dive into their space careers.

In addition to building a satellite platform, she also spent time improving a ground station for receiving data from balloons and real satellites. She worked closely with our team and can show for great results.

Enjoying life at Andøy

– We focused on trying to integrate and show Nadine all the possibilities and things to do outside work by living far in the North at Andøya. This might turn out to be a small contribution to Andøya Municipality in attracting young professionals to come to live and work at Andøya where there currently are so many opportunities within the Space domain, says Grande.

A girl stading in front of a climbing wall.

– Coming to Andøy, was helpful to me. Through it, I discovered many potential experiences, such as climbing, hiking, ice baths, biking, and ski lodging. I also did geocaching, watched the northern lights, and spotted whales. As my time here is coming to an end, I still haven’t done everything I wanted to do, like pottery class and diving, Nadine tells us. – The pace of life is more relaxing here. One day you go biking, one day you go hiking and one day you go climbing. Perhaps it’s just that freedom. I felt I had time to enjoy my stay, compared to living in a big city where people hurry, and life is more stressful. 

A future space career

– Now that my time in Norway is up, I will go home to the Netherlands. But not for long, as I will travel to Houston to attend a summer program at NASA, Duursma says excitedly.

It is not Nadine’s first time in the US. She spent half a year at Princeton University earlier in her master’s program. She has also spent time in Australia as part of a larger student team that built a solar car and travelled an impressive 3000 km with it!

At the end of Nadine’s internship, she gave a presentation to her colleagues about the work that she had focused on during the four months at Andøya Space Education. She not only delivered an excellent presentation of the work she had accomplished, but she even gave the presentation in Norwegian! 

– I think I like the aspect of space, that you’re doing something that seemed impossible in the past. Like launching a rocket to the moon and now maybe launching a rocket to Mars. The aspect of exceeding boundaries is very appealing to me, says Duursma at the end of the interview when talking about why she would like a future space career.

A girl sitting on the top of a mountain with view to the mountain and open ocean.
Nadine up at the mountain Måtind at Andøya. Photo: Nadine Duursma

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