Credit: ESA

Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations 2020 training course

Following the success of ESA Academy’s Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations training courses in the past four years, ESA’s Education Office is offering 30 university students the opportunity to participate again in this course and learn about the fascinating world of spacecraft operations.

To bring this fascinating world of challenges and satisfaction to life for university students contemplating a career in the space sector, ESA is organising the Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations Training Course, a technical course without excessive mathematics or technical jargon. This 4-day course will take place between the 8th and the 11th of September 2020 at ESA Academy’s Training and Learning Facility in ESEC-Galaxia, Transinne, Belgium.

The course will show students how ‘driving’ a spacecraft is different from designing it. When it comes to spacecraft, it is the launch itself that grabs all the headlines. Once in orbit, we only tend to hear about the satellite again when it returns a great result or a spectacular image. But spacecraft do not take care of themselves on their own.

The course is suitable for BSc, MSc and PhD students who want to quickly acquire a feeling for the broad spectrum of disciplines that are part of spacecraft operations.

Taught by an experienced engineer who works for the Operations Department of ESOC, the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, the course will be delivered through formal lectures but with a heavy emphasis placed on the interaction with the students. 

The way specific sub-systems of a spacecraft like Attitude, Determination and Control Subsystem (ADCS), Orbit Control System (OCS), Power, On Board Data Handling (OBDH), Telemetry, Telecommunication & Control (TT&C), Thermal and On Board Software (OBS), have been designed has a bearing on the way operations are carried out, and this will be highlighted and discussed. The course will include a session on the physiological traps to be avoided during operations and testing.

Preliminary Schedule

Day 1Introduction - the difference between design and operations engineers 
Mission design and payloads
Attitude Dynamic and Control Subsystems
Group Work
Day 2Orbit Control System
Group Work
Day 3Thermal
Telemetry, Telecommunication & Command
Group Work
Day 4On Board Data Handling 
On Board Software
Group Challenge and Summary

Who can apply?

Students enrolled in university who fulfil the following criteria:

  • be aged between 18 and 32;
  • be a citizen of an ESA Member State, Canada or Slovenia;
  • be enrolled as a full-time Bachelor, Master, or PhD student in a university for the year 2020-2021;
  • be studying an engineering subject or physics (with basic knowledge in space technology).

The selected students will be sponsored by ESA. The sponsorship will cover accommodation and meals as well as up to 200 euros for travelling to Belgium.

How to apply?

  • Fill in the application form;
  • Upload a motivation letter (PDF, maximum 1 page, no images);
  • Upload a CV (PDF, Europass form, no images, maximum 2 pages);
  • Upload a formal recommendation letter (PDF, maximum 1 page, including signature, no images) from a university professor or academic supervisor of current university (if not possible due to the current confinement situation in your country, please ask a university professor or an academic supervisor to send a recommendation email to [email protected]);
  • Upload a copy of academic records (PDF).

All answers and documents should be in English (except academic records if not available). 

The deadline for applications is the 6th of July 2020 23:59 CEST.For more information, please contact tlp @



Applicants are kindly requested to note that, depending on the evolution of the corona virus situation in Europe, and in line with the recommendations of ESA's Director General on travel restrictions for health and safety reasons, the ESA Education Office reserves the right to cancel this ESA Academy's training session, to limit potential exposure of participants or employees to the virus.


Antonio Duduianu

Antonio is currently studying towards a MEng in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bath.

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