Exchange Student’s Atmospheric Experiment Set for Flight
“The experience of a lifetime” says Will Reid of the time he spent managing a rocket-based atmospheric study at KTH. A student at Australia’s Melbourne School of Engineering who recently returned home after 18 months as an exchange student in Sweden, Reid will see his team’s handiwork launched 85 kilometres into the Earth’s atmosphere later this year.
As an exchange student at KTH, Will Reid worked as project manager on the RAIN experiment (Rocket-deployed Atmospheric probes conducting Independent measurements in Northern Sweden). The experiment reaches a milestone in October with the launch of two atmospheric sounding probes developed jointly by the Division of Space and Plasma Physics (SPP) at KTH’s School of Electrical Engineering and the Meteorological Institute at Stockholm University (MISU).
RAIN will test techniques that can be used to create a detailed profile of aerosols in the Earth’s middle atmosphere by collecting microscopic dust particles swirling high above the surface of the planet.
The launch takes place from the Swedish Space Corporation’s Esrange Space Centre as part of the REXUS 11 & 12 programme run by Eurolaunch, a bilateral Agency Agreement between the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB) and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).
The proof-of-concept study aims to fill a gap in measurement techniques that can gather high resolution distribution profiles of middle atmospheric aerosols.
As they fall back to Earth from a height of 80 kilometres, the probes will collect aerosol particles. Each probe is equipped with a rotating plate in its base holding various collection samples that will be exposed to the passing atmosphere during the descent.
“As the probe falls, particles will collide with the exposed collection sample,” Reid explains. “At 17 km the plate will stop rotating and the samples will be sealed.”
As they parachute back to the surface, the probes will transmit GPS co-ordinates and beacon signals to allow recovery by a helicopter crew. The collected particles will later be analysed under scanning electron microscopes in a lab at Stockholm University.
As project manager for RAIN, Reid oversaw a team of 18 engineering students. “All of us were dealing with complicated engineering tasks, and planning and managing these tasks for such a large team was the most challenging aspect,” he says.
“As with anything difficult though, it was very rewarding and I learned a great deal about conducting an engineering team project; the practical sort of exercise not always experienced.”
Back in 2010, Reid was three and a half years into his Mechatronics and Computer Science studies at Melbourne University and keen to experience something a little different, so he looked into exchange opportunities.
“I had never been to Sweden and had heard really positive reports about the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, so I decided to give it a shot.”
He says he’ll readily recommend exchange student programmes to other students. “It was hard work, but it was a life-changing experience worth working for. I gained invaluable experience by taking part in a space engineering project. I met some great friends from all over the world, and I had a lot of fun.”
Reid says he hopes to pursue a postgraduate degree in space engineering after graduation.
He says it has always been his dream to work in the space industry, and he intends to return to Sweden to witness the launch of his project in October.
“I’m sure it will feel ‘out of this world’ and deeply rewarding after a year and a half of work to see my experiment propelled into space.”
By Kevin Billinghurst | firstname.lastname@example.org