Femtosatellites to determine thermospheric density

Jordi L. Gutiérrez, Carlos Lledó Ardila, Pilar Gil-Pons

The knowledge of the density of the lower thermosphere (100-250 km) is poor due to the scarcity of satellites in this layer. Learning more about the thermosphere would improve the ability to forecast satellite re-entry and optimise related physical models, along with the understanding of the thermosphere’s relationship to both the ionosphere and the mesosphere.
The idea proposes a swarm of spherical femtosatellites (less than 100g in mass) to determine the lower thermosphere’s density by means of an ultra-low-noise MEMS accelerometer. Times and locations will be provided by an MEMS GNSS receiver, which will also be a backup system for determining density by means of orbital evolution analysis. Furthermore, the solution includes TLEs (two-line element sets) for the satellites to provide yet another means of fulfilling its mission. In the latter two cases, density will be an average of real (point) values, which can only be determined by the accelerometer.
The spherical shape will allow for non-stabilised satellites, as the drag coefficient will not depend on attitude. The electronics will be embedded in aerogel in order to substantially increase the ballistic coefficient.



StarSpot – stargazing for everyone!

Ivan Levkivskyi, Vladyslava Horban, Rafal Stencel, Jens Rasschaert

StarSpot is a mobile app that makes starwatching easier by automating the process of finding the right spot. Its key feature is that it gathers all the necessary data (such as light pollution level and cloudiness) to estimate the best places while using GNSS to locate users and guide them there. StarSpot has strong connections to education and the popularisation of astronomy among the general populace. It addresses the problem people face in finding a sufficiently dark site for sky observation. Difficulties like these make beginners lose interest in astronomy. Instead of wasting time with maps, beginners can use StarSpot and get a list of the best spots. Since different sky objects can be seen at different levels of light pollution, users will be able to set criteria like level of light pollution and distance. Most importantly, StarSpot will enable to rate and add spots and use crowdsourcing to indicate those that are suitable for people with disabilities. No previous experience is required. The app can be used by amateur astronomers and educational institutions and could attract other smartphone users that are not yet part of the stargazing community.




Filippo Iodice

This project applies GNSS signals not only for positioning, but as a passive remote-sensing tool that uses the antennas present in all our cities as hotspots. Using Copernicus mission data, it will be possible to rebuild a city from different angles. Signal data will be obtained from cellular devices and automatically guided machines. Every single user will be guaranteed information at any time of the day and in any area of the world. Thanks to the use of machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks, the project will do nothing less than create a sort of virtual world that can perceive any change in the real world.
GNSS satellites are constantly broadcasting radio signals to earth, and part of these signals are reflected back from the earth’s surface. The delay in the reflected GNSS reflected signals on the differential paths between direct and reflected signals will provide topographical information.


High-quality GNSS education is a driver of innovation, a means of enhancing companies’ competitiveness, and a valuable opportunity for international cooperation. To bridge the gap from GNSS research and academia to entrepreneurship, the ESNC University Challenge addresses students and research associates with a background in aerospace and GNSS-specific courses of study, in particular with the aim of fostering the transformation of bright ideas into commercial ventures.

In addition, the ESNC University Challenge seeks to reach out to any young researchers working in areas of potential applications, be they prospective automotive engineers, logistics providers, game and other mobile application developers, or health promoters. The competition heightens the exposure and credibility of student innovations on a global level while establishing links to the world of business. The evaluators will focus on creativity and market needs rather than the technological perfection of the business ideas submitted.


  • 12 months of virtual incubation, technical and business consultancy support (a EUR 5,000 value) will be provided by the GNSS Research & Applications Centre of Excellence (GRACE).
  • The Institute of Space Technology and Space Applications of the Universität der Bundeswehr München will sponsor a ticket for the Munich Satellite Navigation Summit 2019.
  • The Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (ENAC) will sponsor a ticket for the first and second place winner to the International Technical Symposium on Navigation and Timing (ITSNT2018) in Toulouse. The first place winner will furthermore get offered a slot of approx. 20 min to present the idea at the ITSNT2018.
  • The winner can access  tailored E-GNSS Accelerator business support worth EUR 62,000 (if eligible).
  • An extra EUR 10,000 cash prize if your idea gets selected as ESNC 2018 Overall Winner



The competition heightens the exposure and credibility of student innovations on a global level while establishing links to the world of business. The evaluators will focus on creativity and market needs rather than the technological perfection of the business ideas submitted.


  • Co-organisers
    AZO Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen

    AZO has established a global network for innovation and entrepreneurship.

    AZO supports product innovation and company foundations in the field of commercial space applications along the entire value chain – from the idea all the way to market entry. The company has extensive experience in organising innovation competitions such as the European Satellite Navigation Competition, the Copernicus Masters (Earth observation), the StartupWorld Awards (laser photonics and robotics), as well as the INNOspace Masters (New Space Economy), app developer camps and conferences, and manages ESA BIC Bavaria.

    GNSS Research & Applications Centre of Excellence (GRACE)

    GRACE is part of the University of Nottingham's Nottingham Geospatial Institute (NGI), an internationally recognised centre of excellence in surveying, positioning, and navigation technologies.

    It focuses on helping organisations, businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs to take advantage of satellite navigation, positioning, timing, and location-based technologies. We provide business support, consultancy services, training, and testing for the exploitation of new ideas and the creation of new business opportunities. By offering a portal for sharing ideas, engaging with people, and learning about new technologies, GRACE serves as a hub for the GNSS community and beyond.

  • supported by
    University of Nottingham Innovation Park (UNIP)
  • University Partners
    University of Nottingham (UNOTT), UK


    More information will follow soon.

    Universität der Bundeswehr München (UNIBWM), Germany


    More information will follow soon.

    Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Spain


    More information will follow soon.

    l’École Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (ENAC), France


    More information will follow soon.

    Politecnico di Torino (POLITO), Italy


    More information will follow soon.

    Building European Link toward South East Asia in the field of EGNSS (BELS), South East Asia


    BELS implements a set of coordinated actions to promote EGNSS technologies in South East Asia (SEA), a fast growing market of more than 600 million people. BELS activities span a 3-year period (2015-2018) in which the Galileo constellation is expected to move forward towards the final full configuration. These years will be fundamental to pave the way for the introduction of Galileo services in SEA, both for European companies that can enter a new growing market and for the South East Asian countries that can discover the potentialities of the EGNSS technology. The main objective of the BELS project is to facilitate the breakthrough of EGNSS technology, with a particular focus on South East Asia (SEA), supporting European GNSS companies and conducting activities for awareness raising and capacity building which are cooperatively implemented by different European and Asia-Oceania actors such as universities, research and technology transfer centres, governmental agencies, companies and industries. BELS is funded by the European Union within Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, under grant agreement no 636853. The H2020 calls related to Galileo are managed by the European GNSS Agency – GSA.

    More information at


Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen
Ms Ines Kühnert
+ 49 (0) 81 05 77 27 719