IAC2014 UK Student Paper Winners Selected

Contenders for the IAC2014 prize: (left to right) Chris Welch (Judge), Chiara Palla, Francisco Comin, Tijana Bogicevic, Nathan Donaldson, Ciara McGrath and Stuart Eves (Judge). Chris Welch

Contenders for the IAC2014 prize: (left to right) Chris Welch (Judge), Chiara Palla, Francisco Comin, Tijana Bogicevic, Nathan Donaldson, Ciara McGrath and Stuart Eves (Judge). Chris Welch

Organised by the International Astronautical Federation (of which the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) was a founding member in 1951), the annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) is the world’s largest astronautics/space engineering conference. IAC2014 will take place in Toronto, Canada in October. As part of each IAC, there is a student competition with prizes for the best papers and presentations on any subject related to space sciences, industry or technology.

The search for the two UK entrants for the IAC2014 Student Competition has been carried out by the BIS Education and Outreach Committee (BIS-SEOC) and started with the launch of the selection process at the UKSEDS National Student Space Conference Leicester in March. Following this, undergraduate and postgraduate students from UK universities submitted abstracts in which they summarised their work.

These abstracts were ‘anonymised’ so that each would stand on its own merit and then sent out to a short-listing panel which identified the best three in each of the two categories (undergraduate and postgraduate). The authors of these abstracts were then invited to the final selection. The finalists and their topics were:


  • Ciara McGrath – University of Strathclyde – Time-optimal transfer to a solar polar orbit using solar sail propulsion
  • Tijana Bogicevic – University of Strathclyde – The design and manufacture of inflatable hyperelastic structures
  • Danielle Baker-Wilson – University of Bristol – Dynamic analysis and GNC considerations for the deorbit of the Envisat satellite using a tether-tug-harpoon system


  • Nathan Lee Donaldson – University of Oxford – Numerical analyses towards the improvement of empirical heat flux models for atmospheric satellite re-entry studies
  • Chiara Palla – Cranfield University – Design and testing of the de-orbit mechanism on the European Student Earth Orbiter satellite
  • Francisco Comin – University of Surrey – Towards in-situ characterisation of planetary terrain using a hybrid wheel-leg

On 14 June at the BIS, the finalists presented their work in front of an audience of BIS and UKSEDS members. The judges watched all of them keenly and asked questions to probe understanding and communication skills, seeking the individuals most likely to ‘bring home the medals’ for the UK.

All of the presentations were of extremely high quality but the judges were obliged to choose only two: Ciara McGrath and Francisco Comin. The BIS will present each of them with a cheque for £500 at IAC 2014 after the student competition has taken place. A further cheque for £500 will be given to Ciara by UKSEDS in order to support undergraduate involvement in IAC particularly.

All six finalists will receive a year’s free membership of the BIS. Congratulations to them all, many thanks to all those who supported the selection process and good luck to Ciara and Francisco in Toronto.



Prof. Chris Welch
British Interplanetary Society Space Education and Outreach Committee
E-mail: [email protected]

Ryan Laird
UKSEDS Vice Chair
Email: [email protected]

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