The National Student Space Conference (NSSC) is our flagship event of the year. Having been first held in 1989 at London’s Science Museum, we now welcome hundreds of students and recent graduates from across the country. It is open to all, and features talks by leading academics and industry figures, a careers fair, and opportunities to take part in discussions and networking events. Our speaker line up has included the likes of Tim Peake, Dallas Campbell, and Kathryn D. Sullivan.
Each year we select one branch to host the conference. If you are interested in hosting the next NSSC at your university, make sure to keep an eye out for applications around June on our social media channels.
The conference typically takes place on the first weekend of March. For more information, please see the National Student Space Conference website.
In 2023, we had the pleasure to host the largest-ever edition of our flagship event at the University of Manchester. Over 650 delegates from across the country, 40 multidisciplinary speakers and over 45 exhibitors (ranging from government agencies, companies and space clusters to university branches and start-ups).
In 2022, we were delighted to return to an in-person edition of our flagship event, delivered in person at Kings College London, but also while still maintaining elements of last year’s hit virtual conference. In keeping with this years theme of championing diversity, our speakers were a multidisciplinary group of the UK’s leading academics and professionals, emphasising that space is not purely for STEM students, but anyone who wants to join our rapidly expanding sector.
We hosted the record-breaking UK Spaceports Panel, Space Data Panel, and STEAM panel. Further talks included ISS operations, space microbes, analogue astronaut missions, space architecture, and spaceflight through the lens of a writer and filmmaker. Our keynote speaker, Katy Haswell, gave us insights into broadcasting launches from the Guiana Space Centre. We concluded the weekend with a workshop on effective time management and avoiding burnout, a topic of great importance
for individuals in our sector. For the 7th year running, we continued our collaboration with Airbus on a student presentation competition.
In 2021, our annual conference was virtual. We had panels on space entrepreneurship, debris, the future of the UK sector, and spaceports, and we had a premier debate session on the topic of mega constellations. We also had three keynotes this year, Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, Timiebi Aganaba-Jeanty, assistant professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University, and Prof. Yuichi Tsuda, project manager for JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission. In addition, we introduced a new opportunity for Ph.D. students to gain valuable speaking experience by offering two students individual speaking slots on their research.
In 2020, our annual conference was at the University of Birmingham. We had panels on lunar exploration, the use of space data, diversity & inclusion, and sustainability, as well as talks from sector experts, including a keynote from former NASA astronaut Dr Kathryn Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space. For the fifth year running we are collaborating with Airbus Defence and Space to bring their student presentation competition to the conference. In addition, we have introduced a new opportunity for winners of UKSEDS competitions and branch members to present work they’ve been doing throughout the year.
In 2019, the National Student Space Conference was hosted by the Physics and Astronomy Society at the University of Edinburgh. There were panels on a range of topics, from Politics in Space to Space startups. In addition, there were talks from professionals such as Dr Christophe Lasseur from the European Space Agency (ESA) and Scott Hammond, the Operations Director for the Shetland Space Centre.
In 2018, the National Student Space Conference was hosted by Surrey Electronics and Amateur Radio Society (EARS) at the University of Surrey. The event was sponsored by Airbus, Thales Alenia Space, Reaction Engines, the International Space University, and the UK Space Agency among many others. It featured talks from leading space science and industry figures such as Libby Jackson from the UK Space Agency, one of the leading UK experts in human spaceflight
In 2017, Space: Exe hosted the National Student Space Conference at the University of Exeter. The conference had panels on themes such as Exploration vs Exploitation and Startups in the Space Sector. We had two keynote speakers: Dr David Parker, the Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration at the European Space Agency (ESA); and Professor Carole Mundell, Professor of Extragalactic Astronomy and Head of Physics at the University of Bath. The event also featured the usual careers fair and networking reception.
In 2016, the National Student Space Conference was hosted by Sheffield SpaceSoc at the University of Sheffield. The conference had a panel with industry experts called “Future of the UK Space Agency”, with panellists from organisations such as the UK Space Agency, Reaction Engines and Surrey Satellite Technologies. The keynote speaker at the conference was Professor Mark McCaughrean, the Senior Scientific Advisor in the Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration. This year also gave students the opportunity to present their work on the topics of rockets, radio telescopes and weather balloons. Another highlight was the discussion on Sunday afternoon on “Developing the Space Skills Pipeline”, the first of its kind to involve students in the discussion, giving attendees a chance to directly influence the thinking of those shaping policy in industry and government.
In 2015, the National Student Space Conference was hosted by Surrey Electronics and Amateur Radio Society (EARS) at the University of Surrey. One of the keynote speakers at the event was Abbie Hutty, a Spacecraft Structures Engineer on Airbus’ ExoMars Rover Project, whose talk was titled “Structural challenges in the Martian environment”. Another keynote speaker was Dr Matt Taylor, a project scientist on the Rosetta Mission whose talk was “The Rosetta Mission So Far”. Students had the opportunity to socialise at the Networking Reception sponsored by Satellite Applications Catapult and the evening social on Saturday.
In 2014, the National Student Space Conference was hosted by Leicester AstRoSoc at the University of Leicester. The conference was attended by industry experts such as the ESA astronaut Major Tim Peake. Our keynote speakers were Dr David Parker, the UK Space Agency Chief Executive, and Professor Richard Brown, Director of the Centre for Future Air-Space Transportation Technology at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. The sponsors for the event included Telespazio, Reaction Engines and the UK Space Agency.
In 2013, the National Student Space Conference was hosted by Bristol SEDS at the University of Bristol. Our keynote speakers for the event included Dr Ralph Lorenz of the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab on “Exploring Titan” and Dr Jason Hatton of the European Space Agency on “The ESA ELIPS programme and European ISS Utilisation”. This year was also the 25th anniversary of the founding of UKSEDS, and we had a ‘Birthday Social’ aboard the boat ‘Under the Stars’ in Bristol Harbour!