Call for applications for the Online Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations Training Course 2021

Cortez Deacetis



Following the success of ESA Academy’s Online Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations training course last year, ESA’s Education Office is offering 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. Due to the continued Covid-19 situation, this year the course will be offered online for the second time, through 10 afternoon sessions, between the 30th  of August and the 10th of September 2021.

Students interacting with the trainer during the 2020 Online Ladybird Guide to Spacecraft Operations training course

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 unsung heroes of any space mission are the people working in operations. They are the ones who work 24/7 to ensure that the spacecraft is healthy, returning the most data, and functioning at peak efficiency. In addition, these are the operators who diagnose problems with satellites and work out how to make them function properly again.

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. 

Trainer introducing spacecraft operations

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.

Real stories of operational staff battling with wayward spacecraft – sometimes winning and sometimes losing – will be used whenever appropriate. “If you want to really understand how a spacecraft works this is the right course. It goes through all the subsystems in a way that makes you understand the connection between everything on that spacecraft. All in all it is the perfect opportunity for anyone who is interested in working in the space industry,” said an engineering student from Romania who participated in a previous edition of the training course.

In addition to the lectures, the students will be asked to apply their gained knowledge during a challenging group project. The students will also learn about ESA’s European space Security and Education Centre (ESEC) and the activities performed on site including Galileo and PROBA spacecraft’s operations. 

Preliminary schedule

Day 1 Introduction – the difference between design and operations engineers 
Day 2 Mission design and payloads
Attitude Dynamic and Control Subsystems – part 1
Day 3 Attitude Dynamic and Control Subsystems – part 2
Day 4 Operations
Orbit Control System
Power – part 1 
Day 5 Group Project
Day 6 Power – part 2
Day 7 ESEC
Telemetry, Telecommunication & Command
On Board Data Handling – part 1
Day 8 On Board Data Handling – part 2
On Board Software
Live pass
Day 9 Group Project
Day 10  Wrap-up
ESA & ESA Education Programme

Who can apply?

Students enrolled in university who fulfil the following criteria:

  • aged minimum 18 years old.  ESA Academy and relevant partners will only appraise applications from students who have no or limited professional experience in relevant scientific, engineering or other space-related topics;
  • be a citizen of an ESA Member State, Canada, Latvia or Slovenia;
  • be enrolled as a Bachelor, Master, or PhD student in a university for the year 2021-2022; Final year students of AY 2020-2021 can apply when they do not graduate before the training course.
  • be studying an engineering subject or physics (with basic knowledge in space technology). 

Selected students will be requested to attend all 10 afternoon sessions live.

Upon completion of the training course students will be evaluated via an online questionnaire and will receive a certificate of participation and a course transcript, allowing them to request ECTS credit(s) from their respective universities.

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 15th of June 2021 23:59 CEST. For more information, please contact tlp @

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