Wirral teen’s satellite idea wins space competition

A global leader in satellite communications has announced Wirral teenager, Ash Goldsmith, as the winner of its first-of-its-kind Viasat Beyond: Space STEM competition.

Ash wowed a panel of expert judges including Royal Institution Director Katherine Mathieson, Space Influencer Camille Bergin, aka ‘The Galactic Gal’, Viasat’s VP of Space Systems Dr. Mark Dickinson, Delivery Director of the Ministry of Defence’s Skynet satellite system Steven Fisher, and Ray Fielding, Head of Space Sustainability at the UK Space Agency.

At the competition, Ash presented his concept for a ‘housekeeping’ satellite that would launch into space before repairing, refuelling or upgrading existing satellites, and then safely return home.

By adding new technology and refueling capabilities, Ash’s design would extend satellite lifespans, reduce atmospheric burn up, and create a more efficient satellite ecosystem.

Alongside Ash, who will receive first prize of £7,500, 16-year-old Krish Thakrar, from North London, and 17-year-old Mesha Tennyson, from Lincolnshire, won second and third place prizes of £3,750 and £1,875 for their concepts, respectively. Krish’s idea focused on a new coating for spacecraft to minimize atmospheric light pollution and support astronomy, while Mesha presented a space debris collector and fixer using AI detection cameras and electromagnets.

All five finalists, including Amar Birring, 17, from Wolverhampton, and Isabella Hughes, 16, from Armagh, Northern Ireland, will also be invited to an all-expenses-paid trip to Viasat’s Sustainable Space Experience Week at its London office in July 2024. During the event, the students will participate in a range of space-related experiences, work alongside Viasat’s engineers, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the space company’s operations.

The finalists were chosen from thousands of entries from across the UK. The competition, which launched last autumn, invited students from Years 12 and 13 in the UK to submit their ideas for space sustainability. Ideas were first submitted digitally and selected by space experts working together with Springpod, an early-careers specialist organization which worked to reach under-served areas of the UK.

Ash Goldsmith, winner of the Viasat Beyond: Space competition, said, “Being in this competition has been amazing, and everyone should be incredibly proud because anyone could have won. I think space sustainability is important to us all, because we have all benefitted from satellite technology at some point in our daily lives. We need to keep inspiring the next generation because, without them, we won’t solve this problem: we want to keep the valuable resource that is space open for everyone to use.”

John Reeves, Managing Director of Global Affairs at Viasat, said: “We’ve hosted these amazing young people here at our International Business headquarters this week, and it has been incredible to see their passion and enthusiasm, particularly on the vital topic of space sustainability. We launched Viasat Beyond: Space to help inspire the next generation of UK engineers, artists, space lovers, and scientists. Judging by the volume and quality of entries we received, the future of the UK space sector looks incredibly bright.”

Ray Fielding, Head of Space Sustainability at UK Space Agency and competition judge, said: “We were highly impressed with the quality of these students’ entries. In fact, their ideas are replicating many of the cutting-edge space sustainability concepts and technology ideas that the UK Space Agency is developing for UK Government. It has been amazing to see the level of research and knowledge shown by all the finalists, setting a very high bar. Every one of them should feel like a winner.”

Image: Ash Goldsmith. Credit: Viasat

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