History of the SpaceMaster Program

The Sorbonne Declaration in 1998 and the following Bologna Declaration in 1999 established the grounds for new cooperation processes in higher education. The proposed reforms related to: (1) student and staff mobility, (2) a common two-cycle degree system, (3) use of credits, (4) European cooperation in quality assurance and (5) European dimensions in higher education, affected countries within and outside the European Union. The number of official signatory countries has risen from 29 in 1999 to 47 in 2015.

In order to support academic cooperation and increase mobility between the European Union and its partner countries, the Erasmus Mundus program was launched in 2004. The program was implemented as joint courses at the master's and doctorate level with awards of individual scholarships/fellowships for course participants. Management of the courses was delegated to the EU Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). The Agency has been fully operational since January 1, 2006 under the supervision of four Directorates-General of the European Commission: (1) Education and Culture, (2) Communications Networks, Content and Technology, (3) Migration and Home Affairs, (4) Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection.

Following EACEA’s Calls-for-Proposal in 2004, Luleå University of Technology took an initiative to organize and coordinate a new joint two year Erasmus Mundus Master Course in Space Science and Technology – SpaceMaster. SpaceMaster was started as a consortium of six European universities:

  • Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering (Aalto), formerly Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) before 2010, Finland;
  • Cranfield University (CU), United Kingdom;
  • Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU), Czech Republic;
  • Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg (JMUW), Germany;
  • Luleå University of Technology (LTU), Sweden;
  • Université Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier (UT3), France.

The objectives of the SpaceMaster Program were described in the original proposal as:

  • to combine the great diversity of space expertise at six European universities to a common platform of competence within the guidelines of the Bologna process;
  • to give students cross-disciplinary experience from laboratory and computer simulation environments to concrete situations such as high-altitude balloon and rocket flights, satellite and radar control, robotics, sensor data fusion, automatic control and multi-body dynamics;
  • to bring together as a core group students from the whole world to share the existing space competence, to develop it together and distribute it to benefit the European space industry and research community.

During the period 2006-2009 the SpaceMaster Program participated in a specific program organized by EACEA within the Erasmus Mundus framework. The program, named Action 3, aimed to initiate sustainable collaboration and to support systematic staff mobility with other universities outside the European Union. SpaceMaster’s partners were:

  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China)
  • Stanford University (United States)
  • The University of Tokyo (Japan)
  • The University of Toronto (Canada)
  • Utah State University (United States).

In 2010 EACEA granted the SpaceMaster Program a second edition, for another five consecutive rounds. For this edition the SpaceMaster Program was expanded with new Partner Universities, i.e. The University of Tokyo (Japan) and Utah State University (United States), as well as the Associated Partners:

  • European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company, Innovation Works Division (EADS-IW, Germany)
  • EISCAT Scientific Association (Sweden)
  • Honeywell International s.r.o. (Czech Republic)
  • Swedish Space Corporation (SSC, Sweden)
  • Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF, Sweden)

These Partners were organized into the External Advisory Board. The main function of the Board has been to support the academic quality of the Program, work with quality assurance issues, to provide relevant information in order to guarantee the development of graduate profiles, and to strengthen ties between industry and academia.

The Directorate of Human Spaceflight and Operations (HSF), European Space Agency (ESA) provided financial support and traineeships at ESTEC for SpaceMaster students from ESA members states over the years 2006-2013.

In 2014 SpaceMaster successfully passed the EACEA’s quality review and was granted another three consecutive rounds, i.e. Rounds 11-13.

Today there are more than 750 SpaceMaster Alumni around the world. After 19 years of work and experience the main advantage of the Program can be summarized by the phrase broadened horizons. This broadening applies both to the students and to the staff of the universities involved.