In the late 90s, Uppsala University identified aerospace as an important and challenging field of application for microsystems technology, and soon the Ångström Space Technology Centre, was inaugurated by the Rector Magnificus.

In a very short time, PhD students from all over the Department of Engineering Sciences precipitated around, and were recruited to, this initiative. Many of these were members of the four-year old Centre for Advanced Microengineering (AME) funded by The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research and headed by Prof. Jan-Åke Schweitz. For the first 5-6 years, more or less all research projects of ÅSTC’s were gathered around the vision of miniaturizing all parts of a spacecraft, and assembling them in a non-conventional way requiring a maximum of integration and component multifunctionality.

The NanoSpace-1 satellite

For this, all kind of competences were needed: A couple of PhD students and engineers studied and developed various propulsion systems resulting in millimetre-sized rockets sometimes including gas valves, filters and thrust feedback sensors. A couple of researchers worked on optically active surfaces and thermal switches to facilitate thermal management, to harvets sun energy and to build star navigation devices the size of peas. Much effort was spent on microwave communication with antennas just a few micrometer thick. One specialist worked on using the microsystems as “macroscopical” structure elements to gain as much as possible from each gram of material. Other experts worked on balancing the whole system. The main physical result was a conceptual “nanosatellite” with a mass of 10 kg, and thousands of silicon chips and modules with various microcomponents.

Academically, the accumulated outcome of the ÅSTC’s staff of 15 persons as of 2006, i.e. after a time of six years, was 8 PhDs, at least 14 MScs, more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and around 70 conference papers.

In 2006, after a period of many PhD graduations and successful spin-offs depleting the centre, it was decided that the centre must be reconstructed. After a year of reloading, the centre kicked off again with the financial help from VINNOVA, The Swedish National Space Board, and Uppsala University, recruited a new staff, formulated new projects, and set up a new laboratory.

Since then, a large number of projects have been started and completed. All of them are based on the firm belief that exploration and exploitation of space and other harsh environments have much to gain from the use of microdevices.

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