Nov 09, 2021 / tamara

SPACE TALKS with Jaan Praks: Aalto-1, sustainability and cooperation in space. 

Welcome to the first episode of Space Talks brought to you by Garage48, hosted by our long-time mentor and space enthusiast - Kai Isand. Our first guest is Jaan Praks, an assistant professor at Aalto University, Leader of the Aalto space Technology and Micro and remote sensing research group.


👨🏼‍🚀 Space talks are a series of interviews with influential people in the space sector to inspire ideas and motivate participants of SPACETECH EUROPE Online Hackathon. The hackathon will take place on 3-5th December. Read more HERE


Joining the field of Space technology.


Jaan Praks has been in the field of space technology for over 10 years with small satellites and has been working with remote sensing even longer. His journey in the field of small satellite technology and space technology started in 2010 when the building of Aalto-1 started, which eventually became the first Finnish satellite.


This marked the beginning of the new space era in Finland and gave birth to a lot of big and small companies that have grown out of the Aalto University and are already changing the world in the space technology sector.


Jaan Praks is teaching space technology at Aalto University and where he and his students are still building new satellites. Two satellites have been built from the ground up and they are very close to launching the third satellite and several others are on the drawing table.


Aalto 1: how it got started and where it is now?


Finland didn’t have a satellite and a group of 7 students of Aalto University decided to do something about it. The student group carried out throughout the years and built the entire working satellite by 2015, due to various problems with the launches the first Finnish satellite was launched on 23 June 2017 in India.  Aalto-1 is still operating and in orbit.


From this original group who started to work with the satellite several startup companies emerged:


  • ​​ ICEYE: providing access to timely and reliable satellite imagery
  •  Kuva Space: Earth observation solutions provide actionable data and insights for sustainability.
  • Arctic Astronautics: producing Kitsat which is a fully functional real satellite for educational use and space hobbyists.


ICEYE and Kuva Space have been bringing millions to the Finnish space technology sector and Finland has already 17 satellites in space.


What can be done in 48 hours?


Of course, building a space mission and an actual satellite takes years. However, in 48 hours you can come up with a really nice idea and polish it.


“I have seen many ideas which have been born in a hackathon developed further in perhaps other hackathons and been producing working profit-making companies. This is a great laboratory for your ideas, to test them with your team, with other teams and mentors, get into the topic, bring fresh ideas to the area and do something which has never been done before.”

Jaan Praks


Ways we can influence and support sustainability in space.


Cooperation between countries and nations is absolutely essential for more sustainable space. There is only one space, several altitudes, but every single altitude has many satellites from different countries and we have to cooperate in order to manage them all. It is not possible to make space sustainable without having a good connection between all nations.


The basic problem is very simple, in certain orbits and altitudes there are too many satellites and they collide and then break each other which might make one orbit's altitudes unusable for hundreds of years which is not good for humankind.


A way to increase the awareness of space, its possibilities, and challenges is by “Making more hackathons!” - Jaan Praks

Challenges in the space sector worth looking into.


Space is a really fascinating area and a lot of the future of humankind is connected to space in one or another way: space travel, colonizing other planets, space resources, making bigger sustainable space stations, space hotels, space tourism, decreasing pollution, and just having a space infrastructure starts to be absolutely inevitable for any society.


Many countries have been building their own navigation satellite constellations, their own remote sensing satellite constellations, and so on.


“Solving any kind of global problem on Earth needs a global satellite network!”

Jaan Praks


Challenges to consider: How to get rid of old satellites? How to prevent future space debris? How to manage the orbits? How to bring the old satellites down and new ones up safely?


What are the projects in the Finnish space scene that inspire you and deserve a special mention?


Aurora Propulsion Technologies. They are making propulsion devices for small satellites and are bringing us a step closer to the world where the small satellites can actually manage and lower their orbits. Aurora Propulsion Technologies has commercialized a very interesting invention - Plasma Brake, which is a module that slows down the satellite and eventually brings it to an atmosphere where it burns away without leaving any harmful debris in space around the Earth.


​​ICEYE is a radar provider and they are providing very small radars and these radars can be used for iceberg detection, ice mapping,  and many other different topics which are also very important for remote sensing and climate change.


Reorbit is converting rigid and single-use satellites into reusable, flexible, and low-cost space systems. 


Arctic astronautics are making educational satellite kits called "Kitsat" which are already actively used in different schools and different education organizations to teach about space and satellites especially to kids and also teachers.


“ I think educating teachers is also a very important aspect which has been not addressed very well, but happily there are a couple of very nice activities in this region that also teach teachers to teach space technology and space topics to students”

Jaan Praks

Why join the SPACETECH EUROPE Online Hackathon?


Space technology is the future so by participating in the SPACETECH EUROPE Online Hackathon you are getting the first glimpse into this really futuristic area that is already here.  


“ I really recommend everybody to bring up their ideas and participate in the hackathons, making international contacts with each other and also testing your ideas. Sometimes the ideas might be so crazy that they do not work but definitely, in this hackathon you have a possibility to reflect on these ideas with the best specialist and perhaps even the craziest idea can lead to some kind of a working concept.


Come to the hackathon, bring your ideas and take your friends with you and we will have great fun!”

Jaan Praks


Tips for the participants to succeed at the hackathon:


  • Take a tour of the topic: google watch some youtube videos to get yourself more familiar with the topic of the hackathon.


  • Gather a great team: teamwork is a central aspect of any hackathon and gathering a great team around your idea is a great determinant of how your hackathon experience will go.


  • Spirit: have a good spirit and an entrepreneurial attitude towards your ideas and push your ideas through.


See you at the hackathon! 🚀


SPACETECH EUROPE Online Hackathon


Watch the full interview👇