Educational activities include undergraduate and graduate courses and hands-on involvement of students in real space missions:

  1. Nanosatellites
  2. Satellite engineering
  3. Astrodynamics
  4. Nonlinear vibrations of aerospace structures


S3L developed the first Belgian nanosatellite, OUFTI-1, launched by the Soyuz rocket from Kourou on April 25, 2016. It is currently developing the OUFTI-NEXT nanosatellite, the mission of which is related to smart irrigation strategies of agricultural fields.

OUFTI-1 nanosatellite

The key objective of the project was to offer a unique hands-on experience to students through the design, implementation and operation of a real satellite. The project started in 2007 and culminated with the launch of OUFTI-1 in April 2016. The payload was a D-STAR repeater and high-efficiency solar cells. The communication with the nanosatellite was established only two hours after the launch; a Russian radio-amateur was the first to receive and decode OUFTI-1 signal. The satellite functioned during 12 days with nominal telemetry, then the contact was lost for (a still) unknown reason.

Facts and figures:

- First Belgian nanosatellite.
- 1kg (mass), 1l (volume), 1W (power).
- 50 Master theses between 2008 and 2014 at ULiège and other engineering schools (ISIL and Gramme).
- Participating students were hired at NASA, ESA, Thales Alenia Space, QinetiQ, Spacebel, Centre Spatial de Liege.
- Launch vehicle: Soyuz from Kourou, French Guyana.
- Orbit: 683 x 437km, i=98 degrees.
- The satellite was heard throughout the globe (Australia, South Africa, South America, USA, Europe).

- Principal investigators: V. Broun, G. Kerschen, J. Verly.
- Project managers: A. Denis, X. Werner.
- Funding: ESA Fly Your Satellite, Belgian Science Policy.
- Industrial partners: Centre Spatial de Liege, Spacebel, Thales Alenia Space, Deltatec, V2i.
- Several awards: Walloon Medal for Merit (Chevalier du Mérite Wallon), "Liégeois de l'Année", awards for best Master theses.

OUFTI-1 (flight model and exploded view):


Tests of OUFTI-1 (telecommunication tests and thermal vacuum tests at ESA)


Integration of OUFTI-1 in the deployment system (at ESA, Noordwijk)


Right before launch in Kourou


Launch of OUFTI-1 !


After launch: students receiving the first signal in ULiege's ground station and map showing the locations where OUFTI-1 was heard


Course 1
Satellite engineering

This course is an introduction to spacecraft systems engineering. It presents the fundamental subsystems of a satellite, including propulsion, electrical power, structure, thermal control, attitude control and telecommunications, and analyzes the engineering trades necessary to integrate subsystems successfully into the satellite. Instructors from both academia and industry (e.g., European Space Agency, Thales Alenia Space, Spacebel, and Liege Space Center) deliver lectures in this course.

Optional textbook: P. Fortescue, J. Stark, G. Swinerd, Spacecraft Systems Engineering, 3rd edition, 2003. The book is on reserve at the Bibliothèque des Sciences et Techniques.

Exam: The final grade will be based upon written examination. The written examination requires both a thorough knowledge and fundamental understanding of the material presented during the lectures. The exam will be closed book. The questionnaire will comprise approx. 40 questions.

Introduction, G. Kerschen (ULiege)
Launch vehicles, A. Squelard (formerly Arianespace)
History, T. Pirard (Journalist)
Earth observation, C. Barbier (Liege Space Center)
Satellite orbits, G. Kerschen (ULiege)
Propulsion, A. Squelard (formerly Arianespace)
Astrophysics, O. Absil (ULiege)
Space environment, J. Loicq (Liege Space Center)
Telecommunications, M. Vandroogenbroeck (ULiege)
Attitude control, G. Kerschen (ULiege)
Thermal control, L. Jacques (Liege Space Center)
Spacecraft structures, A. Calvi (European Space Agency)
Electrical power systems, V. Lempereur (Thales Alenia Space)
Nanosatellites, A. Denis (VKI) and X. Werner (ULiege)
On-board software, P. Parisis (Spacebel)
Spacecraft systems engineering, J. Tallineau (Veoware)

Course 2

This course offers a fundamental knowledge and understanding of satellite orbits, both around the Earth and in the Solar system. The different objectives are to understand the key features of common satellite orbits, calculate orbital parameters of satellites, estimate orbit perturbations and their effects, design maneuvers to accomplish desired change of orbit, elaborate simple interplanetary trajectories, carry out orbital propagation in Matlab, and understand high-fidelity orbital propagations.

Optional textbooks:
J.E. Prussing, B.A. Conway, Orbital Mechanics, Oxford University Press, 2003.
R.H. Battin, An Introduction to the Mathematics and Methods of Astrodynamics, AIAA Education Series, 1999.

These textbooks are not considered as course material per se, but, if needed, they can help you acquire a better understanding of the concepts discussed during the lectures. They are on reserve in my office.

Exam: The final grade will be based upon the course project (40%) and the oral examination (60%):

1. The objective of the project is the development of an orbital propagator in the Matlab environment. This propagator should provide a realistic approximation of spacecraft trajectories around the Earth. Eventually, the predictions of your propagator should be compared against the real trajectory of a satellite in low Earth orbit. The project will be carried out by groups of two students. Grading will be based on the results you will obtain and on your personal interpretation of these results.

2. The oral examination requires both a thorough knowledge and fundamental understanding of the material presented during the lectures. The exam will be closed book. The questionnaire will comprise approx. 10 questions.

The two-body problem
The orbit in space
The orbit in time
Dominant perturbations
Analytical and numerical propagation
In-plane orbital maneuvers
Out-of-plane orbital maneuvers
Interplanetary transfers
Orbits around asteroids

Course 3
Nonlinear vibrations of aerospace structures

With continual interest in expanding the performance envelope of engineering systems, structural nonlinearities, which include friction, contact, nonlinear materials and large-displacement-related effects, are increasingly encountered in real-world applications. For instance, the vibration tests of two Airbus aircraft, namely the A400M and the A350XWB, revealed nonlinearities in engine mounts, hydraulic actuators, landing gears and in the auxiliary power unit.

This course covers the various aspects of the vibration engineering practice from the analysis of measured data to the simulation using a finite element model. Theoretical, numerical and experimental approaches are described to learn how to recognize, model and understand nonlinear behavior. Hands-on practice with the Nonlinear Identification to Design (NI2D) software serve to illustrate the new methods, concepts and tools. Two real aerospace applications, namely a F-16 aircraft and  an Airbus Defence and Space satellite, are also studied thoroughly.

Exam: The final grade will be based upon a course project (100%). The objective of this project is to have you acquainted with state-of-the-art techniques in the area of nonlinear vibrations. To progress in this direction, you will study a nonlinear mechanical system possessing a few degrees of freedom, the nonlinearities of which will be unknown to you. You will carry out the complete process from measurements to design, i.e., the identification of the nonlinearities based on measured data, the upgrading of the linear model with the identified nonlinearities, the calculation of nonlinear modes and frequency responses and the optimization of the system's design. The different methods will have to be implemented in Matlab. If you do not successfully complete the project, you will have oral examination in August/September. The oral exam will be closed book. The questionnaire will comprise approx. 10 questions.

Introduction to nonlinearities and to the NI2D software
Symptoms of nonlinearity
Troubleshooting and nonlinear system identification
Nonlinearity detection
Nonlinearity characterization
Nonlinear parameter estimation
Nonlinear normal modes
Modal interactions and new resonances
Calculation of periodic solutions: harmonic balance method, numerical continuation and stability analysis
Bifurcation analysis

Practically all theoretical lectures are illustrated using tutorials in the NI2D software.