Manchester CanSat Project


Manchester CanSat Project

Figure 1: AAS Team 2018/19 in Texas

Project Areas of Activity

Figure 2: Manchester CanSat Project’s Internal Structure and Activity Areas

The CanSat

The term CanSat stands for “can-sized satellite”, typically launched in sounding rockets. CanSat Competitions around the globe attempt to simulate the life-cycle of a real industry project, from the early initial design stages to the post-flight review. Manchester CanSat Project will focus on the design and build of CanSats.

The AAS US CanSat Competition

The AAS US CanSat Competition Team consists of a combination of ten undergraduate and graduate students. Each member must go through a selection process to assess them both academically and personally. The core goal of this team is to enter the 2020 AAS US CanSat competition which is held annually in the USA. 

Full details of the competition can be found in Appendix A. 


The second activity area of the Project is primarily aimed at developing the technical, interpersonal and practical skills, as well as the general employability of junior members through weekly, educational workshops. These workshops are aimed at STEM students at the University of Manchester, offering students the chance to work in a team towards the end goal of building a fully functional CanSat (which can be later launched at the UK CanSat Competition). The workshops also give students the chance to discover and practice topics that they wouldn’t otherwise be taught in their course. Such topics, which apply directly to the design of a CanSat-type system, including: Embedded Programming (C++), Computer Aided Design (SolidWorks), FDM 3D printing, Soldering and Electronic Circuit Prototyping. This year we also intend to add a new topic, PCB design. This will help develop yet another real world skill for participants. The curriculum of these workshops have been developed to provide easy, introductory exercises for beginners and also challenging problems for people with prior experience.

We are expecting approximately 50 students to attend from a range of degrees including Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics and EEE associated degrees. 

The UK CanSat Competition 

The MCP founded the first ever UK CanSat Competition in 2018 aimed at UK university students, and the 2019 edition was held on the 14th of April at Midlands Rocketry Club. A total of eight teams attended the finals; three teams from the University of Manchester, two teams from Imperial College London, two teams from the University of Bristol, and one team from the University of Warwick. As in 2019, the competition proved to be very successful and all teams performed exceptionally well, and judges were impressed by the level of expertise demonstrated by students.

On the back of this success, we are aiming to provide a larger scale competition this year, with stricter guidelines and further objectives. It will also include multiple deliverables, namely the Design Review Document, the Flight Readiness Review, Launch Operations, and the Post Flight Review, which are similar to what the AAS Team counterparts must complete. 

We are anticipating the Competition to expand to see 10 to 15 teams in the 2020 UK CanSat Competition. Each team will be provided with the templates for the Design Review Document and the Post Flight Review Document, and the Mission Guide, which outlines all requirements and guidelines for the Competition. They will also be provided with access to all of MCP’s workshop content, including YouTube videos with explanations of MCP Workshops content and the Design Review Document.

For the coming years, the UK Open competition will mirror the US counterpart as a competition in itself, with the hopes that it will eventually attract the sponsors required to send the top UK team to the US. It is also expected that we will be able to move forward to a European Competition, rather than just the UK within 5 years. 

Outreach Efforts

Manchester CanSat Project plans to participate in the University of Manchester Freshers’ Fair, School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering Freshers’ Fair and the School of MACE Student Experience Fair.

Manchester CanSat Project also plans to take part in various Open Days at the School of MACE for prospective A-Level students looking to explore the “challenges, opportunities and rewards of academic and social life at The University of Manchester”. At these Open Days, the students and parents are able to interact with both past and present MCP team members and gain an insight into what extracurricular activities the School of MACE has to offer.

This year, MCP has the aim of further expanding their outreach activities in collaboration with the ESA’s ESERO York branch with the European CanSat Competition aimed at students aged 14 to 20. Similar to last year, MCP will continue to help out by providing constructive feedback and support to participating schools across the UK with their deliverables, and at the regional events. The Project is also planning to visit schools in the North-West region to encourage participation in the Competition, and to encourage students to become more involved in space-related projects. 

Project Goals and Objectives

MCP aims to provide a platform for enthusiastic STEM students from the University of Manchester to develop their spacecraft engineering skills, alongside their soft skills such as communication and collaboration. Engineering courses in the UK are built to be general and do not allow students with opportunities to specialise, due to accreditation specifications. The CanSat project will enable students to specialise and consequently make them more competitive graduates.

The MCP goals are as below:

  • To compete in the 2020 AAS US CanSat Competition
  • Finish in top five overall.
  • Enhance the skills of team members by pushing their academic and teamwork abilities to the limit.
  • Demonstrate the high-calibre of The University of Manchester’s students on an international stage.
  • Demonstrate the high-calibre of UK-based engineering students on an international stage.

  • To run the workshops within the University of Manchester
  • Introduce students to a practical space related project, through CanSat design.
  • Attract more students at the core of the project, as well as increase and broaden the outreach of the weekly workshops.
  • Develop an efficient transition model, by permitting the exchange of retiring US team members with the most talented and committed members of the UK teams.

  • To expand and manage the UK CanSat Competition  
  • Attract more than ten teams to join the competition.
  • Create more opportunities for UK students to get involved in space-related projects.
  • Give students a platform to develop essential industry skills.

  • Outreach Activities
  • Introduce students aged 14 to 20 to space-related projects and develop their enthusiasm for the space industry.
  • Continue our partnership with ESERO York to provide help to regional High School students taking part in the High School ESA CanSat Competition.
  • Continue to host Open Day events to entice prospective students to join the space engineering field and participate in activities and projects relating to space.
  • Organise and participate in Freshers’ Week events to showcase what extracurricular activities the university has to offer, and to encourage new students to develop skills outside of their degree. 

Achievements 2018/19

  1. Placed 10th at the AAS US CanSat Competition: MCP achieved a score of 95.5 % after the Preliminary Design Review presentation - placing us in the finals, 99 % for our Critical Design Review presentation, 100 % for our Flight Readiness Review, and 10th overall in the finals that took place in Stephenville, Texas.

  1. Placed 1st at the UK CanSat Competition: MCP succeeded in organising the second UK CanSat Competition, where eight teams representing four different universities gathered to launch their CanSats. One of the teams representing the University of Manchester performed exceedingly well, producing  deliverables of great quality and achieving 1st place with a score of 90.6 %.

  1. Delivered a year’s worth of Workshops for STEM Students at the University of Manchester: From the beginning of the academic year, students from the University of Manchester could also attend the MCP Workshops that led to building functional CanSats at the end of the year. At the beginning of the year, 48 students took part in our first workshop and were subsequently gathered into 6 teams, from which 3 groups ultimately launched their CanSats. 30-40 people consistently attended workshops.

  1. Expanded outreach activities: In collaboration with ESERO York, we have been active in helping out with ESERO’s CanSat Competition for students aged 14-20, including reviewing deliverables and assisting with judging at the nationals that took place in York.

Social Media

MCP has expanded our influence across social media platforms with the aim of keeping our sponsors and followers up-to-date with our activities. This has been achieved by providing regular updates on our Facebook page and posting pictures on our Instagram. 

Furthermore, the MCP website is now fully up-to-date with all of our content available. The website also contains application forms for both the UK CanSat Competition and the US Team for the next academic year. It is hoped that this can provide more information for individuals wishing to follow and/or apply to our activities.

Important Links:





Appendix A – AAS US Competition Brief and Requirements

The AAS US CanSat competition is an annual competition held in USA. This year the venue is changing from Texas to Virginia. The 2020 mission is to design a CanSat that deploys a delta wing glider. The Cansat shall be launched to an altitude ranging 670 meters to 725 meters above the launch site and deployed near apogee (peak altitude). Once the CanSat is deployed from the rocket, the CanSat shall descend using a parachute at a descent rate of 20 m/s. At 450 meters, the container shall release the science payload. The science payload shall glide in a circular pattern with a radius of 250 meters collecting sensor data for one minute and remain above 100 meters after being released. Afterwards, the glider shall deploy a parachute to cause the glider to stop gliding.

For more information, please visit the AAS CanSat website:

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