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Published: 10 October 2018

PhD student’s paper judged best at leading space conference

Laura Pirovano, who is studying for a PhD in Space Engineering, won not only best student paper, but also best overall paper at AMOS 2018, the leading international conference in Space Situational Awareness.

Laura Pirovano at AMOS 2018

The AMOS conference, which took place in Maui in September, attracted over 840 delegates working at the forefront of the global space industry, across academia, business and government agencies.

Laura’s research, which was judged the most innovative from over 100 submissions, focuses on the challenge of understanding objects in the sky – such as defunct satellites or pieces of satellite (space debris) – which orbit the Earth with no function. This knowledge is vital because it allows satellite operators to steer away active satellites to avoid collision.

Laura explains: “This is important not only for the space community but for everyone because we all use data from space every day: imagine suddenly losing GPS, live TV or the weather forecast.”

During her PhD, Laura has developed a novel method of understanding when an object is observed multiple times in order to know its history and predict more accurately where it will go in the future – with the ultimate goal of creating a catalogue with all space debris observed.

Laura comments: “The AMOS conference gave me the chance to show my work to experts from all around the world, getting a lot of valuable feedback from researchers working in the same field and also experts from industry. Winning the overall best paper award was a total surprise. It has definitely given me a push to keep pursuing my research and get further results.”

Now in the third year of her PhD within the Surrey Space Centre (SSC), she says: “The SSC is a very stimulating environment. There are experts from different fields of the space sector and this has helped my understanding of the different elements involved when designing and operating a space mission.”

Dr Roberto Armellin, Laura's PhD supervisor, comments: "Winning the best student paper was already a great success for Laura; winning both prizes just extraordinary. This is a pay-off for her hard work and dedication to this challenging research project. The prize shows that SSC is capable of attracting great students and also demonstrates our commitment to promoting the safe and responsible use of space."

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