17th of May: Rocket Science Launching physics into space

Franckensymposium 2017

Welcome to the website of the annual Franckensymposium. This years theme will be 'Rocket Science’. At this special day we will talk about rockets, space missions and space research. For centuries space has captured the fascination of mankind. However, major developments have taken place in this field of research in the last couple of seventy years. The first life reaching more than fifty miles away from the earth’s surface was the life of the little Russian dog Laika in 1957. The famous words ‘This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’ reached the earth only in 1969, yet another twelve years later.

More and more satellites are floating in an orbit around the earth. Telescopes able to observe stars lightyears away are in communication with us here, while being far beyond the sight of the eye. A whole space station, able to host astronauts for months is right above our heads. This all would not have been possible without a great deal of knowledge of applied physics. Hence were are looking forward to the symposium where we are going to hear all about this technology and the challenges we are about to face.

As the organisation we hope to welcome you the 17th of May.


Location: Heerenhuis

Spilssluizen 9, 9712NR Groningen



Prof. Dr. Ir. E. van der Giessen

Chair for the day

Erik Van der Giessen studied at and got his PhD degree from Delft University of Technology in 1987. During a subsequent research fellowship of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW), he spent postdoc periods at the Technical University in Denmark and at Brown University (Providence, USA) with the leaders in a research field that was germinating at that moment: micromechanics of materials. In 1992 he was appointed professor in this field in the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Delft University of Technology.

As multiscale aspects of deformation and fracture became more essential in his line of research, moving his group to the Materials Science Center (now Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials) in Groningen at the start of 2001 was a splendid opportunity to incorporate chemophysical aspects. Also, this move opened the way to add biological materials and cells to the palette of materials under investigation.

Erik Van der Giessen is a member of several societies and was elected member of the KNAW in 1999. He received various honours in the area of material mechanics, among which the W.T. Koiter Medal awarded by the American Society for Mechanical Engineering. From 2007 to 2013 he served as Deputy Director for (Applied) Physics teaching. From 2016, he serves as Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journal Modelling and Simulation in Materials Science and Engineering, published by the Institute of Physics (London).

Dhr. G. Schilling

Space for Science

The launch of the first Sputnik in 1957 opened up a whole new field of research, known as space science. Bringing instruments into Earth orbit and beyond enabled in-situ measurements of cosmic phenomena that cannot be probed from the ground, like space weather and our planet’s climate. Space telescopes also provided astronomers with a view of the universe at wavelengths that cannot be seen from the surface of the Earth, including X-rays and gamma rays. Moreover, spaceflight gave us the opportunity of actually visiting other worlds, like the Moon and the planets. It’s fair to say that astronomy and Earth science have both been revolutionized by opening up the space frontier.

In his presentation, astronomy journalist Govert Schilling will describe varous aspects of space science, concentrating on the exciting new results yielded by unmanned satellites and space telescopes. He will also question the importance of human presence in space, by discussing scientific experiments carried out in the International Space Station, and the necessity of human spaceflight to Mars. Finally, he will provide a look into the near future, highlighting a few impressive space science projects that may be realized over the next decades.

Govert Schilling is a self-employed (and self-taught) astronomy and space science journalist, working for Dutch, British and American publications, including de Volkskrant, Eos Magazine, New Scientist, Sky at Night Magazine, Science, and Sky & Telescope. He wrote over 50 books on various aspects of astronomy, including a number of children’s books and stargazing guides. Some of his books have been translated in English, German and Chinese, to name just a few. His most recent book is Ripples in Spacetime: Einstein, Gravitational Waves, and the Future of Astronomy (Harvard University Press, July 2017), about the hunt for gravitational waves. He is often asked to comment on astronomical discoveries on Dutch radio and TV shows. In 2017, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid (10986) Govert in his honor.

Dr. Ir. W. Sillekens - ESA

Research on the physical sciences using ESA’s microgravity platforms

Over the past decades, the European Space Agency (ESA) has developed and employed a suite of microgravity platforms that enables the scientific communities to conduct space-relevant investigations for the physical as well as for the life sciences. These platforms include drop towers, parabolic flights, sounding rockets, and the International Space Station (ISS), each with their particular features and hence application areas. This presentation will give an overview of the research on the physical sciences using ESA’s microgravity platforms, distinguishing between fundamental physics, astrobiology, soft and complex matter, two-phase heat transfer, and materials science. Particular emphasis will be on the materials- science related activities, with examples being on solidification studies (in which melt flow, sedimentation and floatation are effectively suppressed) by amongst others the use of X-ray imaging equipment, and the measurement of thermo-physical property data by means of an electromagnetic levitator. Results from these investigations provide for unique benchmark data for the testing and validation of fundamental theories and for modelling and simulation of (solidification) processes. This is to eventually lead to better predicting capabilities as to the formation of microstructures and defects in castings, the microstructural control for designed mechanical and physical properties, and so on.

Wim H. Sillekens (1963) is Materials Science Coordinator in the Science Department of the Directorate of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration at the European Space Agency (ESA). As such he acts as a liaison between the scientific world and the agency for the preparation and execution of experiments using microgravity platforms. He obtained his Ph.D. from Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands, on a subject relating to metal-forming technology. Since he has been engaged in aluminium and magnesium research, amongst others on (hydro- mechanical) forming, recycling / refining, (hydrostatic) extrusion, forging, magnesium-based biodegradable implants, and more recently on melt-metallurgical processing of light-metal matrix nano-composites and grain-refined materials. His professional career includes positions as a post-doctoral researcher at his alma mater, as a research fellow at MEL (now AIST) in Tsukuba, Japan, and as a research scientist / project leader at the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO). In an earlier post at ESA, he acted as the coordinator of the European Community FP7 research project ExoMet. He has (co)-authored a variety of publications (about 150 entries to date), including patents, journal/proceedings papers, and conference presentations. Other professional activities include an involvement in association activities (for TMS and DGM), international conference committees, and as a peer reviewer of research papers and proposals. Research interests are in physical and mechanical metallurgy in general and in light-metals technology in particular.

Prof. Dr. Ir. M. ter Brake.

(Vibration-free) Cryogenic Cooling in Space

Prof. dr. Marcel ter Brake received his doctoral degree in 1986 at the University of Twente (UT) after which he became member of the Low Temperature Division at UT. Focus of his work was the realization of a Biomagnetic Center equipped with a magnetically shielded room and home-made multichannel SQUID-based neuromagnetometers. Starting in the mid 90’s Ter Brake’s research shifted to MEMS-based cryogenic coolers and sorption-based compressors combined with Joule-Thomson coolers. The latter type of coolers are thermally driven and therefore generate no measurable vibrations. This is an extremely important advantage as compared to the conventional mechanical coolers when applied for cooling optical detector systems. Over the last 15 years several projects ran (and still run) at UT sponsored by the European Space Agency.

Marcel ter Brake was appointed as Professor at the UT in 2010 and holds the chair of Energy, Materials and Systems. He chairs the International Cryogenic Engineering Committee as well as the Cryogenic Society of Europe, and is member of the American Cryogenic Society and board member of the European Society for Applied Superconductivity.

Optical instruments are crucial in Earth observation as well as in scientific space missions. In order to increase the resolution of these optical instruments, the optics and the optical detector need to be cooled to reduce the thermal noise contribution. Furthermore, cooling is needed to detect radiation from cold sources. Whereas Earth observing detectors may operate in the range 100 – 200 K, scientific missions investigating the origin of the Universe currently aim at temperatures in the range of 50 mK! These cryogenic temperatures can be realized by mechanical cryocooler but in that case the vibrations caused by the cryocooler cause interference in the optical system. Therefore, it is attractive to limit the emitted cooler vibrations to an absolute minimum. At the University of Twente, we developed a vibration-free cryogenic cooling technology in an ongoing research effort that is largely sponsored by the European Space Agency and is carried out in cooperation with Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Dutch Space). This technology uses the thermodynamic Linde-Hampson cycle with Joule-Thomson expansion, and although this sounds quite complex, basically it is a cycle quite similar to the operating cycle of a standard kitchen refrigerator. The most important difference that we make is using a sorption-based thermal compressor instead of a mechanical compressor. The thermal compressor operates on basis of the cyclic adsorption and desorption of a working fluid on activated carbon. Gas is adsorbed at low pressure and by heating the carbon it is desorbed and builds up a high pressure. The high-pressure gas then is subsequently allowed to expand over a flow restriction in the cold stage, thus establishing a temperature drop in the gas. After an introduction on cooling in space, I will discuss the sorption-based cooler development at the University of Twente, in which we recently have established Technology Readiness Level 5.

Dr. Adrian Tighe

Materials in the space environment

Space can be a harsh environment for materials, and understanding the potential degradation mechanisms is key to building spacecraft and scientific instruments which will remain functional for the lifetime of the mission. In some respects, this is no different to other terrestrial applications. For example, a manufacturer of a commercial paint for the outside of a house needs to know how the paint will degrade after exposure to prolonged periods of sunlight, humidity, temperature excursions, and possibly other environments such as salt spray. So what is unique about the space environment and what characterises a “space material” ? Why isn’t the standard commercial paint suitable for use on the outside of a spacecraft ? Key factors are functionality, reliability and survivability. The challenges of selecting and testing materials for different types of space mission will be presented, using examples from on-going ESA space projects. One example is the BepiColombo science mission to Mercury, where the external spacecraft materials will need to operate at high temperature whilst exposed to very high intensity UV radiation. It will be shown that the solar array materials could be particularly vulnerable to degradation. Another example is the Aeolus wind observatory, an Earth Observation mission which will utilise a high power UV laser to measure the velocity profile of the winds in the upper atmosphere. The key challenge here is to mitigate the risk of laser induced contamination caused by vacuum outgassing of materials in the vicinity of the laser’s sensitive optical components.

Dr. Adrian Tighe has been a Materials Engineer in the Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality at the European Space Agency in ESTEC since 2001. He supports the ESA space projects and works with ESA’s industrial partners on all issues related to the effects of the space environment on materials and coatings, with the direct involvement of the ESTEC materials and components test laboratories. He has also developed a small materials exposure experiment for an ISS external payload. Before joining ESA, he obtained his Pd.D. and held a post doc post at the University of Southampton, UK, performing research into the effects of high velocity space debris particle impacts on materials. He has (co)-authored a number of journal and conference publications related to space environmental effects and laser damage of materials, and he is also a chartered member of the Institute of Physics (UK).

Dr. Ir. G. de Lange

The Herschel HIFI instrument

Dr. Ir. Gert de Lange studied Applied Physics at the TU-Eindhoven and the University of Groningen. He obtained his PhD at the University of Groningen in 1994, with a thesis on the development of quantum limited superconducting tunnel junctions for the detection of terahertz radiation. After this he joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to work on the development of MEMS based superconducting detector arrays. In 1998 he joined SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research where he lead a team that developed superconducting heterodyne detectors for the HIFI instrument on the ESA Herschel mission. Herschel/HIFI was launched in 2009. Following on HIFI he worked on several other projects with superconducting detectors for ground-based, balloon-borne and air-borne receivers, His currentwork is on several future space missions, including Athena (X-ray), PLATO (exo planets), and SPICA (infrared).

In the presentation the development of the Herschel satellite will be presented, with a focus on the HIFI instrument as developed by SRON. HIFI is a heterodyne spectrometer operating from 0.48 to 1.8 THz. Cold star-forming regions in space (the "birth chamber" of stars) emit light at these frequencies, but the earth atmosphere blocks most of this radiation. Herschel therefore gave a unique view on a previously unobserved sky. The presentation will cover the different phases within the project, from early ideas and developments, up to the gathering of unique science data in space.

Prof. Dr. S. Brandenburg

Radiation hardness of electronics

The earth is constantly bombarded by high energy protons, alpha-particles and heavier nuclei originating from the sun and many other galactic and extra-galactic sources with energies. The energy deposited directly or indirectly by these ionizing particles in matter may cause various types of damage in any electronic component in satellites, airplanes and, despite shielding by the atmosphere, even in equipment at the surface of earth such as the computers in cars and the HV-rectifiers in high speed trains. With the increasing miniaturization of integrated electronics the ionizing radiation induced damage is becoming an ever more important issue from both a safety and an economic perspective. Significant research efforts to improve our fundamental understanding of the damage processes as well as the methods to assess radiation hardness are undertaken to mitigate the impact of radiation damage in electronics.

Sytze Brandenburg is professor in accelerator physics at the University of Groningen. After studying physics in Groningen and Helsinki, Finland he did his PhD research in experimental nuclear physics at the Kernfysisch Versneller Instituut (KVI), Groningen, the Netherlands. From 1986 to 1994 he worked at the Institut de Physique Nucléaire, Orsay, France on the design, construction and commissioning of the superconducting cyclotron AGOR, that is operational at the KVI-CART since 1996. Since 1999 he is directing the R&D on accelerators and their applications at KVI-CART. Besides his main research topic, the further development of radiotherapy with ion beams, he works with ESA, CERN and other partners on getting a better understanding of the assessment of radiation hardness of electronics components.

Go to top



  • 09 00
    Registration and Coffee
  • 09 30

    Prof. Dr. Ir. E. Van der Giessen

  • 09 45

    Dr. Ir. G. de Lange

  • 10 30
    Coffee break
  • 10 45
    Radiation hardness of electronics

    Prof. dr. S. Brandenburg

  • 11 30
    (Vibration-free) Cryogenic Cooling in Space

    Prof. dr. Ir. M. ter Brake

  • 12 15


  • 13 15
    Research on the physical sciences using ESA’s microgravity platforms

    Dr. W. Sillekens

  • 14 00
    Space for science

    Govert Schilling

  • 15 00
    Coffee break
  • 15 20
    Dr. A. Tighe

    Materials in the space environment

  • 16 05
    Concluding remarks

    Prof. Dr. Ir. E. Van der Giessen

  • 16 20
Go to top



Ticket price:

Normal price
€ 10,-
Francken membership
€ 7,50
NNV membership
€ 7,50
Francken & NNV membership
€ 5,-

Payment method

Company profiles


HE Space Operations is a thriving privately owned company specialised in personnel recruitment exclusively for space agencies and the space industry. HE Space Operations is international, with offices in the Netherlands (Noordwijk), Germany (Bremen and Darmstadt) and the USA (Houston). HE Space Operations is a significant manpower supplier to European space programmes bringing together more than 180 professionals from Europe and beyond (32 nationalities). HE Space has concentrated its activities on supplying space experts to ESA, to EUMETSAT and to the European space industry. Our industry customers include Airbus Defence & Space (formerly EADS-Astrium), DLR GfR, Thales Alenia Space, OHB Systems, Jena-Optronik, SES Astra, TESAT Spacecom, IABG and Spaceopal. Our staff have made significant contributions to many of Europe’s most exciting space projects. As a result of the excellent support provided to both customers and employees HE Space Operations has grown by 300% over the past six years. In recognition of our service we have been awarded the EADS Astrium Master Supplier Award and the Cultural Diversity Award. In 2014, HE Space won the German Corporate Social Responsibility Award for Gender Diversity.

Go to top