Bede’s pupil orbiting in prestigious astronautical circles

Ellie Abel followed up triumphing in a competition at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre with guesting at the International Astronautical Congress in Paris

A pupil at a Sussex independent school has been enjoying the fruits of an invitation to a major gathering of astronautical experts.

Ellie Abel, a sixth former at Bede’s, was a guest at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Paris last week.

Topics covered in the talks and workshops included the story behind the James Webb telescope, the solar orbiter currently en route to the sun, and the value of low Earth orbit in the coming decade.

“It will be a fantastic networking opportunity,” said Ellie, ahead of arriving in Paris. “I am hoping to gain some inspiration on presenting to people at a conference, as this is something that hopefully may be in my near future.”

The 17-year-old is already establishing herself in astronomical circles, having tasted success at this summer’s International Space Settlement Design Competition, held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

That led to her invitation to the IAC by Kevin Simmons, CEO of space education company, Bluecube Aerospace, which helps young people aged 10-18 to design, build, test and fly CubeSat (miniaturised satellites) before they reach university.

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Ellie has been taking part in some of the firm’s large-scale space projects, including building a lunar rover for 2025, and creating and testing a satellite designed to house non-biodegradable plastic-digesting bacteria.

“On top of my ongoing projects with Bluecube Aerospace, I aspire to partake in a number of projects that I can apply my knowledge to,” said Ellie. “I would love to gain internship opportunities with some experienced professionals.”

In the meantime, the upper-sixth student has to try to balance her scientific passion and projects with studying for A-levels.

Bill Richards, the Bede’s maths teacher who also runs the UK Space Design Challenge, has no doubts that she’ll manage to combine the two.

“Ellie is certainly our most successful student to have participated in the UK Space Design Competition,” he said. “She was in year 10 when she was selected to go to NASA to compete in the international final, only for Covid to mean that it was switched to an online event, so I was thrilled when she was selected to travel to the in-person event this summer.

“To say that she made the most of her opportunity would be a huge understatement and I am delighted that her talents were recognised and that she has been invited to get involved in the CubeSat project.”

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