Alpbach Summer School 2020 – postponed to 2021

The 44th edition of the Summer School Alpbach is planned from 14 to 23 July 2020, the topic of the 2020 edition is ‘Comparative Plasma Physics in the Universe’. Registrations are open for science and engineering students and graduates (Master, PhD and Postdoc level), with the FNR providing financial support for selected PhDs and Postdocs. Deadline to apply has been postponed to Thursday, 30 April 2020. *SUMMER SCHOOL POSTPONED UNTIL 2021 DUE TO COVID-19*

Focus on ‘Comparative Plasma Physics in the Universe’

Large parts of the Universe are filled with plasma, a highly ionised form of matter. The plasma environments are always highly dynamic, and can be observed from nearby in the Earth’s magnetosphere out to far away supernovae and active galaxies. Ionised matter is threaded by magnetic fields, producing complex interaction processes and phenomena such as shock waves and charged particles accelerated to high energies. Observations of cosmic plasmas can be made both in situ (in the solar system) and remotely. The participants will be informed about past achievements and current issues, and will be invited to propose ideas for new satellite missions and formulate observational objectives to advance the understanding of the behaviour and the coupling processes of plasma at several astrophysical scales (Earth, Planets, Sun, Across the Universe).

Four student teams will be set up to define the scientific objectives of a space mission and a preliminary end-to-end mission design to further including the spacecraft, scientific instruments, mission and science operations that will meet the stated objective under the supervision of noted scientific and engineering experts. Each student team will conceive and elaborate an innovative satellite mission and present it to an expert review panel on the last day.

The participants will be exposed to some real-life challenges, such as long working days (before proposal submission) and an expectation that they are able to immediately apply knowledge and techniques that they have only recently been exposed to. They will also have to handle the trials of establishing and maintaining an international and multi-disciplinary team composed of both scientists and engineers. They will need to balance scientific objectives and requirements with the realistic constraints of mission design, spacecraft design, and mission cost.

Post-Alpbach Summer School Event

The Alpbach Summer School is complemented by the Post-Alpbach Summer School Event, taking place from November 23-27 at the ESA Academy’s Training and Learning Facility at ESEC-Galaxia in Belgium. During this week, students from the Alpbach Summer School extend the design of one of the missions developed during the Summer School using the Concurrent Engineering approach. The participants are divided in small teams to cover the different disciplines of the mission and, guided by two ESA Systems Engineers and a few tutors from the Summer School. The teams iterate on the design of the mission. The mission to be further studied at the ESA Academy’s facility is selected at the end of the Summer School by the Alpbach Summer School Jury and all the students who participated to the Summer School are invited to apply for the Post-Alpbach Summer School Event.

How to register

The Summer School Alpbach 2020 is open to young science and/or engineering graduates (Master, PhD and Postdoc level) from among the member and cooperating states of the European Space Agency (ESA). The working language of the Summer School will be English.

Candidates have to complete:

  • An online registration form to be submitted to the Aeronautics and Space Agency of FFG.
  • An online endorsement form, duly signed by a University Professor, Head of Department or equivalent, has to be submitted by the endorser before 31 March 2020.

The deadline for the registration is Tuesday, 31 March 2020. Confirmation of acceptance will be given by the end of April 2020.


The number of participants will be limited to 60 students. A selection is necessary and the admission process is competitive.

The Summer School Alpbach is a joint effort of FFG, ESA and its member states. FFG as the main organiser works with national contact points in the ESA member countries. The selection of participants will be done by the national points of contact.

Selection criteria are:

  • qualification, academic grade
  • experience and background
  • expertise in the specific topic of the Summer School
  • science and/or engineering expertise
  • skills valuable for a space summer school
  • diversity as regards gender, nationality & member states, age, across universities

Financial support for participants with link to Luxembourg

The FNR financially supports the participation of selected PhDs and Postdocs, who:

  • Are of Luxembourg origins (Luxembourg nationality or more than 5-year residence in Luxembourg)
  • Have the nationality of a member, cooperating or associate state of ESA* and conduct their studies/research work predominantly at a Luxembourg-based institution.

*ESA member states: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Further to the 22 Member States, also Canada and Slovenia, based on their agreements with ESA, qualify to fully participate in the programmes of the ESA Education Office.

The Luxembourg Space Agency / GLAE financially supports the participation of selected engineering students from Luxembourg, while the FNR supports the participation of select PhD and Postdocs.

The financial support covers all fixed expenses related to the participation (registration, accommodation, travel).


For further information regarding the Alpbach Summer School and its selection process, please contact the Luxembourg national contact point:

Asmira Skrijelj, (+352) 288 482-23, E-mail:

Luxembourg Space Agency, 19-21, boulevard Royal | L-2449 Luxembourg

About the Alpbach Summer School

Held annually since 1975, the Alpbach Summer School enjoys a long tradition in providing in-depth teaching on aspects of space science and space technology with the aim of advancing the training and work experience of European graduates, post-graduate students, young scientists and engineers.

The Summer School is organised by the Aeronautics and Space Agency of FFG (Forschungsförderungs-gesellschaft) and co-sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as the national space authorities of its member and cooperating states. A traditional partner is the International Space Science Institute. It is also supported by Austrospace, the association of Austrian space industries and research institutions.

For further details regarding the summer school programme and the registration, please refer to

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