Launch to excellence


CanSat activities T-Minus Engineering

Posted: Mar 17, 2013

T-Minus Engeering is supporting the 2013 ESA CanSat competition and the Brussels CanSat competition. This support is three fold. Firstly, we developed the starting point: the CanSat kit. Next to that, we assist the teachers and students with workshops and technical support and finally we launch rockets to end the competition with a unforgettable experience!

CanSat project

This year, T-Minus Engineering organizes two CanSat competitions. In such competition, high-school students work together in teams to design a small, soda can-sized satellite. This CanSat is launched with the T-Minus CanSat launcher to an altitude of approximately 1000 m above ground level, from where it descents back to the ground in approximately 90 seconds. The primary mission is equal for all teams: measure the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere during the descent. The secondary mission is defined by the teams themselves, and may range from measuring the ozone content of the atmosphere to flying back towards a defined position. The goal of this competition is to make young students enthusiastic for (space) technology, and to teach them the basic principles of scientific research.

CanSat Europe

For the third time, ESA initialized the European CanSat competition, which is organized in cooperation with T-Minus. In this competition, 15 teams from all over Europe compete to win the title of best CanSat-team of 2013. The launch will take place in April, at Artillerie Schietkamp (ASK) ‘t Harde in the Netherlands. More information about this competition may be found at T-Minus will organize the launch day and provide technical support for this competition. The CanSat kit developed by T-Minus is used as start-up package for all teams (see CanSat kit).

CanSat Brussels

This year, a CanSat competition is organized in Brussels for the first time. Five teams from the district subscribed for participation. As for the European competition, T-Minus will organize the launch day and provide technical support. Also for this competition, the T-Minus CanSat kit is used. The website of the Brussels CanSat competition is located at

T-Minus CanSat kit

In order to get the teams going as quickly as possible, a starter kit was developed by T-Minus, which can be used as a basis for the CanSat. The primary mission (measuring temperature and pressure, and sending these data to the ground station) can be performed by this kit. Next to that, a basic mechanical CanSat structure is included.

Microcontroller shield

The heart of the CanSat kit is formed by the microcontroller. This controller provides the interface between the sensors and the CanSat’s transmitter in the basic configuration, but the firmware can be adapted easily to accommodate other functions. A very versatile and flexible, yet simple to use shield is developed, which is compatible with the popular Arduino development board.

Sensors/experiment shield

Included in the CanSat kit are two analog sensors: one for temperature and one for pressure. The analog output of these sensors can be digitalized with the analog-to-digital converters (ADC’s) on the microcontroller board. The sensors can be mounted on the experiment shield that is provided with the kit.


The CanSat kit comes with both a transmitter and a receiver in order to provide a downlink function. They work in the 433 MHz band, so that no license is required for operating them. The receiver can simply be connected to a USB port of a computer, so that the data transmitted by the CanSat can be gathered by a terminal program, and stored for further analysis.

T-Minus CanSat launcher

For delivering the CanSats at the desired altitude, a dedicated launcher was developed by T-Minus Engineering. With the combination of a powerful, in-house developed solid rocket motor and a lightweight, composite structure, the rocket is capable of launching six CanSats at once to an altitude of 1000 m. The CanSats will be released at apogee by means of a mechanical, non-pyrotechnic deployment system, to minimize the loads on the CanSats.

Launch day

T-Minus has extensive experience with rocket operations and the organization and logistics of launch days. For that reason, this major event for both the European CanSat competition and the Brussels competition will be carried out by T-Minus Engineering. The launches will normally take place at ASK ‘t Harde, a military training field in the middle of the Netherlands. For the final preparations of the CanSats, the facilities of Delft University of Technology will be used.

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