Work Packages

DISCOVERER contains 8 work packages (WPs). The photo below captures all of our work package leaders in one photo (Brussels, November 2019)!


Materials and Aerodynamic Control Test Satellite

The overall goal of WP 01 is to assess the aerodynamic performance of test materials at different incidence angles to the residual atmospheric flow experienced in very low Earth orbits.  It will also demonstrate aerodynamic attitude and control manoeuvres in VLEO. Aerodynamics characterization and mass spectrometer payloads will be integrated into a CubeSat and launched in order to validate the ground based and theoretical studies. The findings from the mission are a key input for new VLEO spacecraft concepts.


EO Aerodynamics and Control

In this work package the state of the art on aerodynamic technologies and operations for flying in VLEO orbits for earth observation applications is analyzed; the requirements for attitude and orbit control are established; and the aerodynamic control techniques are developed and validated.


Atomic Oxygen Wind Tunnel

This work package will develop and commission a hyperthermal atomic oxygen wind tunnel which will enable DISCOVERER to reproduce similar flow conditions to those experienced by satellites in low and very low Earth orbits.  Using a novel hyperthermal atomic oxygen source from The TechToybox and mass spectrometers developed by UCL for flow field characterisation, the facility will be developed and commissioned at the University of Manchester.  Materials developed at the University will be exposed to the flow  at different incidence angles allowing characterisation of the gas-surface interaction between the material and the flow. This will allow DISCOVERER to identify materials which reflect the flow and can therefore be used to reduce drag on satellites.


Atmosphere-Breathing Electric Propulsion (ABEP)

In this work package, an ABEP system will be developed based on an inductively heated plasma propulsion system. The activity is combined with mission and system analyses to assess both feasibility of the system and the requirements for the design. The designed thruster and intake will be experimentally and numerically investigated. If demonstrated as feasible, the lifetime problem for VLEO platforms may be solved.


VLEO System Design and Long-Term Business Opportunities

The work package involves the development of system engineering models of VLEO remote sensing satellites and business models for their operation.  It will identify the optimum system designs, and define new and innovative business models, taking advantage of DISCOVERER’s technological developments for increasing the SME’s presence in future very low Earth orbit remote sensing satellites.


Project Management

Effective project management is a central element of successful research. This work package will cover all non-research tasks and formalities of the project, such as reporting to the EU and organizing meetings as well as conferences. The Project Management Office (PMO) is the central contact point for communication and helps the consortium abide by the contractual obligations and achieve its objectives.



This work package will increase the visibility of DISCOVERER. Its main objective is to make DISCOVERER known and disseminate the results to both the scientific community and the public through this website and other communication channels. Furthermore, it will identify and valorise the intellectual property rights (IPR) generated within the project and support excellent young male and female researchers to prepare the next generation of scientific leaders.


Ethics requirements

WP 08 sets out the ethics requirements that the DISCOVERER project must comply with. This includes a thorough risk assessment as well as a risk mitigation plan to prevent the technology falling into the hands of criminals and terrorists.