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Student aerospace project reaches for the stars

A start-up company founded by two aerospace engineering students has been given a boost thanks to funding from the University Alliance.

Andrew Dunn and Ben Massey, both second-year BEng (Hons) Aerospace Engineering students at Teesside University, set up StratoBooster, a spin-off of the student-led space exploration project TU2Space.

This latest project will research, design and construct a small satellite launch platform, in what will be the first civilian space mission to launch in the UK. It will include a small rocket – the 30cm high StratoBooster – which will ascend on a meteorological balloon to 30km and then fire its rocket booster to launch femtosatellites and small commercial payloads.

Entrants from 13 universities pitched their business ideas to a panel of investors at the University Alliance Enterprise Star Awards on 14 June. Andrew represented StratoBooster at the awards, which were held at the University of Salford's MediaCityUK.

StratoBooster came up against stiff competition from 12 other student businesses but the investors saw potential in Andrew and the company and awarded StratoBooster £3,000 investment to help them get off the ground.

Andrew said: "We were thrilled to receive the investment in our business – it's very gratifying to know that others see potential in our business and Ben and I can't wait to take it forward. We attribute much of our success to the strong foundations we built during the foundation year of our degree course."

The duo were encouraged to enter the competition by Teesside Launchpad, an enterprising department which offers advice and support for Teesside University graduates, students and staff looking to start new, high impact ventures. Launchpad provides access to early stage mentoring and ideas testing, business model development, business building and testing and a space for start-ups to co-work, build ideas and create.

StratoBooster will soon set up home in Launchpad, based on the University's Middlesbrough campus, and they already have customers waiting to use their launch system to launch payloads into low earth orbit.

Ben said: "We are extremely grateful that Teesside Launchpad encouraged us to enter this competition – we could not have done this without their support. It is a very exciting time for us to be working on StratoBooster and TU2Space, both projects that will help boost our CVs."

TU2Space is a student-led project, aiming to become the first student team to send a rocket into space. Shaun Whitehead, a creative engineer who has been involved in multiple space missions, proposed the idea to students at Teesside University, and he is now also supporting Andrew and Ben's new venture as a non-executive director at StratoBooster.

Andrew added: "Shaun is uniquely skilled for this role with his industry knowledge and network, space engineering background and his many successes with technology in space. We're delighted to be working with him on our new business venture."

Join Launchpad