Preparing the space instrumentation of tomorrow at C²ERES

CENSUS (French acronym for Space Exploration Research Centre and Campus), lead by the "Laboratoire d’Excellence" ESEP and the Master Programme OSAE, is the space pole of the PSL Research University.

The name CENSUS contains both the words« Centre » and « Campus »:

  • Space «Centre », because the final goal is to develop and prepare tomorrow’s space technologies for scientific observations from space.
  • Research «Campus», because we want to create a common space where scientists and teachers can involve students in their projects.


In the context of the promising developments in the area of nano-scale satellite technology, CENSUS is positioning itself as an incubator for projects exploring such technologies by creating a stimulating environment for maturing and accompanying projects.

At the heart of the incubator is the evaluation process for advancing a given project through each development stage. CENSUS functions like a network in which several projects grow at the same time, whilst promoting the best among them:

  • Starting and pooling multiple projects simultaneously;
  • Setting up a "development cycle" specific for nano-scale technologies for all the areas of activity involved;
  • Setting up and managing a coherent set of resources, accompanied by experts, from engineering to testing, with a high level of quality.

A true ecosystem

CENSUS is an environment for collaboration and project emulation. In this perspective the set up of CENSUS, which is both Centre and Campus, is in line with the scientific and pedagogical goals.

Science and students at the heart of CENSUS

The development of space exploration originates from the advancement of scientific knowledge and evolving science questions that require new instrumentation to be addressed. CENSUS proposes development solutions for scientific concepts that have already matured. The projects developped on in the context of CENSUS correspond to the scientific or technological goals as decided for ESEP.

Any space technology project can involve a large number of motivated and well-supervised students. CENSUS functions as a first professional network for such students, and at the same time it provides with manpower for the projects. Supported by the Master OSAE, within CENSUS students not just connect with each other, but with their tutors as well, creating a dynamic learning environment.


What is in the name


Jean-Pierre Lebreton, ESEP support senior scientist and former scientist at ESA, expressed his interest in the « CubeSat » technology format from the very beginning of ESEP, understanding the potential for the developments of new technologies within the context of ESEP.

In 2012 it was decided to team up ESEP with the Master « Technologies and Systems for Astronomy and Space » (OSAE) to develop student nanosatellites projects. A second Master, the SPACE Master from the University of Science and Technology of Hanoi in Vietnam (USTH), soon joined this effort with the support of ESEP.

It was decided to try out this idea for one year, and under the initiative of Noël Grand with the OGMS-SA project, students from the Master OSAE realised their master projects on CubeSat related themes. The many positive learning opportunities for future engineers were immediately clear.

International Network

CENSUS is one of the main actors in the development of the sector of nano satellites in France, linking this sector to the exploration of space. CENSUS is a « Campus » for students and a « Project Incubator » for researchers, providing with a human, material and methodological platform in support of emerging scientific applications.

The CENSUS community evolves at different levels:

Collaboration with other space campuses:

Several space campuses have been emerging in the Île-de-France region. Each within a different university group (Communauté d’Universités et d’Établissements or ComUE), they represent a large diversity of students and courses. Most of the campuses do not have space researchers in their teams and therefore wish to collaborate with CENSUS.

For example CENSUS has an active collaboration with the UPMC space campus. Via collaborative educational programmes teachers at CENSUS work with students from the UPD university and UPEC university space campuses in the Paris region, with students from the École Centrale in Lille, the Ecole Centrale-Supelec across France, as well as with students from Taiwan, Vietnam, South Africa and the state of Virginia (USA). Several programmes, such as the Master OSAE, are taught at different space campuses. An example is the nano-satellite project IGOSAT developed at the UPD.

Participation of ESEP laboratories:

ESEP is composed of nine laboratories, five of which were involved in some of the nano-satellites projects developed in 2016:

  • LESIA - Laboratoire d’études spatiales et d’instrumentation en astrophysique
  • LATMOS - Laboratoire atmosphères, milieux, observations spatiales
  • LPC2E - Laboratoire de physique et chimie de l’environnement et de l’espace
  • LISA - Laboratoire interuniversitaire des systèmes atmosphériques
  • IMCCE - Institut de mécanique céleste et de calcul des éphémérides

Each of these laboratories brings their own intenational partners to the table. For example, within the OGMS-SA project there is a collaboration with South Africa and the USA.

Back to top