Take part in the ESA Computer in a Room Challenge


All universities from member states or partners states are invited to participate with teams of students solving a challenge issued by ESA. This challenge is primarily directed at computer science students, although cross-discipline teams are welcome. Each university can propose one or more teams (of typically 2-5 students) to participate in the challenge.


The Challenge

“There is a computer locked in a room. It has a sensor attached. You can only access the computer for 15 minutes, every 90 minutes. How would you access and operate that computer?"


The Framework

ESA will provide an environment simulating this physical problem and description of all the interfaces and boundary conditions that apply. The student teams will compete to define the most innovative operations concepts that fulfil the tasks assigned to the system. Each entry will be evaluated by a panel of experts.

Five selected teams will be able to come to ESA’s mission operations centre ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany to demonstrate their solution in the second round of the challenge. One team will be selected as the challenge winner. The winning solution will be offered the opportunity to fly on the OPS-SAT spacecraft currently in orbit.


How entries are evaluated

The first down-selection of entries will be based on criterion such as:

  • Completeness of data received and archived outside the room
  • Simplicity and robustness of the systemand its operation (the less human involvement the better)
  • Optimal use of resources


Technical Description

For each participant team, ESA deploys a dedicated environment, exclusively accessible by each team. The environment consists of four components, as depicted in the figure below:





  • Computer in a Room System (CRS): The CRS runs on a virtual machine with limited resources.This system, also known as MELVIN, will be hosted by ESA. MELVIN is built on a Linux template provided by ESA. The participants write the code that runs on MELVIN. Examples will be provided.
  • Data Reference System (DRS): The DRS simulates sensors and actors connected to the CRS via a JSON interface. The DRS represents a “flying” camera in a two-dimensional  world. As  shown above, the camera is attached to a platform that reacts to velocity, state, and camera angle inputs. The camera supports various lenses with different field of views. When the system is in “active” state, the camera is enabled, and it consumes battery power. In “charge” state, the batteries are charged, but the camera is disabled. In “idle” the camera is disabled, and no power is consumed. Each change in velocity drains fuel, that cannot be restored.
  • Operator Console: Each participants team designs and develops their own console, which will need to communicate with MELVIN via the Internet through a VPN tunnel. The details of the VPN tunnel will be provided by ESA.
  • Isolation Layer: This layer enforces the communication boundary conditions to access the CRS are met (accessibility, reliability, data rate, etc). There is no communication limitation between CRS and DRS.




The teams will have one month to complete the challenge and submit their entries to ESA. Following a period of review of the submitted entries, up to five teams will be selected for the final CIARC week at ESOC, where one team will be selected as the challenge champion.

14 October 2022: Deadline for registration of teams to ESA and start of challenge

14 October -- 15 November 2022: Students work on the Challenge

15 November 2022: Submission Deadline

30 November 2022: Announcement of finalists

December 2022: CIARC final event at ESOC

The exact dates will be provided with the participant’s package.


Registration and contact:

Teams interested in participating should register through their universities. We ask that each participating university nominate one contact person (regardless of how many separate teams that university submits). The nominated person should contact us to register their university’s teams.

For registration or more information regarding the challenge please email us at: ciarc @ esa.int