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    Styropan goes into space

    Can you imagine a company that produces thermal insulation materials of expanded & extruded polystyrene which are widely used in building thermal insulation applications (eg external thermal insulation , internal thermal insulation, roof insulation, etc.) 35 km above the ground? In this article even the most skeptical reader will be convinced that the possible applications of thermal insulation with Styropan insulation products are practically endless.

    Our "launch" into space became reality thanks to our collaboration with the student team of space projects BEAM of AUTh. for the supply of thermal insulation materials for the needs of their experiment called "SHADE". The SHADE-SDR Helix Antenna Deployment Experiment was the first research proposal submitted by BEAM to the BEXUS / REXUS Pan-European Space Training Program / Competition Committee.


    box of shade project with extruded polystyrene STYROPAN XPS

    The idea was considered useful and interesting by the committee of experts, leading to the proclamation of BEAM as the first team in Greece that managed to participate and successfully represent in October 2019 the Aristotle University and Greece in the pan-European program of BEXUS.


    SHADE - SDR Helix Antenna Deployment Experiment concerns the telecommunications device of a folding helical antenna, controlled by Software Define Radio algorithms. The capabilities of the helical antenna and its efficiency are ideal for satellite communications as they provide satisfactory "range vs gain". These properties combined with a "smart" folding mechanism, make this particular telecommunications design highly efficient in terms of value for money. The use of SDR (Software Define Radio) technology reduces the complexity of the system both in terms of hardware design (hardware) and the risk of failure of its operation, as telecommunications design is now done through software and not through analog methods.

    The design also includes the execution of Ground Station Tracking algorithms, which aims at the continuous monitoring of the antenna of the base station, so that the communication between "satellite" and the station is never lost during the orbital passage. The antenna is equipped with 2 motors while measurements from GPS, altimeter and magnetometer, are inputs of the algorithm, which by calculating the relative position of the base station and the antenna, triggers its rotation mechanism in the calculated direction of the base antenna.

    The SHADE experiment was launched in October 2019, from the Swedish Space Agency's Esrange space center, via a 35 km stratospheric balloon, where it flew for 5 hours. The team managed to close the communication channel and successfully receive and decode data from the stratosphere at its base station.


    SHADE's helical antenna in the stratosphere
    SHADE's helical antenna in the stratosphere



    The design of the experiment had to be such as to ensure specific temperature conditions mainly in the inner part of the outer box containing the 2 motors thanks to which the antenna, the axis of rotation and the gearbox rotate (gear transmission) and was completely exposed to the stratosphere except the gondola but also the inner box that contains the electronic connections and is inside the gondola with the rest of the experiments and is connected to the outer box.


    project set up with extruded polystyrene board applied in the box project set up with extruded polystyrene board applied in the box


    project set up with extruded polystyrene board applied in the box
    project set up with extruded polystyrene board applied in the box


    More specifically, the temperature of the box had to be between -10 ° C and +40 ° C continuously during Shade’s 5 hour flight at an altitude of 35 km above the ground where the outside temperature is -45 ° C to - 50 ° C. If there were deviations from the above range, this would result in either overheating with possible engine burnout, or too low a temperature resulting in improper operation. In both cases it would be impossible for the antenna to communicate with the base station and therefore the experiment was not complete-unsuccessful.

    The material that we recommended for these strict temperature requirements but also for the stress / possible damage from impacts that is inevitable in such a  complicated space project, was the extruded polystyrene Styropan XPS.

    As we can see in the following graphs that show the temperature measurements of the box during the flight, the temperature was maintained continuously at the desired levels:


    Graph with temperature data during the execution of the experiment Graph with temperature data during the execution of the experiment


    Graph with temperature data during the execution of the experiment
    Graph with temperature data during the execution of the experiment

    At the end of the flight, the device carrying the experiment was cut off and parachuted into a forest in Finland, from where it was recovered by SSC (Swedish Space Agency) personnel. The extruded polystyrene that surrounded it remained intact despite landing on the ground from a height of 30km and fully protected the sensitive contents of the device, proving the great superiority of extruded polystyrene Styropan XPS in terms of mechanical strength. Also, although the device remained in the snow for hours until it was collected by the SSC, it was completely protected from water ingress and a drop in its indoor temperature.

    Extruded polystyrene Styropan XPS in addition to its excellent thermal insulation properties, is distinguished for the following characteristics that make it a particularly durable insulating material:

    • It has very high mechanical strengths (compressive strength in 10% deformation, tensile strength perpendicular to the faces, shear strength).
    • Very low water absorption - very resistant to moisture.

    Styropan produces produces 8 different types of extruded polystyrene which differ in surface, configuration with or without flange, dimensions & suggested applications for their use. Discover them at the following link: https://www.styropan.gr/en/products/thermal-insulation/extruded-polystyrene/styropan-xps

    In addition to extruded polystyrene, Styropan produces graphite expanded polystyrene Styropan Graphite EPS and white expanded polystyrene Styropan EPS.

    Styropan has been active in the production of insulating materials since 1982, exports its products to more than 18 countries worldwide and has a production capacity of more than 1000 m3 of thermal insulation boards per day.



    BEAM [Beyond Earth Aristotle Missions] is a student space team, which undertakes and implements innovation and research projects related to space technology and its modern applications. The group was created in April 2018 by students of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, now has 30 members and has 2 completed experiments and 1 in progress so far.

    beam logo beam team 2019


    beam logo
    beam team 2019

    The goals of the team are:

    • The study and implementation of innovative ideas in the field of space technology
    • The acquisition of knowledge and experience on space missions, from their start to their final completion.
    • Enhancing the interest and promotion of the space sector in Greece
    • The promotion of the Aristotle University in the relevant space services and not only



    REXUS / BEXUS competition is supported by international space agencies such as the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Space Agency (DLR), the Swedish Space Agency (SSC), as well as industry companies such as ZARM and SNSA. The aim of the competition is to carry out student experiments in space conditions, which are achieved by launching either a stratospheric balloon (BEXUS) or by launching a parabolic rocket, where zero gravity conditions (REXUS) are achieved. The competition runs annually and is open to teams from all countries supported by the European Space Agency. Each year, two missions are performed by each launch pad, covering the needs of a total of 20 European teams that can eventually claim a ticket to the atmosphere.

    The aforementioned platforms have the following features:

    • BEXUS: Payloads are mounted on a medium-sized gondola, which performs approximately 5 hours of space flight. Each gondola hosts about 4 experiments.
    • REXUS: It is practically a single-stage rocket, which offers approximately 3 minutes of space flight and also hosts about 4 experiments.
    SHADE team on BEXUS/REXUS competition


    More information about the REXUS / BEXUS program can be found here


    After SHADE, BEAM designed the LIGHT project (Lunar Navigation Helmet) with which it became the 2nd Greek team to participate in the IGLUNA program. The nature of IGLUNA, organized by the Swiss space agency, is to encourage the education and exchange of students through an international, interdisciplinary and collaborative project with the mission of demonstrating technologies for maintaining life in an extreme environment for a space ecosystem. More specifically, the student groups are called to find a solution to problems and difficulties that will occur in the possible colonization of man on the Moon.


    Project light- IGLUNA Project light- IGLUNA


    Project light- IGLUNA
    Project light- IGLUNA

    The LIGHT team has developed an AR (Augmented Reality) application which is intended for the training and real time guidance of the future astronaut in terms of his navigation and the evolution of his mission. By applying the software to the astronaut's helmet, he will always be able to follow the path that will lead him to his base station. The application was presented online last July due to the emergency measures for Covid-19.


    This year, for the 2nd time in a row, BEAM participates in the REXUS | BEXUS program, with the ECO WISE (Ecological Computations With Low-cost Set-up) experiment, in order to fly its experiment on the program's stratospheric balloon. The experiment proposes measurements of atmospheric gases such as: carbon dioxide (CO2) and ozone (O3), making a vertical and linear distribution of them during the flight of the balloon. The purpose is to test the operation of low-cost sensors used on the ground, in space conditions, which will prevail during the flight.

    In February 2020, ECOWISE team successfully passed the selection phase of the experiments for participation in the program that took place in December 2019. Today, it is in the phase of detailed design, development and standardization, as it passed the phase of Preliminary Design Review (PDR) where the progress was presented at the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, Sweden.


    Ecowise team in Εsrange 1
    Ecowise team in Εsrange 1


    Styropan XPS extruded polystyrene thermal insulation boards are applied to meet the thermal insulation requirements of the ECOWISE experiment. We look forward to presenting the results of the experiment after completion in a future article!


    After this short flight to the stratosphere, we land in reality where most readers do not have any space experiments in the works nor are they looking for the right material to insulate a box containing sensitive equipment that must be maintained within a certain temperature range of 30 km. over the ground. The most common applications of polystyrene are external thermal insulation (facades) , and roof insulation during the construction or renovation of residential & commercial buildings. However, the BEAM experiments are another proof that polystyrene is everywhere! In the masonry, in isothermal boxes of food and medicine, in the construction of roads-floating houses-bridges (in the form of Geofoam STYROPAN EPS) , in decorative mouldings on walls of living rooms and bedrooms and much more.

    In any case, be sure that by choosing Styropan thermal insulation materials, the results in improving the thermal comfort - maintaining the temperature of your room (warm and thermally comfortable environment in winter and a cool one in summer respectively without turning on radiators and air conditioning) and in the corresponding saving of money for heating-cooling will take you off for a lifetime!