Gruyère Space Program: Swiss-made rocket to be tested this summer

Gruyère Space Program: Swiss-made rocket to be tested this summer

While it may have missed out on the space race, a group of students now want Switzerland to reach for the stars: they have launched the Gruyère Space Program with the aim of producing the first-ever Swiss rocket to reach space and come back again safely.

Gruyère Space Program: Student-made rocket tested in Fribourg

Speaking to SRF, the group behind the Gruyère Space Program confirmed that they have performed the first successful test of their prototype rocket just outside Grandvillard in Canton Fribourg. The group of students from EPF in Lausanne have been working on the project for the last three years, having designed and manufactured the majority of the components themselves. "We started with a blank sheet of paper," noted programme co-founder Julie Böhning.

Named the Hummingbird, the rocket is two and a half metres high, weighs 100 kilos and uses the same propulsion system as regular rockets. Taking inspiration from SpaceX, they hope that the craft will be able to leave Earth’s atmosphere before safely landing again on terra firma. So far, local companies and international space firms have invested 200.000 francs into the Hummingbird.

While Switzerland has a long history of astronauts, atomic clocks and satellites, the country has yet to build a successful rocket. If successful, it will become the first-ever wholly Swiss and student-made rocket to safely reach space and land again. You can see how the system works during their official test:

Video: GSP Gruyère Space Program / YouTube

Swiss-made rocket to be tested throughout the summer

However, the project is not without risks, with space program chief Jérémy Marciacq likening the complexity of the guidance system to “balancing a pencil on one finger” - the difference being the pencil in this case can explode. Therefore, the programme has installed a “Flight Termination System” that switches on should the rocket lose balance. They said that the system would prevent the rocket from exploding, though ultimately hope never to use the feature.

Currently, the rocket system is being tested in the gravel pit in Fribourg. If all goes well, they will start lengthening the tether that holds the rocket up to 10 metres by the summer, though when the Hummingbird will blast off into the inky black remains to be seen.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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