UCL Department of Space and Climate Physics



MSSL researchers are partnered with schools to provide pupils with relatable science role models while empowering them to conduct their own original space research projects.

Previous projects have investigated the Earth’s magnetosphere, aurorae, the Martian atmosphere and space environment, cometary tails, space weather, exoplanets and black holes.  Students take part in around 12 two-hour fortnightly tutorials, with a ‘launch event’ at UCL and a closing conference where students present their research. This format, and the active ownership of scientific research, is proving to be transformative for school students; dispelling harmful stereotypes and profoundly shifting perceptions of science and scientists. It is particularly impactful for groups historically excluded from science. For example, several of our partner schools report 100% increases in the uptake of A level physics by girls following participation in an Orbyts project at GCSE. Since 2018, nearly 40 school students have published their research findings in professional peer-reviewed journals. 

Orbyts in schools
“This project has surpassed anything I could have possibly imagined - not only have our students been consistently blown away by the science of other planets, it has helped them better understand the value of their own one. Orbyts is definitely one of the coolest things I've been exposed to in my 15 year career.” Secondary school teacher.
“It’s clear to me that the Orbyts project has been the most successful project we have been fortunate to work with and its importance cannot be overstated.” Secondary school teacher.

If you are at a school that would like to get involved we ask that your Orbyts group (normally GCSE/A level) is at least 50% female and at least 50% pupils who are eligible for Pupil Premium/free school meals. Unfortunately, we only have funding to support state schools on the programme, so interested independent schools are required to pay for themselves and at least one state school to take part. We do our best to meet requests but in cases of limited researcher numbers, we prioritise schools with the fewest physics teachers and/or high numbers of pupils eligible for Pupil Premium/free school meals.
If you are a researcher who would like to get involved with the Orbyts programme, we provide support for developing your research project and monthly training seminars/workshops on teaching and management that highlight the latest knowledge on barriers to accessing science for historically excluded groups. PhD students are paid for their time on the programme. For more information on Orbyts contact us.