A competition for secondary school students around Europe to design a simulation of a real satellite in a soft-drink can has been launched.

Those taking part in CanSat, which is run by the European Space Agency, must design all the subsystems found in a satellite, including computer, power, sensors and communication systems, and fit them into a can.

The satellites are then launched to a few hundred metres by a rocket, or from a platform or balloon, and tested to see if they can accomplish certain tasks as they float back to earth.

Tasks include measuring temperature, air pressure, transmission of data to the ground station and achieving a safe landing.

The first round of the competition will see teams compete at a regional level, with the winners moving on to a national final.

The winners of the national competition will then have the chance to compete at European level in Andoya, Norway in June 2014.

Last year, a team of nine students from Coláiste an Phiarsaigh in Cork, who were the Irish winners of CanSat, went on to achieve second place at the European CanSat final in the Netherlands.

Their satellite was launched by rocket to an altitude of 1km.

The competition is a joint collaboration between ESERO Ireland (European Space Education Resource Office) and Cork Electronics Industry Association (CEIA.ie).

It is co-funded by the European Space Agency and Science Foundation Ireland's Discover Science and Engineering programme.