ESA PR 56-2001. India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will this month launch ESA's small technology satellite Proba from India's Shriharikota launch base as a piggyback payload. The launch is scheduled for 21-31 October. The satellite will be launched into a 600 km polar orbit.
Proba (Project for On-Board Autonomy) may be tiny in spacecraft terms but this European satellite is paving the way for future missions of global importance. Despite its diminutive size and weight (just 100 kg), Proba has a mind of its own and boasts an extensive range of advanced capabilities and instruments.
Proba is the first ESA spacecraft with fully autonomous capabilities, meaning it will operate virtually unaided, performing everyday tasks like navigation, payload and resource management with little involvement by staff at ESA's ground station in Redu, Belgium.
The innovative design and operating systems are the result of ESA's collaboration with prime contractor Verhaert Design and Development of Belgium, working alongside other European companies and universities. Proba will allow engineers to evaluate the advantages of autonomous spacecraft operation.
Proba's payload is controlled by a computer system 50 times more powerful than its counterpart onboard ESA's full-size solar observing satellite, SOHO, allowing the micro-satellite to combine in-orbit technology demonstration, such as an onboard mission planning and onboard navigation and failure detection, with some useful monitoring of the Earth's environment.
Its instruments are the intriguingly named CHRIS (Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer, from SIRA/UK), DEBIE (Debris In-Orbit Evaluator, from Patria Finnanvitec/FIN) and SREM (Standard Radiation Environment Monitor, from Contraves/CH). PROBA also carries two imagers, a Wide Angle Camera (WAC) and a High Resolution Camera (HRC) with a 10 metre resolution, both built by OIP of Belgium.
The cameras will also be used by students from selected Belgian schools whose experiment proposals have been accepted under the EDUPROBA project.
Images of the Earth and other data gathered by Proba will be sent direct to a webserver located at the ESA ground station in Redu, Belgium, where scientists will be able to access the information over the Internet as soon as it is delivered from the satellite.
"Proba's multi-purpose capabilities are part of ESA's goal to promote technological missions using small spacecraft," said Frederic Teston, Proba's Project Manager. "The micro-satellite boasts a number of technology firsts, and has the ability to observe the same spot on Earth from a number of different directions."
In the first three months after launch, the satellite will be tested by Verhaert from the ground station in Redu. The satellite will then be handed over to ESA and the scientific user community. Proba is expected to operate for at least two years.
Proba forms part of ESA's drive effort to promote technological flights using small spacecraft. It is hoped it will also demonstrate that micro-satellites can efficiently combine in-orbit technology demonstration and operational missions.