Today, at 12:00 GMT (14:00 Central European Summer Time), the Italian mini-satellite MITA was launched from the Plesetsk Space Centre, some 800 km north-west of Moscow, on a Russian Cosmos launcher.
Owned by the Italian space agency (ASI) and developed by Carlo Gavazzi with contributions from many other Italian companies, MITA has two tasks to perform: in a circular orbit at 450 km altitude, the mini satellite will carry a cosmic particle detector, while its platform will be tested for the first time as a vehicle for future scientific missions.
MITA also carries the MTS-AOMS payload (MicroTechSensor for Attitude and Orbit Measurement System), developed by Astrium in the framework of ESA's Technology Flight Opportunity trial programme.
With the Technology Flight Opportunity scheme, funded by its General Studies Programme, ESA intends to provide access to space for European industry's technology products needing in-orbit demonstration to enhance their competitiveness on the space market.
This new form of support to the European space industry ties in with ESA's strategy for fostering the competitiveness of European-made technology for eventual commercialisation. In-orbit demonstration is essential if new technologies are to compete on level terms on non-European markets. It thus consolidates strategic investments made by the space industry.
The MTS-AOMS is a highly integrated sensor for autonomous attitude and orbit control systems. It combines three functions in one unit: Earth sensing, star sensing and magnetic field sensing. The equipment incorporates an active pixel array sensor and a 2-D fluxgate magnetometer.
The aims of the flight are to verify in situ the payload's inherent functions and performance, which cannot be done on the ground, and to assess the behaviour of this type of technology when exposed to the space environment.
The Technology Flight Opportunity rule is that ESA funds the launch and integration costs, industry the development and operating costs. According to present planning, two further in-orbit demonstrations funded by this scheme will be carried out between now and January 2001.
For further information, please contact:
ESA Communication Department
Media Relations Office
Head of EMC and Antenna Measurement Section
Tel: + 31 71 565 4617
More info on ESA at: http://www.esa.int
More info on ASI at: http://www.asi.it