Proba-V minisatellite reaches Europe’s Spaceport
ESA’s Proba-V minisatellite for mapping global vegetation has arrived at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, where it is being prepared for a mid-April launch atop a Vega launcher.
The small satellite, cocooned in its protective container, landed on the Air France daily passenger flight on Friday 8 March, arriving at 16:15 local time (19: 15 GMT).
Proba-V is now safely in place within the cleanroom environment of the payload preparation building, its new home for the remainder of this month.
The satellite and its associated hardware began its odyssey from Europe to South America on Wednesday 6 March, when it left the headquarters of prime contractor QinetiQ Space in Kruibeke, Belgium for Brussels Airport to be packaged on an aircraft pallet.
The following day Proba-V travelled by lorry to Paris Orly Airport, where it was stored overnight in preparation for its Friday morning flight.
The Air France flight took off at 09:58 GMT, crossing the Atlantic to touch down at Kourou around nine hours later.
The satellite container and its two batteries – one flight and one spare – were loaded into an air-conditioned lorry, and provided with a police escort for its final trip to Europe’s Spaceport. Proba-V’s ground support equipment was offloaded and driven over separately.
The following Monday saw the removal of the satellite from its container, allowing detailed testing of the satellite and its payloads to begin.
Proba-V is a miniaturised ESA satellite tasked with a full-scale mission: to map land cover and vegetation growth across the entire planet every two days.
It is flying a lighter but fully functional redesign of the ‘Vegetation’ imaging instruments previously flown on France’s full-sized Spot-4 and Spot-5 satellites, which have been observing Earth since 1998.
Proba-V is the latest addition to the Proba family of small, low-cost space missions, giving flight experience to promising European technologies. So along with hosting its main instrument, Proba-V also provides early test flights for a variety of advanced ‘guest payloads’.
These include a receiver for global air traffic monitoring, novel space radiation detectors, experimental fibre optic connectors and a radio amplifier built from the promising new gallium nitride semiconductor.