By Davy Vrancken, Key Account Manager, QinetiQ Space
Proba-V, the European Space Agency (ESA)’s microsatellite, assembled by QinetiQ Space at its facility in Kruibeke, Belgium, was launched from French Guiana today. Our rigorous testing of the miniature Earth-observer – designed to chart global vegetation every two days – has included simulations of Proba-V’s take-off conditions and the hard vacuum and temperature extremes it will endure in orbit.
Carrying applications to study agriculture and crop growth, deforestation and vegetation change, as well as the impact of environmental and climate change, Proba-V will fulfil a variety of requirements for commercial customers, institutions and governments around the world.
Building it was a complex operation; although smaller than a cubic metre, the satellite carries a wide-angle telescope as its main Earth-monitoring instrument, a pair of radiation sensors, a fibre optic connector experiment, a prototype radio transmitter, and a test receiver to track aircraft in flight all around the globe.
Such a crowded payload is standard for ESA’s Proba series of satellites, which were set up to give early space experience to promising new European technologies, especially from smaller companies which often lack easy access to space.
The Proba-V satellite is flying a miniaturised version of the Vegetation sensor on France’s full-sized Spot-5 satellite, intended to extend its nearly 15-year continuous record of observations. Despite being much smaller than the original Vegetation instrument, Proba-V will deliver spatial resolution three times sharper. Among other firsts for the mission, Proba-V is flying a radio amplifier based on gallium nitride, often described as the most promising semi-conductor since silicon and offering higher power levels and radiation resistance.
Proba-V is also the world’s first space mission to detect automatic dependent surveillance broadcast signals from aircraft, building up a global overview of air traffic.
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