Creotech Instruments, one of Poland’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of space technologies to global markets, will support the study of comets in deep space. This comes off the heels of successful direct negotiations with the European Space Agency (ESA) regarding the terms of the project involving further stages of developing and manufacturing a key component of the Comet Interceptor space mission’s measurement instrument. As part of the nearly EUR 1.8m contract the Piaseczno, Poland-based company will deliver essential research subsystems for a probe that will be launched into space in 2029 to study the composition and properties of long-period comets. The agreement involving the manufacture of a flight model marks the largest deal negotiated by the company with the European Space Agency to date.
In late 2021, Creotech Instruments was invited by the University of Bern, Switzerland, to participate in the F-class Comet Interceptor mission. Led by European Space Agency in partnership with the Japanese Aerospace Agency, the project is part of the Cosmic Vision program. It was split into several phases. Creotech Instruments has been engaged in the first phase involving prototyping work since December 2021. The subsequent phases, which were the subject of the recent negotiations, will see the manufacture of a flight model. The parties are scheduled to sign the agreement for this phase in March.
“The prospects of mining rare Earth elements and studying bodies originating from outside the Solar System make projects related to comets all the more important. Comet Interceptor is one of the more ambitious missions of this kind. It stirs the imagination and offers an excellent opportunity to study objects in deep space, particularly comets that have spent little time in the inner Solar System or are first-time visitors. It is a great privilege to be a part of such an endeavor. We have just completed the crucial and final stage of direct negotiations with ESA, where we agreed on the terms of the project worth almost EUR 1.8m,” says Grzegorz Brona, PhD, President of the Management Board of Creotech Instruments S.A. “Our responsibility will be to create a subsystem reading and processing the signal of an instrument designed to measure the mass of the atomic nuclei of gases released by a comet during its journey through the Solar System. This experiment will allow us to identify the composition of the comet’s nucleus and estimate the amounts of the substances it contains,” he adds.
The probe will be launched in 2029 to a distance of about 1.5m km from the Earth. In the first stage, it will be placed in a parking orbit at the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point (point of equilibrium) where it will wait up to three year for its target. After lying in wait for a suitable comet to enter the Solar System, the spacecraft will split into three smaller ones, each equipped with different research instruments. For example, the smaller probes will reach the comet’s tail and measure its composition, density, magnetic field and interaction with the solar wind.
Thus far, our partnership with ESA has involved designing or manufacturing subsystems for space equipment sent mainly to low earth orbit. Thanks to the unique Comet Interceptor mission, which will not only satisfy scientific curiosity but also pave the way for space mining, we will gain experience in designing a complete process underlying the development and manufacture of a flight subsystem for a deep space mission. We are very excited and at the same fully confident in the success of this project, knowing that we have the right competencies and state-of-the-art production facilities,” adds Grzegorz Brona.
The space market is a key segment for the company. Creotech and its partners are notably working on EagleEye, a pioneering project involving the development of a Polish Earth observation microsatellite. It is slated for launch to low Earth orbit in late 2023/early 2024. Moreover, the company is also pursuing the PIAST (Polish ImAging SaTellites) mission for the Ministry of National Defense, seeking to place observation satellites into orbit in 2024.
Creotech Instruments is targeting the market of microsatellites, i.e. satellites in the 10-150 kg weight range, with global demand estimated at over a thousand units per year.