On 24 November 2023, the European Space Agency (ESA) selected the bid of a Polish consortium led by Creotech Instruments to prepare Phase 0/A for Europe’s most significant mission related to lunar mapping. The Twardowski project aims to provide accurate data that will facilitate the exploitation of resources on the Moon’s surface by the end of this decade. Creotech Instruments will be responsible for preparing the overall design of the mission and developing a satellite based on its proprietary HyperSat microsatellite platform. Other consortium partners, tasked with developing the optical payload, include the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Geological Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Phase 0/A (design phase) is budgeted at EUR 250,000. The project is scheduled to start in January 2024 and will span 12 months. Funding for the mission may come from Poland’s increased optional contribution to ESA, with EUR 100m recommended for the HRE (Human and Robotic Exploration) program. The Twardowski mission is expected to be a project of similar scale to the previous European lunar mission, SMART-1, which had a total cost of EUR 110m.
The Twardowski project aligns with Creotech Instruments’ strategy aimed at commercializing the proprietary HyperSat platform to become a leading supplier of microsatellite technologies in the EU in the coming years. It is also consistent with ESA’s long-term plan for Moon exploration under the E3P programme (European Exploration Envelope Programme), which includes lunar and Mars exploration. The Twardowski project could potentially contribute to Lunar Mapper, a key project under E3P.
“A consortium of Polish companies, led by Creotech, will prepare a feasibility study for Europe’s most significant mission related to lunar mapping. The Twardowski project aligns perfectly with our strategic development plan and the extensive, long-term objectives set by the European Space Agency for exploring Earth’s natural satellite. This represents a significant recognition for our company and offers the chance to launch the most advanced lunar mapping satellite ever developed. The satellite will be based on our proprietary HyperSat microsatellite platform and optimized for deep space missions, offering very high radiation resistance and support for a large, advanced payload. The Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences (CBK PAN) will design this cutting-edge research instrument. The mission will enable comprehensive lunar resource mapping, paving the way for future lunar mining, processing, and manufacturing. Thus, as a Polish commercial company, we will contribute to humanity’s expansion into space,” said Grzegorz Brona, PhD, President of the Management Board (CEO) of Creotech Instruments S.A.
The Twardowski mission consortium comprises Creotech Instruments, responsible for the overall mission and satellite design, the Institute of Geological Sciences, defining mission requirements and scientific instruments, and the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences, tasked with instrument design based on inputs from ING and ESA. The mission’s scope includes potential collaborations with international partners, though maintaining key components under Polish expertise is a priority to enhance national capabilities and elevate Poland’s stature in the global space industry.
The satellite designed for the Twardowski mission will be based on the HyperSat microsatellite platform and solutions developed by Creotech Instruments, including for the EagleEye mission. This platform will be fully adapted for lunar orbit operations at altitudes of about 100-300 km, boasting capabilities for positional adjustments between the pericenter and apocenter. The research instrument onboard will feature three or four detectors for guided light, spanning near, mid, and far infrared spectrums. The resulting lunar imagery from the Twardowski mission is anticipated to be amongst the most precise and detailed in current lunar exploration plans.
“The selection of the Twardowski project means that after the first European SMART-1 lunar mission 20 years ago, Poland will now play a pivotal role in another similar project within the European Union. Lasting near 3 years, SMART-1 provided valuable geological and chemical data about the Moon. The Twardowski mission’s satellite will carry more advanced research instruments, promising groundbreaking discoveries and a deeper understanding of the Moon.By utilizing the visible and infrared spectrums, we aim to produce clear images and maps of valuable minerals and resources hidden on the lunar surface. The insights we gather will be pivotal for future lunar projects, such as mining operations,” added Grzegorz Brona.
The lunar exploration market is projected to reach a value of around USD 170bn by 2040, encompassing transport, data processing, mining, and production (PwC’s Lunar Market Assessment 2021).
HyperSat is the first satellite platform in Poland, developed entirely by Polish engineers. Modular in design, it facilitates scalable satellite design and production, ranging from 10 kg to several dozen kilograms, suitable for diverse applications such as reconnaissance, telecommunications, and navigation in low Earth orbit. Creotech Instruments has been developing HyperSat since 2017 with the support of experts from the European Space Agency. The platform aligns with European design and construction standards for satellite systems (ECSS). The platform serves as the foundation for the EagleEye mission, which will be carried out in 2024, as well as the PIAST mission. The company’s goal is also to utilize it in strategic defense projects at the national and European levels.
In July 2023, Poland made a strategic move to boost its national contribution to the ESA budget by an additional EUR 295m in 2023-2025. This investment allows for the recouping of almost all funds paid through projects and orders from ESA for Polish companies. Over the past decade, Creotech has successfully executed more than 25 space projects in conjunction with ESA, establishing itself as a leading Polish contractor and the preferred partner in Central Europe for the Agency’s key projects. Currently, the company is in talks with ESA regarding several other space missions, all based on its proprietary HyperSat microsatellite platform.