Hetman fast-tracked in European satellite program


Creotech Instruments S.A, Poland’s leading space tech company, teamed up with Astri Polska, an Airbus Group company, to build modules for the ground segment equipment (GSE) of MetOp-SG-A, a weather satellite. The advanced satellite will be launched into a polar orbit in 2021 as the first in a constellation of six second-generation MetOp spacecraft. Commissioned by the European Space Agency and EUMETSAT, the MetOp Second Generation program will run until 2042 and cost around EUR 4.1bn over its lifetime.

“This is yet another space project tackled by Creotech. This time, in partnership with the experienced team of Astri Polska,” said Grzegorz Brona, PhD, President of the Management Board of Creotech Instruments S.A. “We are proud that Astri and its parent, Airbus Defense and Space, chose us to work on such an important global security program such as MetOp. This brings us significantly closer to our goal of building Polish satellites together with other Polish companies leveraging foreign expertise.”

The partners’ first joint project involves constructing modules comprising the ground equipment segment (GSE) of the MetOp-SG-A, a weather satellite. This effort is part of a larger program of the European Space Agency and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the organization responsible for establishing, maintaining and operating European satellite meteorological observation systems.

Dubbed MetOp Second Generation, the program’s schedule is planned out until 2042 and will see the deployment of a total of six satellites into polar orbits, three in each of series A and B, which will succeed first-generation MetOp spacecraft. Series A satellites will weigh approximately 4 tonnes each and will carry optical and atmospheric soundinginstruments. The European Space Agency, contributing around 20% of the program’s budget, will install Sentinel-5 instruments onboard the spacecraft to monitor air quality and aerosol levels in the atmosphere.

Series B satellites each weigh 3.8 tonnes and will mostly carry microwave instruments. All six satellites will remain online for over eight years. The entire Airbus Defense and Space-led consortium will comprise as many as 100 companies from 16 European countries. Creotech Instruments’ role in the project will extend beyond producing and assembling elements for the mission, as the company will also be involved in the design process.

NCBiR’s Fast Track in action

Earlier this year, Creotech launched research and development work on Hetman, a project co-financed by the National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR). The purpose of Hetman is to develop a Polish platform for the control and management of processes requiring the fast processing of massive amounts of data. The company owes its involvement in MetOp-SG-A to Hetman as subsystems developed as part of the latter will be used in the former.

Creotech emphasizes that participation in the ESA and EUMETSAT project is an example of one of the fastest practical implementations of deliverables from new projects co-financed by NCBiR under its Fast Track. The Fast Track is a special process of granting funds for R&D work seeking to enhance the innovativeness of Polish businesses through the application of R&D deliverables to their business operations.

“We are happy that the funds were put to work for the Polish economy so quickly and in such an innovative area as the space industry,” said Grzegorz Brona.

President Brona added that within just six months after launch, orders for Hetman’s components exceeded one million Polish zlotys and would be delivered to Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Brazil in the coming months. So far, only about 15% of the entire Hetman system has been developed.

“Creotech Instruments was created by scientists who learned the ins and outs of business as they went,” said President Grzegorz Brona. “Thanks to this, we are able to commercialize knowledge in a way that is unique on the Polish market, the Hetman system to be used in MetOp-SG-A serving as a shining example. I am confident that more excellent examples will soon follow,” he added.

Creotech Instruments S.A., a string of cosmic successes

EXOMARS 2016 – searching for signs of life on Mars

The company is part of Exomars, a joint mission by the European Space Agency and its Russian counterpart, Roskosmos, with the goal of searching for signs of life on Mars. Creotech Instruments, commissioned by the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), has already completed its task, which involved the surface mounting (SMT) of components of the system powering the advanced CaSSiS camera. The camera will take high-resolution stereographic color images of the Martian surface, including photograph rock formations that scientists suspect could emit trace amounts of gases. Such emissions may be manifestations of the geological processes occurring on the surface of Mars, but may also be proof of past or present life on the Red Planet. The probe carrying the instruments was launched into space in March 2016 and is currently heading towards Mars.

EO TESTBED POLAND – space infrastructure on Polish soil

A consortium led by Creotech Instruments S.A. won a contract for the construction in Poland of a prototype infrastructure provisioning data and computing power for applications supporting Earth observation services. With a value exceeding PLN 8m, EO INNOVATION PLATFORM TESTBED POLAND is one of the most significant space projects ever awarded by the European Space Agency to Polish entities.

The project involves developing a vast repository of Earth observation data collected by Landsat, Evisat, Sentinel, and other satellites in Poland. In addition to creating the database, the Polish consortium will be responsible for managing services enabling commercial and scientific users to acquire and process satellite data. The database infrastructure will be accompanied by virtual and physical computing servers serving as a platform for commercial and scientific users to run their dedicated applications.

While access to the platform will require payment, representatives of the world of science will be afforded preferential treatment. Commercial providers of satellite data processing services will have the option to use a dedicated system based on the CloudFerro EO Cloud computer infrastructure.

SAT-AIS-PL – first Polish utility satellite

Creotech Instruments also leads the SAT-AIS-PL consortium building the first Polish utility satellite to monitor maritime traffic. Other members of the consortium include Hertz Systems, Atos Polska and the Silesian Science and Technology Centre of Aviation Industry and the following scientific institutions: Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), the Institute of Telecommunications and the Gdynia Maritime University. SAT-AIS-PL will form part of a maritime traffic safety system.

Commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA), whose ranks Poland joined in 2012, the project will run for at least seven years and will consist of three stages. The first, launched in 2016, will run until late 2017 and involve delivering the satellite mission design and development of the subsystem architecture. In 2018-2020, a prototype of the system will be built during the second stage, followed by the satellite proper. This phase will also see the launch of the rocket that will bring the system’s space component into orbit. The last stage, spanning a couple of years, is the operational phase, which will conclude with deorbiting the satellite after its mission is completed.

ASIM – experiment on the International Space Station

As a subcontractor for the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), Creotech is part of the ESA’s Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) project, where the company is responsible for the construction and assembly of the power supply system for ASIM on the International Space Station. The project aims to study mysterious atmospheric discharges in the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere.

NEOSTEL – protection against cosmic threat

Another exciting project, with an even greater role of the Piaseczno-based space company, aims to monitor objects potentially dangerous to humans orbiting our planet, including space debris, i.e. remains of satellites, launch vehicles and other man-made objects. Creotech experts will produce cameras that will be at the heart of each of the dozen or so ground-based telescopes constantly monitoring objects flying near Earth so that whenever they pose a risk of entry into the atmosphere, appropriate services can be notified on time to minimize potential loss of life and property.

PROBA-3 – solar research mission

In November 2015, the company signed a contract worth PLN 3m with the European Space Agency to design and assemble a coronagraph computer and elements of ground-based auxiliary electrical equipment for the PROBA-3 space mission. PROBA-3 seeks to deepen our understanding of the outer layers of the Sun’s atmosphere, i.e. the solar corona. The contracted works will be carried out at Creotech Instruments’ facility in Piaseczno in 2016 and 2017.

Beyond space

While the Piaseczno-based space tech company’s primary focus is space projects, it is also growing its other business arms. It offers technologies and utility applications used by scientific and research centers, telecoms, and retail chains in Poland and worldwide. Electronics and specialized measurement instruments manufactured by Creotech are used in the world’s most advanced research institutions such as the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, the GSI Heavy Ion Research Institute and the DESY Research Center in Germany.

The company also provides contract assembly services for demanding business clients for who quality is paramount. Creotech can offer the highest quality of electronics assembly thanks to its “cosmic” cleanroom, i.e. a facility meeting stringent standards for the assembly of space components intended for satellites and space stations.

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