PROBA-3 will make research of the Sun’s corona possible
Strong solar storms are connected to outbursts of enormous quantities of energy and matter into outer space. Some of these charged particles reach us and cause so-called magnetic storms, which can damage telecommunication satellites, disrupt radio transmissions in Earth's atmosphere, and even cause damage to the power infrastructure.
As technology develops the destructive potential of solar storms rises, which is why there is a need to research the Sun's corona, which will allow us to gain knowledge on the interactions between the magnetic field of the Sun and the particles of solar wind. Thanks to that, we will be able to better understand the events that may have potentially catastrophic effects on our civilization.
In the Proba-3 mission we are responsible for the design and implementation of a subsystem of the computer of the optical instrument as well as the satellite testing system. Other than the assembly of the flight model, we are also designing the AEU electronic board, which is part of the controller of the coronagraph. The company’s engineers in cooperation with the Space Research Centre have initiated the assembly stage of the redundancy module of the AEU, DPU, and PCU electronics boards.
PROBA-3 is the first mission in history that uses the flight of a very precise formation tasked with observing the outer layer of the Sun’s atmosphere.
PROBA-3 is a scientific mission of the European Space Agency (ESA), with the main goal of demonstrating, in orbit, a technology of precise in-formation flight and research of the Sun’s corona thanks to constant observation. Two independent satellite platforms will travel in orbit at a pre-set distance (150 m) and configuration, retaining precision of location in regard to each other. The first satellite, the coronagraph with the mass of around 340 kg is to observe and photograph the Sun’s corona. The second one, the Oculter, with a mass of about 200 kg together with a mounted disc will cover the Sun during the corona imaging process.
The technological challenge that the mission faces is the extremely exact positioning of the two satellites at a distance of around 150 m apart. Each of them has its own set role to play.
Both platforms will retain a rigid and stable structure.
Creotech Instruments, as part of the PROBA-3 mission, is responsible for designing and building the optical instrument computer subsystem and the satellite testing system. Other than assembling the flight model, the company also designed the AEU electronics board, which is an element of the coronagraph controller. Engineers from the company in cooperation with the Space Research Centre have begun the assembly stage of the redundancy module of the AEU, DPU, and PCU electronics boards.
All the work is done in our specially adapted clean rooms where we control environmental parameters, such as humidity, air purity, or temperature, as well as provide protection from electrostatic discharges. The operation is being realised by a team of certified operators and inspectors in accordance with procedures verified and confirmed by ESA.
PROBA-3 will be the first mission in history that uses the flight of a very precise formation, where the precision of relative location of the satellites used is below 1 mm. The mission will realise the important scientific task of observing the outer layers of the atmosphere of the Sun, including events such as strong explosions causing magnetic discharges, which, depending on their strength, may cause problems in telecommunication, or the power industry. Thanks to this mission we will also be able to test the manoeuvre of approaching another object, which may, in the future, find potential use in removing space debris from low Earth orbit.
PROBA (PRoject for On-Board Autonomy) is a series of research experiment space missions that begun in 2001 and has been conducted with the goal of testing autonomic satellites for use in Earth observation.
The end of the realisation of the PROBA-3 project has been planned by ESA for 2023. The undertaking is realised by an international consortium of companies and scientific institutes from, among others, Poland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland.