The first Polish scientific satellite – Lem from the BRITE-PL constellation – is currently in a “flatsat” test phase. The planned launch of this satellite is scheduled for mid-2012. A year later, a second BRITE-PL satellite, named Heweliusz, will follow its steps.
The BRITE-PL project was accepted by the Polish government in December 2009 and since its introduction it was planned to assemble, test and operate two micro-satellites. The prime contractor for this project is the Polish Space Research Centre (Centrum Badań Kosmicznych). The two BRITE-PL satellites are based on a CanX-3 design developed by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, Space Flight Laboratory (UTIAS/SFL). CanX-3 is a micro-satellite, 20x20x20 cm in size and 7 kg in mass. The main purpose of the BRITE-PL satellites is related to astro-seismology measurements of several brightest stars.
In 2010, an internet competition was held and two names for the satellites were selected – Lem and Heweliusz. The first comes from Stanisław Lem (1921 – 2006) – a very popular science-fiction writer of international fame. Heweliusz comes from Johannes Hevelius – a Polish astronomer from the XVII century.
In addition, when the flatsat test were initiated, all components for the Heweliusz satellite were received. These subsystems are currently being tested individually. This satellite is scheduled to be launched about 2013.
Still it is quite possible, that before Lem’s flight, another Polish satellite will reach orbit, becoming a first for the country. The student CubeSat PW-Sat from Warsaw University of Technology, was selected as one of auxiliary payloads during the maiden flight of the new European Vega launcher. The rocket’s first flight should happen by the end of this year or early 2012.