The year 2011 was very important for the space industry development in Poland. This article contains a short summary of most important Polish space-related events.
1. Poland to join ESA
The most important event in the Polish space industry is the start of access negotiations with the European Space Agency (ESA). The talks initiated on the 28th of November and will probably conclude during 2012. There is a high possibility that Poland will become the 20th member of the agency before the end of this year. Still, the exact scope of future Polish activities within ESA is not known, but might be closer to values reported by us in the end of November 2011. In the end of 2011 the third PECS call started. This is another important step for the Polish industry to cooperate with ESA. This way Polish companies can participate in projects related to ESA’s development.
2. MAGMA2 wins the URC 2011
The Polish rover MAGMA2 won the University Rover Challenge 2011 (URC). This is an important success for Polish students. The MAGMA2 rover, built by a team from the Bialystok University of Technology, turned out to be a better design than presented by American and Canadian teams. Moreover, in the 2011 edition of URC three teams from Poland were present, which can be also considered as a major accomplishment.
3. Work on BRITE-PL satellites
Two Polish scientific satellites (BRITE-PL Lem and Heweliusz) are undergoing design and integration at the Space Research Center (CBK) in Warsaw. There was an official name giving ceremony for Lem at the Space Research Center, which took place in September. Later, Lem was integrated for the first time at the end of November. A preliminary launch date has been set for the 28th of September 2012.
Work on the second BRITE-PL satellite continues as well. Moreover, Heweliusz will feature more elements constructed in Poland. In addition, in late 2011 a ground station for satellite communications with BRITE satellites was built and tested.
4. PW-Sat to launch soon
Before the BRITE-PL Lem reaches orbit, another satellite, PW-Sat will be launched on the maiden flight of the Vega launcher. The satellite is a student CubeSat-type structure. This will be a historic moment for Polish astronautics as PW-Sat will be probably the first 100% Polish object on orbit. Vega’s first launch should take place in February 2012 and the launch campaign has already started. In total seven picosatellites will be aboard (PW-Sat included), which were installed in special containers called P-PODs between October and November. If Vega’s launch is not significantly delayed, then the first Polish satellite will reach orbit before BRITE-PL Lem.
Polish Rocketry Society (PTR) aims for higher goals. In 2011, rockets constructed by the PTR surpassed sound speed, which is a big accomplishment on the national level. The rocket, which managed this goal has been named “Hipersonal” and was probably the first Polish amateur rocket which surpassed the sound barrier. PTR tested their rockets in April and October. This rocket society is a unique organisation in Poland, with many experts as members. One can assume that in the following years rockets designed by PTR will launch higher and reach higher speeds.
6. Kosmonauta.net – further developments
2011 was also an important and successful year for Kosmonauta.net. Unique site visits rose approximately twice during last year. We’ve published more than 3600 articles. We participated substantially (with close cooperation with the Polish Astronautical Forum) in the stratospherical Hevelius balloon mission projects. Right now, the work focuses on the ScopeDome Hevelius 2.
We were also present at important events: as the International Astronautical Congress (with a presentation on suborbital services in Central Europe), SEMWO’11 in Lithuania, EURISY and SSA in Warsaw, Le Bourget and a meeting with the ESA general director in Paris. In November, a decision was made to convert a Ltd.- type company. In the nearest future, we plan to actively support the Polish space industry and to conduct own R&D projects.