2012 in Polish space activities – review


2012 in review - Poland / Credits - ESA, wikimedia, SpaceUp, PW

2012 was a breakthrough year for Polish astronautical developments. This article contains a summary of the most important achievements of the Polish space sector in 2012.

2012 in review – Poland / Credits – ESA, wikimedia, SpaceUp, PW

1. Poland in ESA {jathumbnail off}
Without a doubt, Poland becoming a new member state of the European Space Agency (ESA) was the most important achievement in 2012. After years of efforts, which came from different scientific, industrial and political groups, the integration process with ESA was finished last year. It was not an easy task – after a fast conclusion of the technical part of negotiations with ESA (Q1 2012), the Polish government made no action for several months. Later, at the end of May it became clear that the Polish Ministry of Finance was against joining ESA due to high costs. As a response, a public action supporting Polish accession to ESA was initiated. Several different professional societies supported this action, presenting the reasons why it was important for Poland to join ESA. Moreover, a “negative scenario” was also presented, which described a possible outcome if Poland did not join the Agency.

The public support action finished with a success on the 12th of June 2012. On that day, the Polish government decided to accept the negotiated terms and join ESA. Over the next few months, several important steps were achieved – the ESA Council accepted the Polish entry, the documents were signed and exchanged, the lower and upper chambers of the Polish parliament ratified the terms and at last – the president of Poland signed the final agreement. All these steps happened before the end of 2012 – Poland became a new member of ESA on the 19th of November, a day before ESA Ministerial Council.

Poland in ESA graphics / Credits - polskawesa.pl
Poland in ESA graphics / Credits – polskawesa.pl

The Polish ESA membership opens new perspectives for the industry and science. Until the end of 2017 Poland will devote part of its funds to the preparatory programme. This should enable the Polish space sector to develop its own products in services, which would become a part of the European space market. Moreover, Polish companies and scientific institutes from now on can compete on ESA contracts, receive expert support and set new directions of development for the European space sector accordingly to the regional needs. It is an important issue, as before the end of this decade all “New EU” members will become ESA member states and the Agency will define its relations with the EU.

2. PW-Sat on orbit
In 2012 the first Polish satellite, PW-Sat, was sent into orbit. PW-Sat launched onboard the new European Vega rocket on the 13th of February 2012.PW-Sat is an important achievement, as so far Poland built only instruments, which were installed onboard other spacecrafts. PW-Sat is the first satellite, which was fully designed and assembled in Poland.

PW-Sat satellite was built at the Warsaw University of Science and Technology (PW) by the Students’ Space Association and Student Space Engineering Group with the support of the national Space Research Center. It is very likely that PW-Sat will not stay the only Polish satellite for long. In 2013 two other Polish satellites should be launched – BRITE-PL Lem and BRITE-PL Heweliusz.

Graphics showing PW-Sat on orbit / Credit - PW, PW-Sat team
Graphics showing PW-Sat on orbit / Credit – PW, PW-Sat team

3. BRITE-PL project
The work on the first Polish scientific satellites is approaching to an end. The first of the two – BRITE-PL Lem was scheduled to be launched at the end of 2012, however due to some unrelated reasons, the launch was delayed to early 2013. Nevertheless, the BRITE-PL project is an example that advanced satellite technologies can be designed and built in Poland.

4. A Polish-German education satellite
At the ILA Berlin Air Show 2012 a Polish-German education satellite project was announced. This project will be led by two Polish and two German technical universities. The selected universities from the Polish side are the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow and the Lodz University of Technology. The Polish part of the project will be coordinated by the Space Research Center. On the German side selected were the TU Berlin and Wurzburg University. The German part of the project will be coordinated by the DLR agency.

The satellite will be composed of two parts. Once installed on orbit, these two will separate from each other and become independent satellites. Then, the objects should conduct a series of in formation flights and approaches. It is possible that these satellites will perform a re-docking as well. The joined satellite should be similar in size to the BRITE-PL satellite, i.e. 25x25x25 cm. This is an initial value – the final dimensions might be different. The launch date is not known yet.

5. Polish Space Industry Employer Association founded
On the 31st October 2012 the Polish Space Industry Employer Association was officially founded. This organization will act as the voice of the companies, which will create the Polish space industry. The association will be a voice of the industry, which in time will create and further develop the Polish space sector. This is important as most of ESA activities are done not by scientific institutions, but commercial entities, ranging from SMEs to big corporations with thousands of employees. Thus, the Polish space industry should have a similar structure, focusing mostly on commercial applications of space technologies.

The work on initiating the Association was done over most of 2012. Finally, the Association was officially founded on the 31st of October.

6. SpaceUp
In November 2012, the first Polish SpaceUp “un-conference” was held in Warsaw. Over 80 people from different parts of the World came to this event and shared their passion related to space and astronautics. This means social media coverage on space events in Poland is also growing. It must be noted that social media lobbying had an enormous influence on the country joining ESA. Space Agencies from all over the world are using this technologies to spread the word and give updates on their space programmes.

7. Other developments
The Polish Rocketry Association’s (PTR) accomplishments are worth mentioning. The group conducts a series of rocket launches each year. Right now, the PTR rockets often break the speed of sound and it is certain that in the nearest future they will reach higher speeds and altitudes.

Finally, it is important to note here that in parallel to the negotiations with ESA Poland was conducting talks with the astronomical European Southern Observatory (ESO). However, in contrast to ESA, talks with ESO are rather slow and several astronomical societies have already expressed their concerns in this matter.

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