Poland – space sector in 2015


In 2015 further development of the Polish space sector is anticipated. This article contains our predictions for 2015.

This year will be a period of further development in the country’s space industry.  The following list presents the most important activities for the Polish space sector in 2015.

1 – First year of POLSA’s activity

Prof. Marek Banaszkiewicz

Prof. Marek Banaszkiewicz / Credit: Jarosław Jaworski

The Polish Space Agency (POLSA) is at present going through the process  of organizing. This process will extend to one year. During this period POLSA will be led by prof. Marek Banaszkiewicz, in charge of preparing the agency for further activities.

Although POLSA’s headquarters will be located in Gdańsk, recent information claims that in 2015 the agency’s activities will be split into two teams: one in Gdańsk and the other in Warsaw.

POLSA’s annual budget for 2015 is 10 million PLN. In the end of 2014 the agency was suggested a raise on capital to 30 million PLN for 2015, but was the idea was unsuccessful and strongly criticized by one of the Senate’s Commitees, which rejected this request on the 8th of January 2015.

2 – H2020 and ESA

In 2015 the Horizon 2020 program launched their first activities funded by the European Commission. Recent information claims that at present, at least one project leader is from Poland as well as some subcontrators in other projects. For more information on space related H2020 projects please visit www.kosmonauta.net.

Horizon 2020 / Credits: Komisja Europejska

Horizon 2020 / Credits: Komisja Europejska

In 2015 the next call  for H2020 proposals will be announced, including those focused on satellite navigation (GNSS) and Earth Observation (EO). Both areas are designed to make better use of currently built satellites from the Galileo and Copernicus constellations. This program is co-financed by all EU countries, including Poland. In addition, other implemented projects will have the objective of  developing  telecommunication,  propulsion, material research and the use of European resources onboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Polish companies should actively seek to apply for H2020 funding – in many cases this may be a financial source for projects, which would be hard to implement through ESA funding in Poland.

In 2015 the third call for ESA projects dedicated only to Polish entities will be announced. This contest known as the Polish Industry Incentive Scheme will be regularly announced until 2017. It aims to adapt the Polish space sector to the European one and apply Polish solutions into many European companies. In 2013 and 2014  two contests were held, in which 60 proposals were selected with a total budget of over 10 M EUR. These projects are currently being implemented and include satellite precision enhancement,  innovative data analysis from EO satellites and innovative telecommunication methods.

Interestingly, independent sources suggest that the third edition of the contest for Polish members of ESA will be delayed by a few months. This is related to the ESA led review on the current achievements of the Polish projects. As a result, the next call will be more focused on the “Polish specializations” in the space industry.

3 – PW-Sat 2

Polish students are not resting on their laurels. After the successful, though not devoid of technical problems, PW-Sat mission, students from the Warsaw University of Technology are building their next satellite – PW-Sat 2. If all goes well, by the end of 2015 there will be the second satellite built by Polish students orbiting the Earth.

Likewise as PW-Sat 1, the Students’ Space Association (SKA) is again involved with the new project.  Design has started in early 2012. By August 2013, the young inventors could already celebrate their first results of work.

As in PW-Sat 1, the second satellite mission was made for educational purposes and is perceived as an opportunity to gain experience on project management and working on a realistic space project.  The main goal is to test the new deorbitation sail, as well as perform a some other tests and demonstrations such as: a Sun sensor, deployable solar panels and a VGA camera to observe the planet and capture the opening of the satellite’s sail. PW-Sat 2 will be quite different from its predecessor. First of all, it will belong to the 2U CubeSat class (PW-Sat 1 was 1U). The satellite will be equipped with two cameras, a sun sensor, an orientation system and the sail, which will speed up its deorbitation. In addition,  the satellite will also include a number of components that provide a higher level of the mission’s technological advancement.

How will PW-Sat 2 look like? / Credits - Studenckie Koło Astronautyczne

How will PW-Sat 2 look like? An early concept. / Credits – Studenckie Koło Astronautyczne

Design work, which ended in August 2013, was carried out according to the Phase-0 approach. A typical satellite project (fully executed, through an continuous progress) is implemented between Phase A and Phase F, which means the end of the mission. At the end of last year SKA announced on their webpage the completion of Phase B.
Currently the launch date is not yet known. Two years ago, autumn 2015 was announced as the earliest time expected to have the satellite in orbit. Recently SKA informed about the first quarter of 2016 as a launching date. Finding the right rocket is not a simple task because PW-Sat 2 will reach orbit as a secondary payload (as PW-Sat 1). Funding is also an important issue – it is not that easy to get a small education satellite launched for free.  Now it can be hoped that all launch negotiations will turn out well.

4 – Polish Earth Observation Satellites

The establishment of POLSA, successful satellite missions such as Lem, Heweliusz  and PW-Sat 1, the Polish participation in the Curiosity rover mission, can be the signal for Polish companies to become more involved in the space sector. This applies to the private, public and military sector.

After successful launches of Lem and Heweliusz scientific satellites as well as the student built PW-Sat 1 , the time has come to implement more specialist high-tech projects. In early 2014 a project was announced to build a professional observation satellite for the national optoelectronic Earth observation system. The cost of this project was estimated at PLN 700 million. This advanced technology is largely used largely for military purposes.

Recent news reported that the Ministry of National Defense is looking forward to purchase two satellites, one of which (probably the first purchase) will be of dual use. On one hand, they will be used for military purposes, such as monitoring the events in the Ukraine, military threat assessment, border surveillance, monitoring of infrastructure and foreign missions with participation of the Polish army. On the other hand, they will also be used for Earth observation in order to detect forest fires, flood monitoring and environmental threat analysis.

Involved in this project is a consortium responsible for the project’s feasibility study. This consortium is formed by the Military Academy of Technology, the Space Research Center, the Technical University of Warsaw, Airbus Defense & Space, the Polish Defensive Holding Sp. z o.o and WB Electronics S.A. (according to some sources, the last company resigned from the consortium). After all work is done,  consortium members will be able to apply for the satellite construction tender.

Available information makes it clear that the Polish government would prefer a locally built satellite. There has also been criticism that the feasibility studies was not properly carried out due to the consortium’s focus on the analysis of the previous generation of satellite capabilities, without taking into account innovative solutions. There were also rumors that only a small percentage of the satellite equipment can be built in Poland, and the rest will have to be imported. Until now, little information has been published on the work of the consortium, so it is difficult to determine what criticism can be credited.

The next few months will surely reveal more information about this development. It is worth noting that this is a good chance for Poland:  having a top notch, professional and advanced satellite will consolidate the country’s position in the field of space exploration. For Polish entities involved in the project it is an invaluable opportunity to establish contacts, exchange know-how and technology and have a voice in the space industry. It is therefore important that the concept works, and that the following tender occurs in a transparent way and with the participation of experts from various fields of satellite industry.

5 – Summary

There are many indications that in 2015 the Polish space industry will reach its next development milestone. Perhaps new companies will emerge in the industry, and the existing entities related to other technological fields (e.g. IT/Automation) will decide to expand the scope of their activities. It is an optimistic prediction of the future.
The European Space Navigation Contest (also known as  “Galileo Masters”) is an example of activities aiming to encourage innovation in the space industry. In 2015 a Polish regional contest will take place.

It is important to note that the Polish space sector still hasn’t created strong products and services with a strong position in the market. The establishment of such products or services will be a turning point in the development of the Polish space sector, which will no longer have heavy support from government, Horizon 2020 and ESA funding, which is known to be limited and sensitive to political decisions.

In 2015, Estonia and Hungary will join ESA. These two countries, like Poland, will have to develop their own space technologies. Now “one step ahead” of most countries in the region, Poland must use the available funds to the maximum in order to create a new companies and a true space industry, before similar processes in other countries gain momentum.

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