Polish PW-Sat2 will be launched into space at the end of 2017 on-board Falcon 9


Designed by SKA’s members, PW-Sat2 will be launched on-board the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at the end of 2017.

Space debris is becoming more and more a serious threat for the International Space Station and satellites on orbit – it is increasing operation costs and putting astronauts’ lives in danger. Students of the Students’ Space Association (SKA) at the Warsaw University of Technology (WUT) have designed a solution to the inactive satellites problem, which are stranded on orbit after completing their mission. All thanks to an innovative deorbitation technology which aims to remove satellites from space. Designed by SKA’s members, PW-Sat2 will be launched on-board the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at the end of 2017. On Wednesday, October 26th 2016 the launch contract was signed.

“There is a history behind the project – PW-Sat was our first successful satellite,” says Vice-Rector for Student Affairs, prof. Janusz Walo: “Such projects are the realization of wonderful passions and dreams of our students. Thanks to their commitment to scientific students’ associations our students learn how to work on a certain project. They are becoming qualified engineers and have a chance to get an ambitious job.”

“There is nothing more satisfying for a dean than news of their students launching a satellite into space. This is truly an out-of-this-world news,” says the Dean of the Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering prof. Janusz Frączek. “I am extremely proud of it and I hope that follow-on PW-Sat satellites will be designed. I believe there is no better way to invest but to invest in people. SKA is our pride, because it realizes the idea of a research university.”

PW-Sat2 satellite will be launched into a Sun-synchronous orbit of approx. 575 km altitude. The launch is planned for the end of 2017 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in the United States. Thanks to the financing obtained at the beginning of 2016 from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education it was possible to issue a call for proposals and select a launch provider for the satellite. Innovative Space Logistics B.V. (ILS) was chosen to do this task..

The technology developed by the students relies on a 4m2 square deorbitation sail, which when furled has a volume of 270ml (¼ of the whole satellite). About two months after the launch the sail will be opened. Increased drag will result in drastic loss of height and in consequence the satellite will burn in the atmosphere within a couple of months.

“The purpose of the project is to design a satellite to test an innovative technology of the deorbitation system, which allows us to shorten the process of removing inactive satellites from 20 years to a couple of months,” says Inna Uwarowa, the coordinator of the project. “Thanks to this solution, future satellites will not stay on their orbits as space debris.”

Abe Bonnema from ILS, the company responsible for launching the satellite into space also commented on the signing of the contract: “We used to be students, who after their studies wanted to do things they have been always dreaming of. That how ILS was born. We are proud of being chosen to cooperate with a group of such enthusiastic people. It is a great pleasure for us to be here today with you.”

PW-Sat2 will be a 10x10x22 cm 2U cubesat, with the deorbitation sail and a Sun sensor inside. Solar panels installed on the satellite’s sides will acquire energy necessary to conduct the experiments. The main subsystem of the satellite is the computer supported by the on-board power supply designed by the team. Two cameras will register the opening of the sail, and radio amateurs from around the world will be able to receive signals from the communication system.

The students were supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education with an contribution of 180 000 € at the beginning of 2016. It was sufficient to cover the costs of launching PW-Sat2 into Low Earth Orbit. Beata Mikołajek-Zielińska from the Ministry told the authorities of the Warsaw University of Technology: “You should be very proud of your students. They are people, who form their professional careers not only in Poland, but also in Europe, in organizations such as ESA. We – the Ministry of Science and Higher Education – enthusiastically engage ourselves in such initiatives and I promise that we will do our best to support similar endeavours.”

The second piece of the project’s financing, dedicated to manufacturing costs, was obtained in the frame of the Plan for European Cooperating State (PECS) program, which was the first stage of Poland’s preparation activities to join the European Space Agency. Funds for launching the satellite were passed by the Ministry of Development to ESA as an increased contribution.

Sławomir Zdybski from ESA said at the conference: “As a representative of ESA’s education board, which was involved in manufacturing and launching the first PW-Sat, I would like to express my satisfaction that Warsaw University of Technology still builds satellites. Supporting this kind of student projects is one of the strategic goals of ESA’s education board. Knowledge acquired by the students helps them to find jobs and start and develop companies working in the space industry.”

In the middle of 2016 the Polish Industrial Development Agency (ARP) signed an agreement with WUT, regarding among others the support of Students’ Space Association WUT, especially the PW-Sat2 project. “The Polish space sector has a short history and thanks to the students of WUT we are able to launch the next satellite,” said Michał Szaniawski from Industrial Development Agency. “When a couple of months ago we were finalizing the strategy of the space sector support, we thought of investment in people to be one of the key elements. Our support of SKA is an example of such investment. Why do we contribute to space technology? They are elite engineers and we are responsible for investing in them. About 100 people are engaged in the project. I wish that Polish space sector will be developing fast so all these people will realize their professional goals.”

Strategic partners of manufacturing PW-Sat2 are two Gliwice-based companies Future Processing and FP Instruments. Both companies provide students with substantive supervision, and in spring 2016 funded the computer for the satellite, so the team could move on to the next stage of the project. Jarosław Czaja, CEO of Future Processing commented on the company’s commitment: “The development of software, which controls the satellite is a very interesting problem. We encounter various constraints that are not present in typical systems and each error comes with a great deal of risk, that the mission will not be conducted to the end. It is not an easy, but simultaneously exciting task, which you can see by looking at the team members, who usually work overtime.”

The students are also supported by the Centre of Innovation Management and Technology Transfer of WUT, they cooperate with companies such as Softwaremill, OMAX Polska, Polish Armament Group or ABM Space. Moreover, the students are supported by Rapid Crafting, Piasecka&Żylewicz, Weil, GMV, Sener and Silesian Science and Technology Centre of Aviation Industry Ltd.

You can find more information on the PW-Sat2 project website.

In case of questions please do not hesitate to contact us on: pwsat2@gmail.com

Comments are closed.