Optoelectronic Data For Poland: Polish Satellite Programme And Expansion of the Agreement with Italy

Image Credit: IAI
Image Credit: IAI

One of the most important defence programmes planned by the Polish Ministry of Defence, related to the outer space, is assuming that a satellite which is going to make it possible to electronically observe the earth is going to be created by Poland, and Poland would be independent when it comes to using such system. Cost of acquisition regarding new equipment of this class is estimated as PLN 700 million. The programme, the purpose of which is to create and maintain the said system, may have a positive impact on development of the Polish space industry. The design of a Polish satellite was discussed by Marcin Szolucha, PhD Eng., working at the Military University of Technology, during his speech given at the Poland in Space conference. The issue was also mentioned during the II Information Day of the Space Sector.

Feasibility study regarding a satellite system for opto-electronic observation of the Earth

During the “Poland in Space” conference, organized at the Institute of Aviation, Marcin Szołucha PhD, Eng. of the Military University of Technology, discussed the feasibility study developed by the Military University of Technology, with involvement of the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences, carried out for the National Centre For Research and Development, regarding the satellite-based system that would make it possible to optoelectronically observe the Earth. The main goal is to create a national visual reconnaissance system that would provide Poland with data in the visible and infra-red light spectra. Secondly, the study is to support the Polish aerospace and space industry, within the scope of technology development, realized during implementation of the programme, the aim of which would be to create the observation satellite. Within the scope of the prepared study, not only is the final system going to include the satellite itself, as it is going to be complemented with a simulator and the ground segment.

Within the framework of the study announced in March this year, it has been assumed that procurement of two satellites would be the best option for Poland. One would make it possible to carry out high resolution (1-2 meters) observation, while the second one would facilitate very high resolution observations (from 0.5 to 0.7 meters – VHR).

Two satellites would be complementary to each other, and the revisit time would be significantly shortened, thus the gathered data would be less outdated. The HR satellite could be used both for military, as well as for civilian applications, fulfilling the assumptions resulting from the requirement of creating a double purpose system, delivering the information both for the Army, as well as for the national services, e.g. in case of natural catastrophes. The system could also be utilized in the process of monitoring the water levels or pollution levels. VHR satellite, on the other hand, would be used solely for military purposes.

According to the assumptions contained in the study, in the future the system could be expanded with so called EHR satellite, providing data of extremely high resolution. This stage of the initiative could be realized on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement signed with a foreign partner.

One of the key criteria and requirements applied in the space industry, is to use proven components, that have been already used in other space operations (“space heritage”). Thus, it is impossible to create a VHR satellite, without prior development of a HR technology satellite that would make it possible to verify the applied solutions in the outer space. Moreover, it shall also be taken into account that VHR satellites, due to the narrow observation band, are not used for providing global imagery. In many cases, a constellation of HR and VHR satellites is being used for military purposes. HR satellite records the wide band imagery, and on the basis of that data, areas that are to be examined by the VHR satellite are selected.

Reserve Brigade General Adam Sowa, PhD Eng. Rector’s Adviser Within The Areas of Aerospace and Satellites, Military University of Technology

Polish Satellites In Orbit

Polish satellites would enter a heliosynchronous orbit, at altitude of 600 to 700 kilometers above Earth. The exact location of the equipment in space is going to be based on additional meteorological data, making it possible to define the exact pass time, providing the satellite with the best lighting conditions.  The equipment is to maintain 5 years long operational status, when it comes to the HR satellite. VHR satellite is expected to function for 10 years. It is worth to recall the fact that 15 years is the optimum lifetime for the satellite in orbit, limited by the degree of wear, pertaining the solar panels.

Satellite Reconnaissance for the Polish Armed Forces - CosmoSkymed and the Ground-based Segment

When it comes to the military applications, within the framework of creating the satellite reconnaissance capabilities for the Polish Armed Forces, Poland is going to base its system on three main elements, as it was announced during the II Information Day of the Space Sector.  Besides the strategic satellite optoelectronic Earth observation system, the Polish Ministry of Defence is going to sign an agreement with the Italians, regarding the access to the COSMO-SkyMEd Seconda Generazione system. Finally, a Polish Defence User Ground Segment station is going to be created, within the territory of Poland, in Bialobrzegi, north of Warsaw. The facility is to reach initial operational capabilities in 2017, while the full capability status is going to be achieved in 2020. The above will make it possible for Poland to gather, process and distribute the satellite reconnaissance imagery data.

Optoelectronic Data from the Italians – A Bridge Solution


First and second generation Cosmo-SkyMed systems are going to become the source of data, according to the plans made by the Ministry of Defence. These systems provide access to radar data, and – starting from 2017, thanks to the expanded agreements concluded with the Italians – Poland may also gain access to the optoelectronic data provided by an Israeli-made Opsat-3000 satellite. Poland plans to become independent within that area in 2022. The tender pertaining creation of a reconnaissance satellite(s) is going to be initiated next year, it is possible that it is going to be realized in a form of a national strategic programme. Initial specification of the aforementioned equipment still remains unknown, we do not know whether the specs are going to be similar to the assumptions of the conceptual study carried out by the Military University of Technology. Using two satellites is also questionable, at the present stage.

Optoelectronic data constitutes a relevant supplement for the radar data provided by the SAR satellites, not only making it possible to detect, but also to identify ground infrastructure, significant within the scope of defence and security. Acquisition of imagery from foreign sources shall be viewed as an intermediate stage of the process, the aim of which is to gain national capabilities within that scope. Due to the nature of operation of the satellite systems, once the national capabilities are gained, the external sources of data will still be very usable, increasing the effectiveness and reliability of the reconnaissance carried out. Creating own satellite Earth observation system by Poland will provide us with the indispensable operational autonomy, within the scope of utilizing the observational satellites. This will also make it possible to obtain the required national competences and research and development and industrial potentials, in the area focused on creating the satellite systems.

Reserve Brigade General Adam Sowa, PhD Eng. Rector’s Adviser Within The Areas of Aerospace and Satellites, Military University of Technology

2016 – A Decisive Year?

The programme, the aim of which is to create a satellite which would make it possible to electronically observe the Earth, is going to enter its crucial phase in 2016. The process in which the Polish satellite is going to be created is going to, almost certainly, involve a foreign partner. Nonetheless, technology transfer for the dynamically developing space sector in Poland should be treated with high priority. At the same time, it shall also be taken into account that, thanks to the expanded agreement regarding the Cosmo-SkyMed system, and thanks to the bridge solution coming in a form of the data provided by a satellite created by Israel for the Italians, creating own capabilities within that scope may be delayed without any consequences. The delay may be used to create competences of the Polish space sector, and prepare the ground segment for the Polish Earth observation system. Nonetheless, the assumptions of the tender which is scheduled to be executed next year, pertaining the deadlines and the technical specs of the satellite, will have a decisive value here. 

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