Polish Optronic Satellite - Competition To Be Announced Soon

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Mateusz Morawiecki announced recently, that creating a satellite is a national ambition for Poland. The works, pertaining to the Earth Observation satellite which would be created within the framework of the national space programme, have been going on for a few years back now. According to the Polish Space Agency and the Polish Ministry of Defence, the initiative is going to be implemented on the basis of a feasibility study developed after a relevant order has been placed by the National Centre for Research and Development, by a consortium led by the Military University of Technology.  

Satellite – A National Ambition

Among the proposed national satellite programmes, the most important and ambitious one is the one focused on creation of the first Polish satellite that is to be used for the purpose of optoelectronic Earth observation. The basic goal of acquiring a space instrument of this type by Poland, is to increase the level of security in our country, thanks to the option of carrying out independent observation of the surroundings off the country, in visible and IR light spectra. We may be certain that such platform was also mentioned by the Polish Deputy PM, Mateusz Morawiecki, who announced the development works pertaining to the first Polish satellite. 

Satellite or satellites are also going to be used for civilian purposes, supporting the state administration crisis management activities, including those concerning the process of water level monitoring, or taking care of the environment. The satellite programme, along with the required infrastructure, namely the simulator, receiving station and remaining required facilities, is going to be created within the framework of the national space programme. Marek Banaszkiewicz, interviewed by Space24, told us that the value for this project shall be defined as PLN 100 million per year.

Key Feasibility Study Ordered by the National Centre For Research and Development

The concept of creating the aforementioned equipment has been developed within the framework of a feasibility study developed by a consortium led by the Military University of Technology, ordered by the National Centre for Research and Development. This document, along with proper remarks, shall constitute a basis for creation of a Polish satellite, which has been confirmed by the representatives of the Polish Space Agency. 

The study has been accepted with remarks, a project of strategic programme for research and development works within the area of defence and security is being prepared on its basis at the National Centre for Research and Development. It is known as “Satellite System for Optoelectronic Observation of the Earth”. Soon, a procedure is going to be launched, within which the National Centre for Research and Development would initiate a call for proposals, in order to select the potential contractor within the aforesaid programme.

Col. Piotr Suszynski, Acting POLSA President for Defence

Also, Lt. Col. Maciej Slawinski, of the Polish I3TO Inspectorate for Implementation of Innovative Defence Technologies, announced that feasibility study developed by the Polish Military University of Technology and Polish Academy of Sciences Space Research Centre, collaborating with the Warsaw University of Technology, Airbus Defence & Space, WB Electronics and Polski Holding Obronny [Polish Defence Holding] will constitute an entry point for the strategic programme.

Bridge to the Polish Satellite Reconnaissance Capabilities: Optoelectronic Data from Italy

According to Lt. Col. Maciej Sławinski, PhD, Poland, besides creating its own capabilities, is also planning to use other options in the area of Earth observation. The second bridge solution which is to be utilized during the time, when the Polish system would be under construction, is seen in expansion of the agreement with the Telespazio company which, since 2014 agreement, has been delivering the radar data gathered by the Cosmo-SkyMed satellites. Currently, talks are in progress, regarding the optoelectronic data which could come from the Israeli Opsat 3000 satellite created for the Italian Ministry of Defence.

It shall also be said that Cosmo-SkyMed infrastructure (data reception station) is being built in parallel in Białobrzegi, north of Warsaw. The facility is expected to achieve initial operational capability next year, and it is planned that full operational readiness is gained in four years. The infrastructure in question will make it possible to delegate the tasks to the Cosmo-SkyMed satellites, and receive data from them quicker, in a more autonomous way. The station will also be important when it comes to the optoelectronic data received from the Opsat 3000 platform. In the future, after relevant works are carried out, the facility may also be used to receive data from the Polish reconnaissance satellites.

Regarding the Polish capabilities (creation of new operational capabilities for the Polish Armed Forces), within the field of satellite optronic reconnaissance, one may refer to two initiatives: a) A Strategic Programme initiated by the National Centre for Research and Development in the field of defence and security, implemented with the use of the assets provided for the Centre by the Ministry of Defence, also known as “Satellite System for Opto-electronic Observation of the Earth”; a team, consisting of representatives of POLSA, Ministry of Defence and National Centre for Research and Development has arranged a relevant programme proposal, which is now going to be reviewed in front of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The programme project will be proceeded by the Control Committee of the National Centre for Research and Development, in line with its statutory competences, in order to start a call for proposals and implementation of the programme at the Centre. b) Agreement signed with the Italians, concerning the services provided via the OPSAT 3000 system. Final talks regarding the conditions of the agreement in question are being currently realized.

Lt. Col. Maciej Sławinski, PhD, I3TO

Benefits for the Industry

Polish Space Agency is willing to get the Polish industry and scientific circles involved in the programme as deeply as possible. The instrument, thus, besides carrying out tasks for defence and administration purposes, is also going to accelerate the development of the Polish space sector and create relevant competences which will let the domain mature. 

The programme pertaining to research and development works, under the name “Satellite System for Opto-electronic Observation of the Earth”, is going to be the largest initiative of this type in Poland, related to Earth Observation. According to the assumptions of the programme, the individual components of the system will be created by the Polish companies and scientific bodies which will get a chance to expand their knowledge and expertise, and acquire assets required for further development. Polish Space Agency is involved in the process or arranging the above programme. There is a chance that the organ will also monitor its implementation. Creating and launching the system will contribute to Polish autonomy, referring to the Earth Observation data, which is especially relevant in the context, within which security and defence are to be bolstered. At the same time, the initiative will also be an important impulse for the Polish space industry.

Col. Piotr Suszynski, Acting POLSA President for Defence

National “Satellite optoelectronic Earth observation system” - What is it going to be like?

Within the framework of the study announced in March 2015 by the Military University of Technology, 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 metersVHR). Two satellites would be complementary, and the revisit time would be significantly shortened, thus the gathered data would be less outdated. HR Satellite would be used both for civilian, as well as military purposes. VHR satellite, on the other hand, would be used solely for military purposes. Polish satellites would enter a heliosynchronous orbit, at altitude of 600 to 700 kilometres above Earth. Expected time of operation is said to be 5 years for the HR platform and 10 years for the VHR system.  Revisit time expected would be ca. 4 days. It is worth to add that France uses a similar solution, with military Helios satellites, civil-military Pleiades system, while the radar imagery is acquired from foreign systems. 

One should stress the fact that HR civil-military platform is a priority. As it was explained by Reserve Brigade General Adam Sowa, PhD Eng. Rector’s Adviser Within The Areas of Aerospace and Satellites, Military University of Technology: 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.

Read More: Space Plans Made By The Polish Ministry of Defence. “Defined Needs” vs. Great Challenges