Poland and Finland Work Together Towards Creation of an Innovative Constellation of SAR Satellites


Representatives of the ICEYE and Creotech Instruments S.A. entities recently announced the following: by the end of the year the first Polish-Finnish EO satellite would be sent into the outer space. The announcement was made during a press conference organized on 30th July.

ICEYE is a Finnish space start-up established by two businessmen: Rafał Modrzewski from Poland and Pekka Laurila from Finland. The Company has been active on the global market since three years now. and Its strategic goal is to create a strategic radar Earth Observation system based around a constellation of micro-satellites, with that system delivering imagery on a commercial basis. The system would be the first of its kind, globally. The company has developed an innovative SAR sensor that is to be used on all of the target satellites that are to form the constellation. The radar makes it possible to create Earth surface images regardless of the weather conditions, including the cloud cover that usually constitutes an impenetrable obstacle for the optical satellites.

ICEYE’s collaboration with Creotech began back in 2016, when the latter entity received an assignment to assemble electronics for the first prototype satellite of the ICEYE constellation. ICEYE-X1, as this was the name of the satellite, has been sent into the outer space in early 2018. This facilitated test procedures of the onboard systems and made it possible to create the first samples of imagery.

We had no great expectations with regards to the imagery per se, the main goal was to put our innovative solutions and satellite infrastructure to the test in the space conditions.  The results surpassed our wildest expectations. All components performed their job flawlessly while ICEYE-X1 gathered more than 600 examples of high quality imagery.

Rafał Modrzewski, ICEYE CEO

Tightening the Cooperation

In the early 2017, the ICEYE company assigned a task to Creotech Instruments S.A., concerning manufacturing of specialized wiring harnesses and MLI heat shield components for further ICEYE satellites including the ICEYE-X2 that is going to be sent into the outer space by the end of this year. The Creotech facility in Piaseczno, that features a number of specially created clean-rooms, was also the place where some of the integration processes were taking place with regards to the satellite (putting all of its parts together and preparing it to be sent into the outer space).

ICEYE-X2 that has been under construction since 3 years, with integration taking place throughout the last 6 months, weighs 85 kilograms and would be capable of gathering imagery with resolution of even 1×1 m. The services rendered by ICEYE would be of use for both public, as well as for the private customers, hailing from domains related to maritime transport or mining. The imagery delivered by ICEYE would comply with the requirements formed by the Polish CREODIAS computer platform created under the Creotech’s guidance for the purpose of storing and sharing any of the EU’s Copernicus programme satellite data. This is yet another area where synergy between ICEYE and Creotech can be witnessed.

ICEYE also created a Centre of Satellite Ops in Warsaw, that would be responsible for controlling the ICEYE satellites that remain in the outer space. Meanwhile, an R&D facility is being established in Cracow, that is going to deal with development of analytical tools that could be used to automatically process and analyze the gathered imagery.

Creotech as an Integrator

During the press conference organized on 30th July, representatives of both companies elevated the cooperation to a higher level of strategic importance. According to the concluded letter of intent, Creotech Instruments S.A. would be responsible for integration of even 18 more ICEYE satellites that are to be born within the upcoming 5 years.

This is a major distinction for us, and at the same time it translates into completion of a strategic business goal of our company: playing a prestigious role of a satellite integrator on the space market. The word “integrator” is used to refer to an entity that, during the process of building a satellite, remain responsible for the complicated process in which all elements, subsystems and modules of the satellite are fused together, to form the final, ready satellite in working condition. Not only can achieving this position bring prestige to a company, it also proves that the integrator remains in possession of in-depth expertise, and that the integrator has acquired a lot of organizational knowledge and know-how allowing him to correctly execute the integration process. Notably, we are the first company in Poland, and probably in Europe, that has managed to reach this level.

Jacek Kosiec, CEO, Creotech Instruments S.A. 

Creotech Instruments S.A., since years, has been working to become a satellite integrator. With financial support provided by the Polish National Centre for Research and Development, the company has been supporting and developing its original HyperSat microsatellite platform. The implementation readiness for the HyperSat platform satellites is expected to be reached in 2021.

Common Goals Above the National Sentiment

The representatives of both companies mutually agree that the deepened ICEYE partnership is not a result stemming solely from the Polish heritage of the partners. Alongside the obvious reason related to the successful collaboration so far, the decision on taking further step was also motivated by the fact that the companies have a similar view on the future of the global space sector, having a mutual understanding of the directions of potential development.

Both companies are really focused on the New Space trend driven towards commercial use of the space technology potential, also maintaining the organizational agility and cost regime that is usually associated with the start-up companies. The significance this trend has is growing as we also experience accelerated miniaturization of electronics and common emergence of constellation-based satellite platforms.

New Space is not the future, but it is rather embedded within the present, this is proven by the fact that a satellite radar imagery constellation based on microsatellites is being build now.

The constellation created by us would be the first one in the world, in case of which SAR sensor was successfully fitted onto a platform so small. The competitive solutions available on the market are based on much larger, and thus much more expensive platforms, weighing several hundred kilograms or more. What is more, we are driven towards creating a constellation large enough to make it possible to monitor the given areas in a manner that would be almost continuous, with revisit periods as short as 30 minutes. And this level of services would satisfy even the most demanding user.

Rafał Modrzewski, ICEYE CEO

Source: Creotech Instruments/ICEYE