Although it was originally planned as a one-year mission, the satellite has provided data successfully ever since its launch ….and it is still going strong! Manufactured by QinetiQ, PROBA-1 is one of the smallest satellites launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is less than a cubic metre in volume. PROBA stands for PRoject for On-Board Autonomy, and is a series of micro-satellites that can fulfil a variety of requirements. PROBA-1, for example, hosts a couple of Earth Observation instruments including a state-of-the-art hyperspectral imager.
PROBA’s sister and brother - PROBA-2 and PROBA-V - came in 2009 and 2013 respectively and they are still orbiting around the Earth in perfect condition. They are tracked from our station at Redu in Belgium and, every time they pass over the station, they receive their instructions and then proceed to carry out their tasks autonomously. The PROBA-V mission is mapping the vegetation around the globe on a daily basis - anyone who is curious to see how that looks can see for themselves here. While the first two satellites in the ‘PROBA’ series were a combination of demonstration and application missions, the latest generation has evolved the platform to be fully autonomous.
After its successful commissioning, PROBA-V now serves as an operational mission satellite and, today, it is supplying data to a huge community of over 1500 users - from universities, companies and institutions to research organisations all over the world. What is remarkable about PROBA-V is that it was originally a gap-filler. However, we were able to build a very innovative and state-of-the-art satellite that has proved to be as resilient as it versatile. PROBA-V has become part of the overall capacity for Earth Observation (EO) to support weather forecasting, track biodiversity and wildlife and to monitor and respond to natural disasters such as bush fires, floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis.
This insight and data is also invaluable in helping us to predict and adapt to climate change, to manage natural resources and to improve agricultural practices by monitoring such factors as soil moisture. Put simply, space technologies are helping us take care of spaceship Earth!