QinetiQ's Proba-2 satellite captures its first image of the Sun

27 Jan 2010

The first images of the Sun captured by the Proba-2 satellite constructed by Verhaert Space, a QinetiQ company, were unveiled Tuesday at a European Space Agency (ESA) event to mark the satellite's successful commissioning.

Proba-2, launched on 2 November 2009, is one of the smallest satellites ever to be flown by ESA - at less than one cubic metre in volume – but it is making a big impact in space technology. PROBA stands for PRoject for On-Board Autonomy, and the satellite supervises itself using Verhaert Space’s advanced onboard computer. Although the mission is overseen from ESA’s ground station at Redu, Belgium, which is operated in a joint venture by Verhaert Space, the high degree of on-board spacecraft autonomy reduces the need for ground operations.

Frank Preud'homme, Commercial Director of Verhaert Space said: “Proba-2’s computer is the most powerful computer developed in Europe for space applications. It is sufficiently capable that it can monitor and manage a satellite’s on-board systems locally. The computer system has been selected for a number of new ESA missions and is also being evaluated by non-European customers for use as a platform or payload computer.”

The Proba-2 satellite is a science platform which hosts a quartet of instruments focused on the sun and space weather. It also doubles as a technology test-bed, providing flight-testing opportunities for seventeen other technological developments. Further information about this mission can be found on the ESA website at www.esa.int.

Proba-2 builds on ESA's eight-year experience of operating Verhaert Space’s Proba-1 satellite, which pioneered the use of small satellites to provide low-cost flight test opportunities for new technologies developed by smaller companies. The Proba series is set to continue into this decade with Proba-3, which is planned to test precision formation-flying techniques, and Proba-V which will carry a miniaturised vegetation sensor and open up new performance horizons for small-scale earth observation satellites.

Verhaert Space is a QinetiQ company based outside Antwerp in Belgium and is a world leader in the development of small satellites and on-board computer systems. It is active in both ESA and NASA programmes and designs and builds payload systems for both manned and unmanned missions.

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QinetiQ's Proba-2 satellite captures its first image of the Sun