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photo: Nicky Webb Photography
05.12.2023

Austria's space travel with even more power!

AUSTROSPACE hosted its 100th General Assembly on November 24, 2023 after the internal AGM at the Space and Networking Café in the 4th district - with renowned guests from the fields of politics, business and research.

An afternoon full of inspiration and visions for the future: After words of welcome from AUSTROSPACE Managing Director Hans Martin Steiner, Heinz Mayer first gave Christian Fidi, who was standing in for Dieter Grebner who was ill, an exciting look back at the history of the Austrian space industry, before Christian Fidi then went on to discuss current tasks, upcoming projects and, above all, the immense potential of the Austrian space companies represented by AUSTROSPACE.
Federal Minister Leonore Gewessler, who as Space Minister is responsible for the government's space agenda, also had her say on the podium - and once again emphasized the importance of space travel for Austria. Among other things, she announced that the state will be providing more money to the European Space Agency ESA in future. Although the mandatory contribution to the ESA budget will remain the same at 116 million euros until 2025, the contribution for ESA elective programs will be increased by 30 million euros to a total of 145 million euros.

Gewessler comments: "Space plays a central role for Austria. Every euro we invest in ESA is very well spent." AUSTROSPACE President Dieter Grebner is also delighted: "The considerable re-signing of the Austrian ESA contribution by the ministry is a clear recognition of the impressive successes and innovations in the Austrian space industry".
The 100th General Assembly gave all participants the opportunity to exchange experiences and opinions and provided exciting insights into the fields of activity and possibilities of space travel. Special thanks go to all guests for their keen interest and great networking - and also to TTTech, which made its premises available for this event.

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photo: BiDS
06.11.2023

For the first time in Vienna: Big Data from Space

The Austria Center Vienna will be the venue for leading players from industry, science, EU institutions and governments to discuss the latest technical solutions and applications in the space sector.

At Big Data from Space (BiDS), innovative ideas are exchanged and the latest technical solutions and applications concerning all aspects of space and big data technologies are presented. Practitioners, researchers and educators alike will have a prime opportunity to present and discuss the latest innovations and practical challenges related to big data from space.

The 2023 edition of BiDS, which is being held in Vienna for the first time and at which Austrospace is also represented with a stand as a sponsor, will not only focus on the technologies that enable insights and foresight from big data, but also on their social impact. Access to global, free and open Earth observation data is growing - and is complemented by new initiatives such as the Copernicus Data Space Ecosystem, the EU Destination Earth (DestinE) program and the associated ESA Digital Twin Earth program. Fostering trust in big data for policy interactions, insights and foresight enabled by the evolving geospatial ecosystem should be transparent, robust and reproducible, with appropriate quality assurance built on open data and methodologies.

 

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photo: ESPI
27.10.2023

A think tank celebrates its anniversary.

Twenty years ago, the European Institute for Space Policy was founded: a European space think tank based in Vienna, the world capital of space diplomacy.

The occasion was celebrated in the venerable Austrian Parliament, welcoming distinguished guests from across Europe and the world - from nearly 40 nations. Government officials, leaders of international organizations, ambassadors, parliamentarians, agency heads, industry leaders, and international guests from NASA, JAXA, ISRO, and KARI joined ESPI staff, members, and the Advisory Board met in the historical place to celebrate.

Even the opening speeches set the mood: on the podium were Leonore Gewessler, Austria's Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency, and Hermann Ludwig Moeller, Director of ESPI. An exciting panel discussion on European space policy, moderated by Andreas Geisler from FFG, provided inspiration and a lively exchange of ideas.

As a non-profit organization based in Vienna, ESPI provides recommendations and visions for the future on how Europe's involvement in space can bring maximum benefit to society. Its work includes research and analysis on major space policy issues, monitoring global space trends and political developments as well as the organization of thematic conferences and workshops.

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photo: ESA
09.10.2023

PRETTY takes off:
Austrian satellite launched into space!

What a huge success: The small satellite PRETTY launched on Oct 9th is the fifth Austrian satellite launched and already the third one coming  from the laboratories of Graz University of Technology - developed and tested by space experts in Styria and Vienna!

 The customer of the new climate observation satellite is the European Space Agency (ESA) - but the sophisticated technology comes from the Graz University of Technology, in close cooperation with the company Beyond Gravity Austria (formerly RUAG Space), which is also responsible for the overall project management.

The nice name of the small satellite is quickly explained: PRETTY stands for Passive REflectomeTry and DosimeTrY. A passive reflectometer system developed by Beyond Gravity and the Institute for Communication Networks and Satellite Communication at Graz University of Technology will enable particularly precise measurement of the Earth's surfaces – the small satellite will thus be able to measure the extent of ice and sea heights as well as ocean currents even more precisely than before.

Secondly, the radiation environment in space will also be recorded, for which Seibersdorf Labor GmbH has developed, built and tested a new type of dosimeter platform. The dosimeter payload is active throughout the entire PRETTY mission and collects scientific data. TU Graz, in turn, contributed the satellite platform, performed the manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing activities, and is responsible for the operation of the satellite with the ground station at Campus Inffeldgasse.

PRETTY: small but mighty!

It's hard to believe how much technology fits into the smallest of spaces - PRETTY is a CubeSat measuring just 10x10x34 centimeters! The deployed solar panels each have an area of 30x20 centimeters and supply the satellite with an average power of 24 watts. With a mass of only 4.6 kilograms, the lightweight satellite will orbit the Earth in a polar orbit at an altitude of about 565 kilometers and will communicate at data rates of up to 2 Mbps.

By the way, the mission is designed to last at least one year. After that, the small climate observation satellite will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere naturally and burn up. PRETTY thus fully complies with the latest ESA and UN guidelines, which are designed to minimize space debris.

 

 

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photo: ESA (acknowledgement: work performed by ATG under contract to ESA), CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
01.07.2023

Mission Euclid: onchasing dark matter and dark energy

The dimensions of the project are gigantic: The EUCLID space telescope launched on July 1 is to observe, and map billions of galaxies at a distance of up to 10 billion light years and for some of them measure their redshifts - in other words, over a third of the entire sky. The goal of the mission is, among other things, to study dark matter and dark energy in the universe.

It is hard to believe that only 5% of the universe consists of visible matter such as planets, stars or galaxies. The vastly larger proportion, namely 95% of space, is not visible to our eyes and is referred to as dark matter or dark energy. The Euclid space telescope, which was launched into space on July 1, 2023 by a Falcon 9 launch vehicle from the U.S. spaceport Cape Canaveral, is now to explore this invisible matter and energy.
Scientists hope that this will provide answers to fundamental questions about the physics of space, such as how dark matter is distributed in space, how large-scale structures in space are formed, and how the universe has evolved. One thing is already clear: The universe continues to expand at an ever-increasing verlocity. What is not known, however, is the cause of this phenomenon, which Euclid is now getting to the bottom of.

The most accurate 3D map of the universe

After a thirty-day journey, the probe will reach its orbit at the Lagrange point L2, which is about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth - an equilibrium point of the Sun-Earth system, in whose orbits Euclid can maintain a stable position with little energy consumption. During the six-year mission, more than ten billion galaxies are to be observed from there and about 30 petabytes of data collected - the equivalent of about four million BlueRay discs.
To successfully accomplish this mega-task, Euclid is equipped with a 1.2-meter-diameter telescope that passes the infrared portion of light to a Near Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP) and reflects the visible light into a Visible Instrument (VIS). This in turn maps all observed galaxies with very high image resolution.
The NISP data will be combined with the VIS data to derive distances of galaxies and their three-dimensional positions in the universe. They will also explore how galaxies have changed over the last ten billion years under the influence of the universe's dark matter and dark energy, as well as gravity. In this way, thanks to the Euclid mission, the most accurate 3D-map of our universe to date will emerge.

 

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photo: ESA acknowledgementATG Medialab
14.04.2023

Jupiter, here we come: ESA probe JUICE launched!

Mankind's boldest mission yet to the outer solar system has begun: At 14:14 CET on April 14, ESA's JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) spacecraft lifted off from Europe's Kourou Cosmodrome in French Guiana to explore Jupiter's system of three largest moons. The primary goal is to determine whether these moons are habitable for living beings.

Huge expanses of water, larger than Earth's oceans: Such natural treasures are held by Jupiter's three moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. A clear indication that the conditions for life could exist elsewhere in space than in our world - made possible by the fact that these icy moons orbit a giant planet instead of hot stars. And that... makes them one of the interesting targets in our solar system.

For this reason, ESA and its international partners have now launched a mission that is unparalleled in terms of dimensions: The "Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer" (JUICE), launched on April 14 at 14:14, will observe this fascinating planet and its moons after its 8-year journey to Jupiter with the help of particularly powerful, novel instruments. The data provided will help not only today's but also many future generations of scientists to unravel the secrets of the Jupiter system.


Austrian know-how on its way to Jupiter

High tech from Austria also plays a major role in the first European space flight to the outer solar system: For example, the Institute of Space Research (IWF), together with the Institute of Experimental Physics (IEP) at Graz University of Technology, developed a completely new type of quantum interference magnetometer and calibrated the antennas of the radio wave instrument; it is also a member of the team for a particle spectrometer. Beyond Gravity's thermal insulation, in turn, protects the Jupiter probe from the extreme temperature differences in space of plus 250 to minus 230 degrees Celsius, and GeoSphere Austria enabled the calibration of the magnetic field sensors.

When JUICE is on the launch pad in French Guiana and the countdown is running, the spacecraft is powered by technology from Terma. The testing of the radio link to read out the most important parameters about the "health" of the satellite as well as to control JUICE and to check the downlink of the instrument data to Earth was done using highly reliable and precise test equipment developed in Austria.

Overall, the successful launch of the ESA spacecraft is the result of excellent international cooperation: for example, some 500 Airbus employees were involved in the preparations, together with more than 80 companies from all over Europe. NASA, the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and the Israeli Space Agency also made important contributions to the mission.

Eight-year journey with a slingshot mission

Hundreds of millions of kilometers JUICE will fly through the solar system, with Earth's and Venus' gravity deflecting its orbit to "slingshot" the spacecraft all the way to Jupiter. Upon arrival at the Jupiter system, it will be exposed to a harsh radiation and temperature environment as it collects important data about the Jupiter system. Explaining the overall complexity of the mission, Andrea Accomazzo, Flight Operations Director, said, "This is the largest deep-space mission we've ever launched, and it must deftly orbit the moons of the largest planet in the solar system in no fewer than 35 flybys."

Overcoming the challenges involved at such a great distance - and, more importantly, bringing the collected data home safely - requires extreme navigation techniques. To do this, the scientists will use ESA's Estrack network, which is remotely controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), and thus also deep space antennas in Spain, Argentina and Australia.

 

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photo: ESA
07.04.2023

ESA Journey to Jupiter: The countdown is on!

Space technology made in Austria will be on board when the JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) space probe starts its long journey to Jupiter and its icy moons on April 13 - the first mission to the outer solar system led by the European Space Agency ESA. If you want to be there live: the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Graz University of Technology invite you to the Institute of Space Research.

It is a day eagerly awaited by both the international space community and the Austrian space industry: On April 13, 2023, at exactly 14:15:01 CET, an Ariane-5 launcher will lift off from the European Spaceport Kourou in French Guiana, carrying ESA's JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) spacecraft on its long journey to Jupiter and its icy moons. The goal of this daring mission is to collect important data hundreds of millions of kilometers from Earth, which will provide future generations of scientists with valuable insights into the Jupiter system.
Once again, high-tech from Austria is playing a major role: For example, the Institute of Space Research (IWF), together with the Institute of Experimental Physics (IEP) at Graz University of Technology, developed a completely new type of quantum interference magnetometer, calibrated the antennas of the radio wave instrument (RPWI) and is a member of the particle spectrometer team. In turn, Beyond Gravity's thermal insulation protects the spacecraft from cold and heat, and GeoSphere Austria enabled the calibration of the magnetic field sensors.

When JUICE is on the launch pad in French Guiana and the countdown is running, the spacecraft is supplied with power using technology from Terma. In the run-up to the launch, highly reliable and precise test equipment developed in Austria was used to test both the radio link for reading out the most important parameters about the satellite's "state of health" and the control system for JUICE, as well as to check the downlink of the instrument data to Earth.

Many good reasons for the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Graz University of Technology to invite all space enthusiasts to the live event on 13.4.23 at the Institute of Space Research in Graz. Representatives of Beyond Gravity, GeoSphere Austria and Terma will give short talks and interviews about the Austrian contributions to Europe's first flight into the outer solar system. The launch will be broadcast live; connections to the ESA control center in Darmstadt and the rocket launch center in Kourou will provide an authentic atmospheric report. Afterwards, the most important stages after the launch will be followed live: the separation, the first signal and the unfolding of the solar panels.


Details of the program:
https://www.oeaw.ac.at/fileadmin/Institute/iwf/pdf/event/Einladung_JUICE-Launch-Event.pdf


Registration:
https://www.oeaw.ac.at/iwf/aktuelles/veranstaltungen/anmeldung/juice-launch-event

 

 

 

 

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photo: ESA–M.Pedoussaut
15.12.2022

A new era of weather forecasting begins

The early bird catches the lightning: The innovative weather satellite MTG-I1, which was launched into geostationary orbit from the European Spaceport in French Guyana at 21:30 CET on December 13, is able to detect storms and thunderstorms at an early stage.

Building on the long-standing partnership between ESA and Eumetsat, Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) will provide even more reliable and accurate data for weather forecasting over the next 20 years. Among other things, this will be ensured by a new type of Lightning Imager - the first of its kind on a European satellite. The full system is comprised of a series of two types of satellites working in tandem: two MTG imagers and one MTG sounder, which, unlike the imagers, is equipped with an infrared sensor (IRS) and an ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared (UVN) sensor. Together, these technologies take the increasingly important field of weather forecasting to a whole new level: in the future, severe weather will be detected and monitored at a very early stage - the lightning sensors can detect even very weak thunderstorms both at night and in daylight. In addition, the satellite's spectral channels have been extended in numbers and their resolution has been significantly improved.

Important preparations and controls

Since its arrival at the European Spaceport in French Guiana in mid-October, MTG-I1 had gone through everything necessary to prepare it for a successful and safe launch. This included a number of important and careful checks to ensure that all components were working properly - as well as the risky task of loading the satellite with about two tons of highly volatile propellant and hoisting it onto the upper section of the Ariane 5 rocket.

Incidentally, the abbreviation MTG-I1 stands for Meteosat Third Generation Imager-1. Over the course of the weather satellites' total 20-year mission, the initial constellation of three is to be replaced over time by three new satellites.

 

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photo: ESA
12.12.2022

ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level 2022:
More money for Europe's space activities

At the two-day conference of the ESA Council of Ministers in Paris on Nov. 22 and 23, important decisions were taken for the future:  The 22 member states decided to increase the budget for the next three years.

The signs point to the future - and to a strong, independent Europe in space as well: Over the next three years, some 16.9 billion euros are  made available for space activities, almost 17% more than before. Although this means that the new budget is below the 18.5 billion euros proposed by ESA, Director General Josef Aschbacher is nevertheless satisfied with the result: "Through this investment, we are building a Europe whose space program reflects its political and future economic strength," he says. The Tyrolean native further speaks of a "new era that will be characterized by ambition, determination, strength and pride."

Europe sets course for the Moon and Mars

Among other things, the new budget will be used to push forward the exploration of the Moon and Mars: Germany's participation in the planned „Argonaut“ logistics lander will enable Europe to independently transport cargo to Earth's satellite for the first time and to conduct scientific experiments on site. It was also decided to continue European participation in the International Space Station until 2030 - and thus also to extend the activities of ESA astronauts there.

The largest share of the new budget is allocated to scientific programs with around 3.2 billion euros, followed by transport activities with 2.8 billion euros and Exploration and Earth Observations with around 2.7 billion euros each. All of this is financed by the contributions of the 22 member states, which are roughly based on the respective gross national products of each country. Each member state decides for itself which optional ESA programs to participate in – and also with which financial contribution. The largest contributor continues to be Germany, which took over the chairmanship of the ESA Council from France at this year's conference in Paris and will host the next conference in 2025.

Compared to 2019, the Austrian subscription has increased by a little more than 20%. However, the joy about this is limited, as the expectations - especially for the optional programmes - were much higher, especially considering the great potential of the Austrian space actors. In Austria, about 50% of the budget goes to mandatory programs such as the science program or basic activities, 15.5% to Earth Observation and 13% to Telecom and Integrated Applications, to name only the highest shares.

 

 

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photo: ESA - P. Sebirot
28.11.2022

An Austrian becomes ESA Reserve Astronaut

Carmen Possnig, a medical doctor born in Klagenfurt in 1988, is one of the 11 people recently selected by ESA as reserve astronauts. This means that she can be used for special missions or move up if one of the 6 new professional astronauts, who were also appointed, should drop out. 

You can pat yourself on the back a bit if you prevail in an international application for such a top job against around 22,500 co-applicants. Carmen Possnig from Klagenfurt succeeded in doing just that: She was appointed one of 11 reserve astronauts at the ESA Ministerial Conference. However, she is no longer an unknown for the European Space Agency: Five years ago, the medical doctor was sent to Antarctica for a year on behalf of ESA, where she researched the possible effects of isolation and low oxygen levels on the crew at the "Concordia" station. Important topics that could also play a role for her in the near future: Should Possnig actually fly into space after her training for European astronauts, she would be the first Austrian woman in orbit - after Franz Viehböck became the only Austrian man so far to successfully complete a space stay more than 30 years ago as part of the “Austromir”-mission.

Great competition, great compliments

Reserve astronauts also fulfill an important role: After their training, they have to be ready for action at all times, should one of their professional colleagues in a permanent position become unavailable. For this reason, ESA conducted a two-stage selection process: After the first round, a total of 530 women and 831 men succeeded in advancing to the second round. Among the Austrian female applicants, 13 out of 116 managed to clear this hurdle, and 13 of the 350 male applicants did likewise.

While the 6 professional astronauts will begin their basic training in 2023, the reserve astronauts will only be trained when the possibility of deployment becomes imminent. Carmen Possnig is currently completing her PhD studies at the University of Innsbruck, where she is working on space medicine. She has also been active as a writer: The book "South of the End of the World" lets readers share her experience during a year-long stay in Antarctica – including temperatures of minus 80 degrees, not a single ray of sunlight for months, and living with a dozen roommates in a confined space.

 

 

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photo: ESA – D. Ducros
16.11.2022

Artemis 1 launches to the moon.

All good things come in threes: After two weather-related postponements, the NASA rocket was finally able to lift off into orbit. The mission is seen as preparation for a highly ambitious project: the return of man to the moon.

The plan is for the unmanned "Orion" space capsule to orbit the Earth's moon several times and splash down in the Pacific Ocean on December 11. However, the "Artemis 1" mission is only the first step towards the far greater goal: the return of man to the moon, some 50 years after Neil Armstrong’s first steps there. That is why in the frame of Artemis 1, the Space Launch System (SLS) - the world's most complex and powerful rocket, the Orion capsule and all the subsystems – will first undergo a rigorous stress test before all is approved to transport astronauts.

The planned follow-up mission, "Artemis 2," will then fly humans around the moon for the first time again, so that "Artemis 3" should bring the first woman and the first person of color to the moon - in 2025 at the earliest.

Austrian technology on board

Not only is the European Space Agency (ESA) involved in the mission - for example, the European Service Module (ESM) is responsible for the propulsion, power supply and thermal regulation of "Orion”­­- but Austrian know-how is also on board: The companies TTTech and Magna Aerospace supplied components for the SLS rocket, the Orion space capsule and the European service module.

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photo: NASA
23.12.2021

A telescope of the Superlative is launched

The James-Webb Space telescope is the biggest, most powerful and most expensive instrument of its kind ever built. On December 25th it starts its sensational mission supported by Austrian technology.

It cost about 9 billion Euro to plan and build the successor of the legendary Hubble telescope. The duration of the development of the instrument  – 25 years – also seems to be record breaking. Consequently, the expectations set into the new telescope are huge: Like a time machine, it is supposed to offer a glimpse into the past 13.5 billion years and observe the first galaxies and stars formed after the Big Bang. Studying Exoplanets is another huge research field that has become important through the last years: The James Webb Space telescope could enable an unmatched characterization of planets outside of the solar system and search for signs of biological activities.

"Supereye" with contributions from Austria

Once again, Austrian technology is part of a groundbreaking space mission: For the James Webb Space Telescope, Vienna-based RUAG Space supplied two high-precision mechanisms for the "supereye" called "NIRSpec" (Near Infrared Spectrograph), one of the telescope's three main instruments. It can detect up to 100 celestial bodies such as galaxies or stars simultaneously and look even deeper into space than "Hubble".  The instrument weighs about 200 kilograms and will operate in space at a temperature of minus 238 degrees Celsius. Red-white-and-red technology is also in use during the telescope's final assembly on Earth. The rotary tilting device, allowing to rotate and tilt the spacecraft during final assembly and testing, also comes from RUAG Space, such as the thermal insulation for the telescope's large communication antenna.

According to the plan, the James Webb telescope is launched on December 25th from the space port Kourou in French-Guyana. It will start its work at 1.5 million kilometers in outer space – the journey to get there will take about 4 weeks.

 

 

 

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photo: ESA
15.06.2021

Ready to take off: the European Union Space Programm 2021-2027!

What a giant step: The new European Union Space Programm, which has just been adopted by the EU, will provide fundamental tools in order to understand and protect our planet better than ever before.

The ambitious program will support important projects like Galileo, Copernicus, SSA and GOVSATCOM and finance them with 14,88 billion Euros. It is also guaranteed that they will be continued after 2027.

The big launch event for the European Union Space Program will be live-streamed on 22th of June on www.euspace-launch.eu It features high-level decision-makers and round table sessions discussing pressing issues such as cooperation amongst the space actors, entrepreneurship opportunities and how the EU Space programme contributes to the various EU policies and the formal signing of the Financial Framework Partnership Agreement.

 

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photo: OHB
12.02.2021

12 new satellites for Galileo –
and big fuss right from the start.

Bitter disappointment for satellite producer OHB: Once this company constructed GALILEO almost single-handedly – but now it is others who shall be responsible for the second generation of the satellite navigation system. Their names: Airbus and Thales Alenia Space.

I’ts a hard blacklash for OHB: not only in financial respect, but also concerning prestige. After all, the German family business located in the Bremen, which is listed on the stock exchange, formerly constructed GALILEO and reached great acknowledge with this success.  But also the timetable for the project is quite surprising: In the end of 2024 the first satellites of the second generation shall already start into orbit. The responsible European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton preponed the date for (?) two years, to stay a nose ahead of the competition with GPS and the Chinese BEIDOU.

Breton himself is far away from being uncontroversional: Some voiced suspicion  that he – as a born Frenchman – could have prefered companies with French participation in his comissioning. The EU-commission firmly rejected this accusation: An independent evaluation carried out by ESA, the offer from OHB was significantly worse than that of the competitors. One thing’s for sure: As industrial site Germany will benefit greatly from the Airbus assignment.

But the last word has not been spoken yet: Recently, OHB filed a suit at the General Court of the European Union – with the consequence that the signing of the contract with Airbus undThales was suspended for the moment. Whoever will be the winner of this controversy – the project itself is more than impressive: the second generation of GALILEO satellites will enable even private user to navigate with a precision of 1,97 inches or less.

 

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photo: ESA
17.12.2020

Austria takes off:
Dr. Josef Aschbacher is new ESA Director General

Austrian Dr. Josef Aschbacher, a world-renowned expert in Earth observation, becomes head of the European Space Agency (ESA). Earth observation via satellites plays an essential role in addressing the climate crisis.

AUSTROSPACE welcomes the appointment of Austrian Dr. Josef Aschbacher as Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA). A native of Tyrol, Dr. Aschbacher has been with ESA for three decades, serving since 2016 as Director of Earth Observation and Head of the Frascati site, the program area with the largest budget. Earth observation satellites play a very important role in addressing the climate crisis, because only from space it is possible to capture the global and long-term parameters relevant to changes in our living conditions. Europe has been a pioneer in this field for many years and has a unique infrastructure in the form of the European Union's (EU) Copernicus system. Under Aschbacher's leadership, funding was secured at the end of 2019 for the development of a new generation of Copernicus satellites that will, among other things, record the global distribution of CO2 emissions.

Achieving climate goals is central to the Austrian federal government's program. Federal Minister Leonore Gewessler, who is also responsible for space issues, has already pointed out the important role of Earth observation data for the implementation of the climate strategy on several occasions. The corresponding ESA and EU programs are therefore also focal points of Austrian space activities, and Austrian companies and research institutions have been very successfully involved for many years both in setting up the necessary infrastructure and in processing and using the data. With the profile and experience of the new Director General, the best conditions are in place for the continuation of the European pioneering role on the proven basis of cooperation between ESA and the EU and thus also for the sustainable success of the domestic players.

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photo: ESA - P. Carril, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
21.11.2020

Major step forward climate research:
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich has been launched!

The new enviromental satellite will deliver crucial data to measure sea level heights. Two Austrian companies contributed to this mission with their groundbreaking products.

Over the last five years the global ocean has risen, on average, 4.8 mm a year. With millions of people around the world at risk from rising seas, it is essential to continue measuring the changing height of the sea surface. Since November 21th this can be guaranteed even better than before: On that day, the new enviromental satellite Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was launched successfully from Vandenberg in California, USA, aboard a Falcon-9 rocket. Once again, it is the result of a joint project: This time ESA, European Commission, Eumetsat, NASA and NOAA cooperate, with support provided by the French space agency CNES.

Proud of Austrian contributions

As many times before, Austrian companies contributed an important part to this success: Due to the navigation receivers from RUAG Space, the satellite's position in orbit can be determined within a few centimeters.The company is European market leader with this product, already successfully operating on board of 10 satellites, and is supplier of customers in the US and in Asia.  In addition, thermal insulation from RUAG Space protects the satellite from the heat and cold of plus/minus 200 degrees Celsius in space.

The second company is Atos Austria, main supplier for EGSE equipment (Electrical Ground Support Equipment) that is used to put the satellite through its paces during the Assembly, Integration and Testing phase. The equipment is specifically used to test the telecommand and telemetry communication subsystem, the payload downlink communication subsystem and the power subsystem. Furthermore, EGSEs are used to check the compatibility of the space craft with the ground stations in terms of communication and to simulate the behaviour of the solar arrays and the batteries.

Another remarkable detail: Sentinel 6 is the first ESA mission to be launched that has been simulated and tested with Atos’ green, digital, sustainable power testing device ProUST univerSAS®.

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photo: ESA
18.12.2019

Huge success for ESA:
the Ministerial Conference Space19+

A result to be proud of: New commitments confirmed by member states add up to 14.4 billion EUR – a remarkable success for ESA and very strong signal for the European institutional space market, with which the ESA Ministerial Conference Space19+, that took place on November 27/28 in Seville, concluded.

This investment sum represents an increase of sensational 40% compared to the commitments of the previous conference in 2016. The budget for the science program and the basic activities of the agency was increased by almost 10%. The Earth Observation program, in particular the joint ESA/EU initiative Copernicus, received very high interest, but also the proposed activities in the areas of Human & Robotic Exploration and Space Transportation were strongly supported.

The not-so-good-news: Austria could not fully adapt the subscription portfolio to this growth path, due to current budgetary limitations. As a consequence, the relative level of total contributions declined from 1.9% in 2016 to 1.3%. Although the focus on Earth Observation and Telecom remained, there are currently no substantial opportunities for Austrian industry in some highly interesting new initiatives in Exploration as well as in Space Safety & Security – despite attractive potential and product offerings identified by several companies. This unsatisfactory situation needs to be corrected by an adjustment of subscriptions, once the new Austrian government is in power. It’s a matter of highest urgency – in order to avoid that Austrian suppliers lose ground in a dynamic market situation, where many new initiatives, both institutional and commercial, will shape the future of space industry for the next decade. 

 

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photo: ESA/ATG medialab
18.12.2019

On the track of exoplanets:
CHEOPS mission successfully launched!

Highly awaited, the CHEOPS mission (CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite) was launched at 9.54 CET on December 18th. It transported the brand new European space telescope into orbit. Also on board: advanced technology made in Austria.

Once again, European space industry takes a new path: CHEOPS is the first mission that will observe and characterise exoplanets in detail – these are planets beyond our solar system. It will do so by performing photometry (measuring light) with unprecedented precision, watching as each planet dims its host star's light during a transit. The goal is to figure out which planets would be best for follow-up observations, especially to learn more about their atmospheres – a key component of habitability.

Electronics and software made in Austria

The launch of the CHEOPS mission, which was experienced live by many people online on www.esa.int., is a big success not only in a scientific sense: It stands for exceptional international cooperation of space industry. Eleven countries contribute to the project, with Switzerland being the most important partner. The small satellite was developed and built by an international consortium under the leadership of the University of Bern, the Austrian Space Research Institute delivered one of the two board computers and participated in the development of the software for the data analysis. RUAG Space Austria, the country’s biggest space company, delivered the power supply for the CHEOPS telescope. Developed under the leadership of the IWF, it provides the high-precison and -stabile supply for the optical sensor in the telescope as well as for the heating elements required for temperature stabilization.

The flight into the orbit is a big international cooperation itself: It was a Russian Soyuz-ST launch vehicle that transported CHEOPS into space from the French space centre Kourou in French Guiana. The small satellite shares its journey into the orbit with a satellite of the Italian Cosmo-SkyMed constellation and five Cubesats – one of them being OPS-SAT which was developed for ESA under the technical guidance of the Technical University of Graz.

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photo: www.starlink.com
14.11.2019

Pioneering work in space:
60 Starlink satellites launched

The 11th of November was a big day: In a successful launch mission, 60 operational Starlink satellites were transported from Cape Canaveral into space by a Falcon 9-launcher. The smooth operation was perfectly planned: on May 24th the same amount of test units had already started into orbit.

To reach more than one pioneering accomplishments in only one flight mission doesn’t happen every day: It’s the first time that a Falcon 9 was used for a launch for the forth time – and it was also a first run in the history of aerospace that a payload fairing was used that had already been utilized in an earlier mission. Not to mention that the payload itself is the heaviest one ever transported into the orbit by SpaceX: It weighs 34.392 pounds.

The 50th successful misson of SpaceX in an uninterrupted series began when the Falcon 9 left the launch base at 3:46 pm. After about an hour it reached the circular orbit in an altitude of 174 miles, where the „stack“ of 60 satellites was released from the upper stage of the rocket. Each of this satellites has a mass of about 573 pounds and weighs 73 pounds more than the 60 Starlink satellites of the test starts on May 24th. So what’s next, now that they are in space? They will make use of their ion engines that run with Krypton to reach their final orbit in a height of 347 miles. With 400 % more power than their predecessors, they operate with two frequency bands instead of one. Another innovation: Reentering earth’s atmosphere, they will disintegrate completely – not only up to 95%. All in all a big success for SpaceX – but the competition remains thrilling: Direct competitor OneWeb is about to launch its satellites soon as well.

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photo: ESA
10.05.2019

BepiColombo is ready for its long cruise

Following a series of tests conducted in space over the past five months, the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission has successfully completed its near-Earth commissioning phase and is now ready for the operations that will take place during the cruise and, eventually, for its scientific investigations at Mercury.

After its launch on 20 October 2018 and and early orbit phase, an extensive series of in-orbit commissioning activities started. The European and Japanese mission teams performed tests to ensure the health of BepiColombo’s science instruments, its propulsion and other spacecraft platform systems.   On 26 March 2019, it was confirmed that the overall capabilities and performance at the end of the near-Earth commissioning phase meet the mission requirements. 

From now on, the European and Japanese operations team can focus on routine operations and on preparations for the mission’s first planetary gravity assist next year. Since launch, BepiColombo has already covered over 450 million km – just about four percent of the total distance it will have to travel before arriving at Mercury at the end of 2025. The composite spacecraft is now some 50 million km from Earth, and telecommands take about three minutes to reach it. The next major mission milestone: The spacecraft will come back to some 11 000 km from Earth for a flyby on 13 April 2020.

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14.03.2019

Summer School Alpbach 2019:
One-time chance for students!

From July 16 - 25 2019 some special people will reach out for the stars – in the middle of the Tyrolian Alps: This years  Summer School Alpbach pursues the theme „Geophysics from Space using Micro- or Nano-Satellite Constellations

This is a one-time chance for European engineering and science students to analyse and plan space projects in an international setting. This year, sixty people will be chosen to participate. They will be engaged in an in-depth learning experience, attending stimulating lectures on various aspects of space science and engineering, and working intensely within four groups to define and design a space mission under the supervision of noted scientific and engineering experts. This future-orientated event is once more organised and supported by Austrospace, FFG, ESA and the International Space Science Institute.

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photo: ESA
05.01.2019

Ariane 6: The future is being built

In July 2020 the new Ariane 6 will be launched into orbit – the successor of the legendary European launcher Ariane 5. At this moment the construction works in French Guiana are in full swing: The new launch platform from where the rocket will be catapulted into space is being built.

About 500 people from construction engeneering participate in the process. One of the many challenges is to direct the enormous flame quantity and gases that are produced at the launch of a rocket in a flame trench. Furthermore the Ariane 6 is built horizontally – in order to save money. To be able to compete internationally, the launch of Ariane 6 is supposed to cost only half as much as the one of its predecessor.

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photo: ESA
30.10.2018

So this is what a Nova looks like

Austrian small-scale satellites deliver pictures with a unprecented time resolution of the eruption of a „Nova“ – that’s the name for the outburst of a star.

The BRITE-Constellation, which Austria takes an active part in, is a fleet of five nano-satellites that observe the light of the brightest stars with extremely high precision.

The Technical University of Graz, such as the Universities of Vienna and Innsbruck provided much precious know-how for this project. Besides, the TU Graz – along with RUAG Space Austria and Seibersdorf Laboratories – are currently working on two other small-scale satellites that are supposed to be launched in 2019. For the first time in history they will map and record the ice of glaciers and poles such as the movement of ocean waves from space.

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photo: corn
23.10.2018

ESA-Experte‭:
„Jede Mission ist zu Beginn Science-Fiction“

(Interview von: STANDARD Verlagsgesellschaft, Karin Krichmayr, 25.12.2018)

Mars-Express-Missionsleiter Rudolf Schmidt über seine Mitarbeit bei Ridley Scotts‭ ‭ „Der Marsianer‭“, ‬Systemfehler und Menschen auf dem Mars‭. ‬

Weil bei der Inskription am wenigsten Leute beim Schalter für Physik anstanden‭, ‬entschloss sich Rudolf Schmidt kurzerhand für dieses Fach‭. ‬Er sollte es nicht bereuen‭: ‬Ab 1982‭ ‬arbeitete er bei der europäischen Raumfahrtagentur ESA, ‬wo er u‭.‬a‭. ‬die Mission Mars Express leitete und zuletzt als Generalinspektor tätig war‭. ‬Aufgrund seiner Expertise holte ihn US-Regisseur Ridley Scott als Berater für die Dreharbeiten seines Hollywoodfilms‭ „Der Marsianer“ (‬2015‭) ‬an Bord‭. ‬Seit er 2016‭ ‬in den Ruhestand getreten ist‭, ‬bastelt er statt Satelliten an seinem Bauernhof in der Steiermark‭. ‬Vergangene Woche war er in Wien zu Gast beim Symposium‭ „Kepler und der rote Planet“ ‬der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften‭.

Am 25‭. ‬Dezember 2003‭ ‬erreichte die Sonde Mars Express den Orbit des Roten Planeten‭. ‬Wie haben Sie Weihnachten verbracht‭? ‬

SCHMIDT ‬Heiligabend war eine brenzlige Phase‭. ‬Wir haben von 24‭. ‬Dezember in der Früh bis zum 25‭. ‬am Abend im ESA-Kontrollzentrum in Darmstadt durchgearbeitet‭. ‬Die deutsche Wissenschaftsministerin Edelgard Buhlmann kam mit Champagnerflaschen‭, ‬die sie versteckte‭, ‬damit sie ja nicht mit ihnen fotografiert wird‭, ‬falls etwas schiefgeht‭. ‬Als Mars Express dann um drei Uhr früh im Orbit war‭, ‬knallten die Korken‭. ‬Dabei stürmte noch ein Mathematiker herein mit der Schocknachricht‭, ‬dass beim Einschuss in den Orbit viel zu viel Treibstoff verbraucht wurde‭. ‬Es stellte sich aber heraus‭, ‬dass er sich um eine Kommastelle verrechnet hatte‭. ‬Der Treibstoff reichte also doch für 24‭ ‬Jahre‭. ‬Das heißt‭, ‬wenn alles andere auch so lange hält‭, ‬könnte Mars Express noch bis 2027‭ ‬aktiv sein‭. ‬

Haben Sie damit gerechnet‭, ‬dass‭ ‬die Sonde so lange Daten liefert‭? ‬Zuletzt wurden mit ihrer Hilfe riesige Wasservorkommen auf dem Mars entdeckt‭. ‬

SCHMIDT ‬Entworfen und finanziert war das Projekt für zwei Jahre‭, ‬aber wie üblich in Europa‭, ‬wenn ein Projekt gut läuft‭, ‬findet man immer noch‭ ‬irgendwo Geld dafür‭. ‬Die Performance des Satelliten ist gut‭, ‬Datenübertragung‭, ‬elektrische Leistung‭, ‬die Recheneinheiten an Bord‭ ‬funktionieren wunderbar‭. ‬Und solange daraus gute wissenschaftliche Arbeiten resultieren‭, ‬geht es auch weiter‭.‬

In der Raumfahrt haben Sie nicht nur große Erfolge erlebt‭, ‬sondern auch spektakuläre Flops‭. ‬Ist das eine nicht ohne das andere zu haben‭? ‬

SCHMIDT ‬Es gibt Projekte‭, ‬die ein Riesenerfolg wurden‭, ‬aber zwischendurch knapp am Desaster vorbeigeschrammt sind‭. ‬Zum Beispiel das Hubble-Space-Teleskop‭: ‬Bei der Linse wurden zwei Mikron zu viel weggeschliffen‭, ‬das ist etwa ein Fünfzigstel eines Haares‭. ‬Das hat‭ ‬ausgereicht‭, ‬dass die Fotos ganz deutlich unscharf waren‭. ‬Zwei Jahre später ist man mit dem Shuttle hingeflogen und hat es repariert‭. ‬Auch bei Mars Express gab es ein gravierendes Problem‭: ‬Es fehlte eine Drahtbrücke im Satelliten‭. ‬Als sich kurz nach dem Start die Sonnensegel entfalteten‭, ‬war klar‭, ‬dass zu wenig elektrische Leistung auf den Segeln zustande kommt‭, ‬sodass der Satellit‭ ‬es nie bis zum Mars schaffen würde‭. ‬Also begannen wir nach Lösungen zu suchen‭. ‬Wir haben umgeplant‭, ‬optimiert und an vielen Rädchen gedreht‭, ‬bis wir Schritt für Schritt so viel Energie einsparen konnten‭, ‬dass am Ende für die Messungen mehr als genug Leistung zur Verfügung stand‭. ‬Jetzt ist die Sonde 15‭ ‬Jahre im Marsorbit‭. ‬

Abgesehen von den Erfolgen‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬was war der größte Fehlschlag in Ihrer Karriere‭? ‬

SCHMIDT ‬Es gibt nur einen‭, ‬und der sticht heraus‭. ‬Ich bin 1982‭ ‬nach Holland zur ESA gekommen und wurde einige Monate später wissenschaftlicher Leiter des Clusterprojekts‭, ‬das mit vier Satelliten das Erdmagnetfeld erforschen sollte‭. ‬Es gab immer Geldmangel bei der‭ ESA, ‬irgendwo hat es immer gezwickt‭, ‬also wurden immer billigere Wege gesucht‭. ‬Dann endlich wurden 1996‭ ‬die Satelliten nach Französisch-Guyana zum Start auf der ersten Ariane 5‭ ‬geflogen‭. ‬Gleich nach dem Start explodierte die Rakete‭. ‬13‭ ‬Jahre Arbeit waren‭ ‬in 20‭ ‬Sekunden kaputt‭. ‬Es war ein Riesendrama‭, ‬wir haben alle geweint‭. ‬Das hat mir gezeigt‭, ‬wie riskant unser Geschäft ist‭. ‬Die‭ ‬Weltraumfahrt ist unverzeihlich‭. ‬Wenn irgendwo eine Fehlermöglichkeit im System besteht‭, ‬dann ist es nur eine Frage der Zeit‭, ‬bis der Fehler tödlich wird‭. ‬Bei Ariane 5‭ ‬hat man Software vom Vorgänger wiederverwendet‭. ‬Ariane 4‭ ‬beschleunigt so gemächlich wie‭ ‬ein VW-Transporter‭, ‬Ariane 5‭ ‬ist wie ein Porsche‭. ‬Die Steuerungssoftware kam damit nicht klar‭. ‬Es gab dann mit Cluster 2‭ ‬aber einen erfolgreichen Nachbau‭. ‬

Sie haben immer mit Satelliten gearbeitet‭, ‬wie stehen Sie zur bemannten Raumfahrt‭? ‬

SCHMIDT ‬Es wird Zeit‭, ‬dass wir etwas anderes machen als die International Space Station‭. ‬Die Amerikaner schlagen einen Lunar Gateway vor‭, ‬eine bemannte Kapsel im Bereich des Mondes‭. ‬Sie könnte um Lagrange-Punkte kreisen‭, ‬wo es Stabilität zwischen Erd‭- ‬und Mondschwere gibt‭, ‬oder um den Mond selber‭. ‬So ein Gateway soll der erste Schritt sein‭, ‬um von dort aus weiter zum Mars zu fliegen oder‭ ‬zu einem Asteroiden‭. ‬

Die nächste große Reise soll zum Mars gehen‭? ‬

SCHMIDT ‬Das ist die nächste große Herausforderung‭. ‬Aber um das zu finanzieren‭, ‬bräuchte es einen Super-Kennedy‭. ‬Ich bin überzeugt‭, ‬dass es technisch möglich ist‭, ‬und auch geistig und körperlich sollten Astronauten eine Reise von drei Jahren hin und zurück aushalten‭. ‬Heute ist es Elon Musk mit Falcon 9‭, ‬der Druck macht‭. ‬Am Ende wird auch Musk das Geld ausgehen‭, ‬aber er könnte das Fass ins Rollen bringen‭. ‬Die Regierungsbehörden NASA und ESA, ‬Chinesen‭, ‬Inder‭, ‬Japaner und Russen müssten alle zusammenarbeiten‭. ‬Einer allein kann so eine Mission‭ ‬nicht auf die Beine stellen‭.‬

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photo: ESA
20.10.2018

Mercury, we come: BepiColombo sets out.

For 17 years there had been thinking and planning, developing and constructing – but in the early hours of October 20th the time has finally  come: The European-Japanese probe BepiColombo sets out on its 7 year long journey to Mercury.

On board: ingenious Austrian space technology such as a thermal isolation that is supposed to protect the probe against extreme temperature variations between -180°C up to 450°C. Only in the year 2025 BepiColombo (named after the Italian mathematician and engeneer Guiseppe „Bepi“ Colombo) will reach its destination – if everything goes well. As the flight is full of danger: The probe has to circle some planets multiple times in order to reduce speed and not fall into the center of the solar system. If the experiment succeeds, BepiColombo will research Mercury in all details and win new knowledge about the genesis of the entire solar system, especially the earth-like planets. But this mission is not only of big interest in scientific respects: Orders worth of some 40 mio. Euros were flowing to Austria – more than in any other space mission before. The Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences was partly leading the development of two magnetometers and one mass spectrometer. 

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02.10.2018

New Human Footprint: Pictures from space

Environment protection just has gained some new impressing arguments: pictures from space that are very worth seeing

The recently published illustrated book "New Human Footprint - unsere Welt im Umbruch" by the authors Markus Eisl, Gerald Mansberger and Paul Schreilechner documents the exploitation of the earth by human beings on the basis of impressing satellite images. From the unmissable scars that are produced by the mining industry to the consequences of forestry and agriculture, energy and transportation infrastructure. But besides all the social critisism the opulently illustrated book also shows the beauty and diversity of our planet.

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