Post Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:47 am

The first Romanian satellite, Goliat, to be launched in 2011

The European Space Agency ESA, representing the interests of the 18 members, the ArianeSpace company, ELV SpA (European Launch Vehicle) and Evry France have signed recently the VERTA document- Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment Program which establishes the mass production for the components of the new launcher, covering in the first phase 5 new missions apart the test flight (on the sponsored list we can find the European satellites ADM Aeolus, Lisa Pathfinder, the Swarm constellation and IEV-Intermediate Experimental Vehicle).
With this, the Vega project moves from the designing and development phase to the exploitation phase.

This huge operation called Vega involves directly 7 European countries (Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Swiss and Sweden) prime contractor being the Italian company ELV SpA where the Italian Space Agency ASI holds 30% of the shares and the rest is the property of Avio SpA.
The group will be represented by ArianeSpace who will offer on the commercial market the rocket’s new launching services and it will take care of all the operational aspects.

The first flight approaches fast, the first stage P 80 of the rocket has been prepared and waits fully loaded at the French Guyana space center, while the other two stages (Zefiro 23 and Zefiro 9) and the rest of the avionics payload have been assembled in Italy and wait to be transported in Kourou.
Unfortunately, the testing agenda proved to be again unrealistic because the modernization and construction operations of the infrastructure in Kourou, have been slowly than expected.
The engineers currently work on several fronts (the usual preparation of the Ariane5 flights are going normally and supplementary are made efforts to bring into operations the newcomers Vega and Soyuz).
Soyuz, which has a proven technology will enter the operation directly and will have priority being able to bring fast income to the company.
The ArianeSpace director said that probably the Soyuz will have the first flight at the beginning of 2011, followed in an interval of couple of months (mid 2011) by the first Vega flight.

Vega intends to be positioned in the niche of the small launchers bellow the Ariane5 (the big class ArianeSpace launcher) and the newcomer –the modernized Soyuz which will operate in the medium sector.
ArianeSpace did not have a launcher in this niche, but the estimations speak about at least two Vega launches per year.

The rocket, with a weight of 137 tones, 30 m in length and a diameter of 3m, has four stages: a P 80 engine using solid fuel for the first stage-with a 3040kN force of traction and 107 s burning time, a Zefiro 23 engine powered by solid fuel for the second stage- with a force of 1200 kN and a burning time of 71 s, again a solid fuel engine type Zefiro 9-with a force of 213 kN and a burning time of 117s and finally a fourth stage powered by liquid fuel engine AVUM (Attitude and Vernier Upper Module) with a force of 2.45 kN and a burning time of 315 s.
The launcher is able to put in a circular, 700km height orbit, a satellite weighting up to 1500 kg which is usually the characteristic of the scientific Earth observation satellites.

The Vega rocket will use the spaceport ELA-1 from French Guyana – the same place used before by the Ariane 3 and Ariane 1 rockets. The hangar needed a complete refurbishment starting from the buildings of the complex and continuing with the auxiliary electrical, protection or control systems and last but not least the transport mechanisms. More, there will be a new mobile platform transporting the rocket, with a height of 50 m and a speed of 5m/minute, being able to cover the distance of 80 m which separates the operational position and the parking place.
The launch campaign for a standard flight has been increased from the current 2-3 weeks to 42 days, just to ensure the proper preparation, taking into account that the new rocket could serve in the future up to 4 flights per year.

Unfortunately neither the other rocket which will take part of the European launching system- the Soyuz 2 is not in a better condition, this program having also big delays.
Because it was impossible for ArianeSpace to serve the first flight in December 2010 and in order to avoid the loss of a first client- the British company Avanti Communications who wanted to launch their Hylas 1 satellite using the services in French Guyana, the company has decided to move the spacecraft onboard its Ariane 5 flight from November 2010 as the rocket has a dual launch capacity, used successfully many times before.
This being said, the inaugural Soyuz 2 flight from Kourou, will be probably marked by a political decision, ESA or CNES giving as alternatives one of their Galileo or Pleiades satellites.
Compared with the original version launched from Baikonur or Plesetsk, Soyuz 2-1a has increased the transport capacity from 1.7 tones to 2.7 tones (for a geostationary orbit).
This happens not only due to the technical modifications but also because a flight from Kourou is closer to the Equator, the Earth rotation bringing a supplementary delta to the velocity of the launcher.
It is also foreseen a Soyuz 2-1b version which will put in place an update of the flight control system, an increase of the third stage traction and another fairing system with an increased volume. With all these innovations, this Soyuz version will be able to lift 3.6 tones into a geostationary orbit.

The ArianeSpace company has reported for the financial year 2009, an income of 1.046 billions euro, increased with 9.4% compared with 2008, an income where the major contribution came from the 7 Ariane 5 flights operated in 2009 versus the 6 ones from 2008.
The previsions for the future are even better as in February 2009 a new contract of 4 billions euro has been signed, including a number of 35 new Ariane 5 units to be operated during the next years, without counting here the contribution that the newcomers Vega and Soyuz will bring soon.

The commercial market has been dominated in the last period by the variations of the launching cost especially because of the dumping prices used by the SeaLaunch operator, but as with the bankruptcy of this one, the analysts are expecting a come back of the launching prices to some realistic values, and a better economical perspective for the two major actors remained on this stage the ArianeSpace and ILS-International Launch Services.

Romania, which is at his first space adventure with the Goliat satellite, will have to wait a bit more until the road to space will open. Delayed again, the Romanian team coordinated by the Romanian Space Agency ROSA will have to see, like the other participants, how the Vega agenda will continue and when the inaugural flight will actually take place.
The Goliat project which aims to lift the first Romanian satellite in orbit, has been started in 2005 by ROSA, having an initial budget of approximately 400.000 euro.
It is a nanosatellite based on the American Cubesat standard, cube-shaped 10x10x10 cm and weighting 1 kg. There are three scientific experiments onboard: SAMIS which aims to measure the meteorites flux, Dose-N which should measure the cosmic radiation dose on an Earth orbit and probably the most valuable, the acquisition of images from a 3Mpixels and 21x28 m ground resolution camera installed on the satellite.

The latest information speak about an elliptical orbit 350x750 km with an inclination of 71 degrees which would be a major change compared with the initial requirements of the designing team – a circular polar orbit with 500 km altitude.
In more concrete terms it will mean the project will only cover the medium latitude sites and will never reach the poles. Most of the scientific missions are launched in polar orbits because they need to have a complete set of Earth data and this is the only type of orbit which can ensure a full coverage (also for the poles).
The Romanian project and some other 8 satellites from the same category are given the chance to fly in the inaugural launch of the European Vega rocket (most of these satellites coming from emergent countries which, as Romania, have started their national space programs and will soon join the European Space Agency):

-SwissCube (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland)
-Xatcobeo (University of Vigo and INTA, Spain)
-UNICubeSAT (University of Rome, Italy)
-Robusta (University of Montpellier 2, France)
-AtmoCube (University of Trieste, Italy)
-e-st@r (Politecnico di Torino, Italy)
-OUFTI-1 (University of Liège, Belgium)
-PW-Sat (Warsaw University of Technology, Poland)

These 9 Cubesats are attached to the main payload- LARES (Laser RElativity Satellite) and the ALMASat (Alma Mater Satellite) a demonstrative mission developed from 1993 by the Bologna University. As with the previous Italian missions Unisat 1 and 2, the mission is trying to develop a modular concept able to integrate a large variety of scientific experiments at a very low cost.

Romania is involved in another 2 European space programs, two of the universities from Bucharest- the Polytechnic University of Bucharest and University of Bucharest being included on the research center list who will work for the development of the ESMO and ESEO projects.

ESEO or European Student Earth Orbiter is the third satellite designed for the Education Satellite Program of ESA- in fact a micro-satellite operated in a LEO orbit and intends to capture Earth images, to measure the radiation level and to test new technologies such as new star cameras, reaction wheels etc.

ESMO or the European Student Moon Orbiter will be the first educational satellite to be sent to the Moon. With a technology inspired by the previous ESA’s Smart 1 mission it will be the fourth satellite from the Education Satellite Program. The main contractor is the Surrey Technology Limited from UK and subcontractors spread trough several universities from ESA member or cooperating states.
Romania is represented in this project by the Polytechnic University of Bucharest- responsible for ADCS and structure systems and by University of Bucharest- responsible for the development of the radiation monitoring experiment.