FireBIRD is an earth observation mission with the primary goal of monitoring fires from space. It involves the detection and measurement of so-called high-temperature events and the provision of remote sensing science data for research at DLR and for external partners.
It is organized as a research and development project under the auspices of DLR’s Aerospace Research and Technology program division with solely science goals, and all aspects of the mission are under DLR control.
The space segment consists of the two satellites TET-1 (Technology Experiment Carrier) and BIROS (Berlin InfraRed Optical System). The TET-1 satellite has been circling Earth in a polar orbit since July 2012 and has successfully concluded the first part of its mission as a technology testing platform. The BIROS satellite has the same bus as TET-1, but is additionally equipped with a propulsion system for active attitude and orbit control. BIROS will be launched in the third quarter of 2015. The main payload for both satellites is a multispectral camera system.
The main payload is an infrared system consisting of three camera modules for quantitatively analysing high temperature events. The capabilities of the basic configuration were already confirmed in the BIRD mission. The camera system has three physically independent line scan cameras: one for the visible and near-infrared range and two cameras recording in the mid-infrared and longwave infrared ranges, each with its own power supply and command and data interfaces.
This guarantees functional independence in case one of the modules fails. It offers many possibilities to optimize various measurement tasks as well. For example, it is possible not to turn on the multi-function camera for night-time recording in order to relieve the power and thermal regime. Mechanically, all cameras are mounted on a common optical bench, which optimally supports the mutual alignments necessary for operations. The cameras are also coupled via internal interface circuitry so that they can be reciprocally synchronized. The circuits are passive when a module is not connected in order to preserve the principle of independence and to avoid error propagation.
As with the previous BIRD satellite, the primary payload of the FireBIRD mission on the TET-1 and BIROS satellites was developed at the DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems. It consists of a bi-spectral infrared sensor, which records signals in the mid- and thermal-infrared spectral ranges (3.4-4.2 microns and 8.5–9.3 microns). An additional camera records three channels in the range of visible light through near-infrared. The first FireBIRD satellite, TET-1, was launched on 22 July 2012 as part of the On Orbit Verification (OOV-TET) mission of DLR’s Space Administration Division. The second satellite, BIROS, is a copy of the TET-1 bus with construction financed by a grant from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. At an altitude of approximately 570 km in sun-synchronous orbits the two satellites operate in a constellation which can be influenced to a certain extent by so-called “phasing” of BIROS. The purpose of FireBIRD is to explore and demonstrate the expanded possibilities offered by a satellite constellation for remotely sensing fires.