Space | 04. July 2016

BIROS to Earth…

Das BIROS%2dTeam im Deutschen%2dRaumfahrt%2dKontrollzentrum (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The BIROS team in the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen

It only took around 15 minutes for BIROS, the small remote sensing satellite, to report back to us for the first time after the successful launch of the Indian PSLV-C34 (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket on 22 June 2016. Prior to this, the microsatellite had separated from the rocket at precisely 507 kilometres.

This initial contact during a flyover above the O’Higgins Station operated by the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) in Antarctica was a minor surprise, as it was not entirely certain whether this first connection would be successful. We had firmly expected an initial contact during the flyover above Inuvik Station in North Canada approximately one hour after take-off. But plenty of things had to come together to make this initial contact work: firstly, separation from the rocket had to be precise; secondly, the satellite passed over the ground station at a very flat angle, making the duration of possible contact quite short. So this fleeting sign of life was simply the icing on the cake for our team at the German Space Operations Center (GSOC). BIROS had arrived safe and sound!##markend##

First sign of life from the fire satellite

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Control room K1 at GSOC. The monitor shows the launch trajectory of the PSLV-C34 during take-off.

The entire GSOC team working in mission operations, alongside the satellite team from the DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems, anxiously waited in control room K1 in Oberpfaffenhofen for BIROS (Bispectral InfraRed Optical System) to beam the first data back to Earth. The information we received first confirmed that our fire detection satellite had successfully booted its on-board computer and that the attitude control system, which keeps it properly oriented in three dimensions, had also started to work without a hitch. Once the command to adjust the on-board time to the correct setting was executed, there was no doubt that the so-called first acquisition with telemetry and tele-command was working flawlessly.

All systems up and running

The later stages of the launch and early orbit phase (LEOP) were practically straight from the book. All systems were put into operation as scheduled during the subsequent contacts with ground stations across the world: the satellite rotated to face the Sun and charge its batteries; on-board navigation by GPS (Global Positioning System) was fired up; and the process of unfolding the solar panels, which had been tucked away safely during the launch procedure, went smoothly.

In the near future, additional subsystems of the satellite bus will be put into operation during orbit. Then comes the satellite's payload system, including the payload data computer, i.e. the main payload: a multispectral camera system comprised of two infrared cameras working in various spectral ranges and a camera working in visible light. We hope to receive initial test images over the next two weeks. Then, BIROS will be able to start doing what it was designed for: detect fire events on Earth.