BIROS – A small satellite on the move
Forty degrees Celsius and approximately 60 percent humidity – these are the weather conditions outside. That is why the BIROS team is happy to work in the cool cleanrooms of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in India for most of the day. They are working out here, as the launch date for the BIROS (Bispectral InfraRed Optical System) microsatellite is drawing near. It is due to be launched from the SDSC on the island of Sriharikota on the south coast of India on 22 June 2016. BIROS and its partner satellite TET-1 (Technologie-Erprobungsträger 1; Technology Experiment Carrier 1) will then orbit Earth at an altitude of 500 kilometres, from where they will each use two infrared cameras to keep an eye on forest fires and other high-temperature events. A great deal of work and coordination effort will have been carried out before BIROS can start its work in space – 10 DLR institutes have been working for three years on preparing the satellites for their mission.
From Adlershof to India
The group of scientists from the DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems reached the Indian city of Chennai on 10 May. At that point, BIROS was already at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, some 80 kilometres away, after having been picked up from Berlin-Adlershof on 4 May. The buzzing metropolis of Chennai awaited the scientists and engineers. In 2014, the city was the sixth largest in India with 4.9 million inhabitants – and it is still growing.##markend##
The first task for the DLR team was to unpack the microsatellite from its transportation crate and thoroughly check the payload. Did everything survive the trip OK? Is the software functioning properly? After the first tests, it was clear that all systems were operational. Power currents were flowing, the downlink was functioning. The final preparations are now underway. The containers for the cold gas thrusters are being filled and BIROS is being placed on the rocket's multi-satellite platform to check if everything fits (matching test). BIROS will be sharing the launch rocket with 19 other satellites.
Since the launch was postponed by the launch provider, the team now has a little more time to investigate the local area, visit the nearby markets and temples and try out the varied Indian cuisine.
The launch date draws near
As the launch date approaches, the scientists continue their work under high pressure during the final weekend. They need to work fast as the monsoon season is on its way, bringing torrential rainfall and flooded roads.
But the DLR team has done it and the satellite has been tested and is ready for launch. The rocket engineers are making progress as well. Using images from the cameras, the scientists can actually follow the progress on site live. At first, only empty hangars could be seen, and gradually the rocket stages grew into a complete PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) launcher. The payload will need to be integrated shortly before the launch. BIROS will be integrated into the rocket along with the other satellites on the multi-satellite platform. Then, it will come down to hoping for success and crossing fingers. The gods will need to look approvingly on this launch date – without their blessing the rocket cannot be launched. The scientists and engineers from Berlin are on their way back to Germany after a month of hard work. There is nothing more for them to do on site – they can just as easily cross their fingers back home.