Fire detection from space
FireBIRD mission


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  • BIROS%2dNutzlastkomponenten in schematischer Darstellung
    Schematic representation of BIROS payload components

    In addition to the HSRS infrared camera system, the BIROS small satellite also has other devices for experiments on further developing on-board technology.

  • BIROS und TET%2d1: The fire magnifiers
    The BIROS and TET-1 satellites: Fire magnifiers for the FireBIRD mission

    BIROS is the second satellite of the FireBIRD mission. The main payload is a highly sensitive infrared camera system equipped with 'fire magnifiers' that, like its 'brother' satellite TET-1, can be used as an early fire warning system and for climate research from space.

The BIROS satellite (Bispectral InfraRed Optical System) is the second of the FireBIRD satellites launched in July 2016. It is not a straightforward replica of its four-year-old 'brother' TET-1, but rather represents a new stage in the process of continuous development. Small satellites not only serve the purpose of Earth observation, but also the progress being made in this kind of technology.

BIROS has a greater payload than its counterpart when comparing the total mass of the satellites. While TET-1 components made up 42 percent the satellite, BIROS components have been increased to 46 percent. More payload means the acquisition of more scientific data, allowing for the early detection of fires for instance and, with that, higher economic efficiency in Earth observation missions from space, as well as the development of a system that improves remote sensing from space that can also be used in climate research.

BIROS has also been equipped with a new cold gas propulsion system that it will test. This system enables manoeuvres to be carried out whilst in orbit, so that the satellite's orbital position can be actively changed. Newly designed reaction wheels (High Torque Wheels) built into the satellites allow for the infrared cameras to be quickly and accurately positioned. These two capabilities make it possible to repeatedly capture data from the same region or area of Earth's surface, but from different angles.

Internal data processing and communication with Earth have also been greatly improved. A completely new on-board computer allows BIROS to process data at a speed that was unimaginable for former small satellites. The orbiter can then send its data to Earth via an optical (laser) downlink at a speed of up to one gigabyte per second. A separate modem can be used to send text messages about the parameters of detected fires directly to mobile devices in almost real time.

Further technology experiments on BIROS

In addition to cold gas propulsion, a laser communication system, and High Torque Wheels, BIROS is equipped with other experiments:

  • BEESAT-4, a pico-satellite (cubesat); a tiny 'high-tech die' with an edge length of just 10 centimetres. It will be separated from BIROS and communicate with it during formation flight via an inter-satellite link.
  • AVANTI, an experiment for researching formation flight
  • VAMOS and VIMOS: Software experiments, researching autonomous on-board mission planning and analysis

Operation and finance

BIROS, just like TET-1, will also be operated and monitored from the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen, and the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) with its antenna facilities in Neustrelitz. The development, construction and operation will be funded by DLR. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will also support construction by contributing 5 million Euros.

Overview of important system parameters in BIROS
Type of orbit LEO (Low Earth Orbit)
Average orbital altitude 510 kilometres
Orbital inclination (angle between the equator and the orbit) 97.4 degrees
Potential alignments of the payload Sun, earth, nadir (vertical direction to Earth), zenith (extended vertical direction), direction of flight, deep space
Frequency range for communication S-band / UHF
Position and orbit control three-axle stabilisation
Propulsion based on cold gas (relative speed: approx. 3 metres/second)
Average power 70 watts
Maximum power 200 watts
Temperature range -10 to +30 degrees Celsius
Nominal battery voltage  20 to 24 volts
Maximum current 12 amperes
Payload data rate 2.2 megabytes/second per S-Band,
1 gigabyte/second - optical transfer
Data storage 40 gigabytes
BIROS dimensions LxWxH
58 x 115 x 65 centimetres

Payload dimensions LxWxH


46 x 66 x 42 centimetres
TET gross mass of payload 60 kilograms
TET total mass 130 Kilogramm

Last modified:
06/12/2018 16:00:40



Philipp Burtscheidt
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Media Relations

Tel.: +49 2203 601-2323
Stephanie Kaufhold
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems, Department Public Relations

Tel.: +49 30 67055-636