BelKA: Synchronizing Watches

The first Belarusian satellite is to be launched in March 2006. Minsk, Russia and Baikonur launching site are all getting ready to send Belarus’ BelKA to outer space
The work to launch the first Belarusian satellite is very close to completion, Academician Sergei Zhdanok, the director of the Belarusian earth remote sensing project, tells me. — Although we cooperate with a number of international organizations, this is a purely Belarusian project.

A huge satellite dish has been installed on a building in Surganova Street, in Minsk. The dish is nine meters in diameter, but Sergei Zhdanok calls it “a minor ground segment” of a most complicated infrastructure that allows receiving and processing information from space. The “space segment”, which includes the equipment that will be delivered to orbit, was being created simultaneously with the “visible” dish.

“The ground segment is ready for work,” Zhdanok goes on to say. “We have established a sort of headquarters, the National center of reception and processing of space information. We have adjusted the intricate electronic insides of the center and are ready to receive and process information from BelKA. We are using it in the test mode now (they call it a flight-test stage): we receive, process and send to consumers the signals coming from Russian satellites Meteor and Monitor, which have the same communicating channels.

The center has been connected to the main consumers of space information. “This is an essential part of the project,” the director of the project says. “Ukraine had a satellite project a couple of years ago, but they were hurrying and failed to test the ground equipment. As a result they suffered considerable losses. We are developing the two systems simultaneously as an integrated Belarusian space system of earth remote sensing.”

“Satellite, where are you? Over”

More than a hundred companies took part in making the satellite, which is now being tested in Russia’s Federal Space Agency.
— BelKA is unique, the academician says. — No other country makes such satellites, so if we manage to carry out this project, we will start batch production of devices that were made exclusively for BelKA.

To Baikonur!

After the test mode has been completed a commission of leading specialists from Belarus and Russia will give it a final review in February. After that BelKA will be sent to Baikonur, where the Dnepr carrier is waiting for it.

Last autumn Sergei Zhdanok observed a similar carrier take two Japanese satellites to the orbit that is close to that of BelKA. The carrier worked perfectly well. It is important that all tests were conducted together with Belarusian scientists, who can be sure that the orbit parameters they enter will be accurate.

When will BelKA start working? A special commission will decide.

Ivan Ivanov
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