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Fifteen years of flying high

Flight Control Centre of Belarusian system of Earth remote sensing continues its work, located within the NAS’ United Institute of Informatics Problems
By Vladimir Yakovlev

Flight Control Centre of Belarusian system of Earth remote sensing continues its work, located within the NAS’ United Institute of Informatics Problems

Visiting the National Academy of Sciences’ Flight Control System, I arrive just as a communication session with the Belarusian satellite is due to commence. Soaring over our planet at a height of over 520km, it shows as a red point on a huge wall-mounted monitor, moving on a parabolic orbit around the sphere of Earth.

This is its 12th orbit in 24 hours: one of 9,178 orbits to date. As we watch, the satellite crosses the Indian Ocean, then Asia and, at last, enters the visibility zone of the tracker station located in Belarus. This happens 2-3 times daily and again through the night. Radio communication channels begin to deliver data on the condition of systems within the satellite, and visual recordings from its flight.

Antenna of Belarusian space satellite

The data is of growing interest to experts across various ministries and departments: agrarians and foresters, meteorologists and employees of the Ministry for Emergency Situations, as well as land managers. Russia also likes to receive our data, and shares that from its own satellite: Kanopus-B. Both transmit black-and-white images with resolution of up to 2m; the Belarusian satellite works as a pair with its Russian twin, doubling data volumes. The tandem was launched in 2012 via a Russian carrier rocket.

Union State space research programmes and a number of bilateral agreements guide the work of our satellites but Belarusian-Russian scientific and technical programmes have been in operation since 1999, when Kosmos-BR was adopted, 15 years ago. Under the aegis of the Belarusian NAS’ United Institute of Informatics Problems, we have worked with Russian partners on three such joint projects. According to Belarus’ CEO of Union Programmes, Sergey Korenyako, by the end of last year, a fourth programme had begun: Monitoring-SG, lasting until 2017.

Inside the Flight Control Centre of the Belarusian space satellite

Mr. Korenyako tells us, “Firstly, we are designing equipment for terrestrial testing of space systems and components. This is vital, to ensure greater reliability and lifespan for satellites and carrier rockets. The creation of high-resolution equipment for remote Earth sensing is also essential. Our latest radar systems will operate in all weathers and without sunlight. Our aim is to improve the quality of data received from the satellite, and the processing and transmission of this data to clients. Meanwhile, we are setting up a new training base for those working in the space sphere.”

Sixty partners are participating in these tasks, including major organisations within Belarus’ NAS and the Belarusian State University, and Roskosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency). Results are not yet announced, but there’s no doubt that long-term Belarusian-Russian co-operation in the space sphere, built upon Soviet roots, will bear fruit.
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