Improving vision with new satellite
‘While our spaceships furrow the universe...’ is the well-known phrase from the film by director Leonid Gaidai. Residents of the USSR had every right to say so; in 1965, when the famous comedy was released, the Soviet Union led space exploration. By that time, it had been eight years since Soviet scientists had launched the first artificial satellite and four years since Yury Gagarin had been sent into space. It was also one year since a manned spacecraft had been launched into orbit and, in 1965, Leonid Leonov performed his ‘space-walk’.
By Yury Chernyakevich
Belarusians were also involved in the Soviet space programme and, then, took part in the Russian programme. Various domestic enterprises are masters of optical devices and solar cells — used for orbital space stations. In Soviet times, two of our countrymen — Piotr Klimuk and Vladimir Kovalenok — took part in three space missions. At the end of October last year, the third native of Belarus flew into space: Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who was born in the town of Cherven, in the Minsk Region. He returned recently, in mid-March.
At the end of July 2012, Baikonur cosmodrome launched a Russian rocket, carrying twin satellites: one was the first Belarusian spacecraft. At a recent press conference, in Minsk, devoted to World Cosmonautics Day, journalists were told that our satellite is orbiting at about 500km above the Earth — visible to the naked eye. Its task is to photograph the planet’s surface, transmitting data to a terrestrial control centre located in Belarus. The shots are invaluable to our forestry and agricultural ministries, helping predict harvests (using the electromagnetic radiation spectrum). They’re also useful to the Emergency Situations Ministry, foreseeing floods and dry season fires. The Belarusian satellite is currently working in tandem with the Russian satellite, raising efficiency by doubling the number of images available to both our countries.
Of course, technical characteristics are being ever improved, with scientists continually working on the next generation of satellite, to remain competitive. With the same size and weight, definition is being improved, allowing vision to one metre (rather than the current two). The next satellite to be launched is a joint project by Belarusian and Russian scientists. At the press-conference in Minsk, the Chief Designer of the Belarusian Space System for Remote Earth Sensing, Sergey Zolotoy, noted that the governments of our two countries are discussing expanding the orbital group of satellites. If all goes well then, besides the existing two satellites, another Belarusian and two Russian satellites will be launched. A feasibility study is underway. He notes that five satellites is the optimal number, ensuring systematic monitoring of the surface of our planet.
“Most of our ministries have placed orders for images, which we’ll be able to meet,” explains Mr. Zolotoy. Other countries are also interested in using the data, with negotiations ongoing regarding the purchase of images. The Russian Federal Space Agency is speaking to a number of European firms and has plans to co-operate with Cuba, Venezuela and countries in South-East Asia. Clearly, funds invested in the national space programme are paying dividends.
A new national space programme for the next five years has been developed. Besides the launch of another satellite for remote Earth sensing, a mini-satellite is planned, as well as a communication satellite.