The Project for On-Board Autonomy (Proba) is a technology demonstration mission of the European Space Agency, funded within the frame of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme. It is managed by ESA’s Control and Data Systems Division within the Department of Electrical Engineering, part of the Directorate for Technical and Operational Support at ESA/ESTEC.
Proba-1 left the heat of the Indian equator on Monday 22 October 2001, to head for a chilly polar orbit, 600 km above the Earth’s surface. The spacecraft was launched at 04:53 GMT (09:53 local time,06:53 CET), as a piggyback payload on India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), from the launch station at Shriharikota - a small island 100km from Madras.
It was the first ESA spacecraft with fully autonomous capabilities, meaning it was designed virtually unaided, performing everyday tasks like navigation, payload and resource management with little involvement by staff at ESA's ground station in Redu, Belgium.
The innovative design and operating systems were the result of ESA's collaboration with prime contractor Verhaert Design and Development of Belgium, working alongside other European companies and universities. Proba-1 has given engineers the opportunity to evaluate the advantages of autonomous spacecraft operation.
Proba-1's payload was desgined to be controlled by a computer system 50 times more powerful than its counterpart onboard ESA's full-size solar observing satellite, SOHO, allowing the micro-satellite to combine in-orbit technology demonstration, such as an onboard mission planning and onboard navigation and failure detection, with some useful monitoring of the Earth's environment.
The instruments on board were CHRIS (Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer, from SIRA/UK), DEBIE (Debris In-Orbit Evaluator, from Patria Finnanvitec/FIN) and SREM (Standard Radiation Environment Monitor, from Contraves/CH). Proba-1 also carries two imagers, a Wide Angle Camera (WAC) and a High Resolution Camera (HRC) with a 10 metre resolution, both built by OIP of Belgium.
The cameras will also be used by students from selected Belgian schools whose experiment proposals have been accepted under the EDUPROBA project.
Images of the Earth and other data gathered by Proba-1 were palnned to be sent direct to a webserver located at the ESA ground station in Redu, Belgium, where scientists are now able to access the information over the Internet as soon as it is delivered from the satellite.
In the first three months after launch, the satellite was tested by Verhaert from the ground station in Redu. The satellite was then handed over to ESA and the scientific user community. Proba-1 was expected to operate for at least two years.
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