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Key systems for ground support for space missions are being developed in Poland


In ensuring the success and safety of a mission, even before launch, ground support equipment (MGSE) plays a key role. Their operation protects, first and foremost, against malfunctions of equipment operating in space, but also reduces the risk of financial loss and disruption of research. Many of these devices are made in our country, in companies such as Sener, whose Warsaw branch develops MGSE kits for European Space Agency missions, such as: Euclid, Comet Interceptor or most recently – the FORUM mission.

Mechanical Ground Support Equipment (MGSE) is specialized ground equipment whose role is to support and oversee space missions, from preparation on the ground to successful completion of the task in space. They include, among others, transport equipment, containers, test adapters or stabilizing racks, characterized by their impressive size and weight of up to several tons.  MGSEs are used for a number of essential activities, such as testing, transporting and assembling space equipment prior to launch into space. This allows optimization of equipment parameters and identification of potential problems while still on the ground, thereby reducing the risk of mission failure.

The focus is often on high-tech mechanisms that are sent into space, but equally important are those acting as support during any ground operations. Demanding test procedures, precise integration of space equipment and satellites, or taking care of the safe transportation of delicate parts, not only within production halls, but also between different test and integration locations around the world. All this translates into the subsequent operation of satellites and the instruments on them in space, minimizing risks and possible losses. The development of space competence and technology would not be possible without advanced equipment from the MGSE field, says Jakub Pierzchała, Business Development Manager at the Polish branch of Sener.

Polish specialization

MGSEs are one of the key specializations of the Polish space sector. One of its representatives in Poland is Sener, whose engineers worked, for example, on the Euclid mission, where they were responsible for designing, manufacturing and testing a set of 13 mechanisms for ground equipment supporting the assembly of the Euclid satellite. To date, it was the largest such kit produced entirely in Poland. Today, the company is working to deliver a new, record-breaking set of 15 MGSE instruments for its planned 2029 Comet Interceptor mission, which aims to study comets and other objects from the Solar System that will approach the Sun for the first time, and is also winning brand-new contracts, including for ESA’s FORUM mission.

Investigating climate change from space

As part of the FORUM project, polish engineers from Sener will manufacture four MGSE instruments that will be used to integrate and test the optical instrument. These include: Instrument Integration Frame, Instrument Lifting Device, Thermal-Vacuum Fixture and Mechanical Test Adapter. The first part of the project will be completed in July, and the second in October 2024. OHB DE is in charge of the project.

In the context of the FORUM mission, where the accuracy of radiation measurements is critical to the success of the project, and the high purity requirements for MGSE equipment are of utmost importance, MGSEs also play a key role in aligning all equipment with the demanding and advanced standards imposed by OHB and ESA.

We have adapted the mechanisms to the ISO-5 level, a standard for air purity that imposes very strict requirements for the amount of microscopic particles, such as dust or particulate matter, that can be present in the air. In practice, maintaining such cleanliness means minimizing potential contaminants, which is crucial for complex measurement processes and obtaining the highest quality data. This, in turn, translates into a more complete understanding of the impact of greenhouse gases on the climate, making a fundamental contribution to global atmospheric research and climate change, says Przemyslaw Rudzinski, Project Manager of the FORUM project at the Polish branch of Sener.

FORUM (Far-infrared Outgoing Radiation Understanding and Monitoring) is the ninth mission of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Explorer program to measure infrared radiation emitted by the Earth in the far-infrared region. The mission aims to understand the greenhouse effect, improving the precision of climate change assessments and supporting environmental policy decisions.

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