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SENER Aeroespacial has delivered qualification models for the ESA’s PROBA-3 mission, which will study the Sun’s corona


SENER Aeroespacial has completed the testing and provided the customer with qualification models of the mechanisms for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) PROBA-3 mission. SENER Aeroespacial’s engineering team has designed, manufactured and tested two important components of the coronagraph satellite.

The contract to provide the Satellite Arresting and Retarding Mechanism (SAHRM) and the Solar Arresting and Retracting Mechanism (SADM) was one of the first significant contracts that Polish companies were awarded after Poland joined the ESA. According to Marcin Wygachiewicz, Project Manager at SENER Aeroespacial in Poland, after several years of hard work the engineering team has completed an important milestone in the project: “We conducted a number of tests: vibration, temperature and multiple functional tests, among others, which the mechanisms passed successfully. Once the documentation was completed, the qualification models were sent to the customer, Airbus Spain.”

The project manager emphasizes that mechanisms are one of the SENER Aeroespacial specialties in Poland, and that SENER Aeroespacial has already delivered devices of this type for Rosalind Franklin rover (ExoMars, ESA mission). The larger the portfolio and the so-called «space heritage» (i.e. the experience presented in the portfolio of similar products realized in the space industry), the greater the company’s chances of winning subsequent tenders both from the ESA and from commercial companies.

PROBA-3, the ESA’s mission which will study the Sun’s corona

PROBA is a program of the European Space Agency (ESA) that aims to demonstrate satellite platform and payload technologies in orbit. The prime contractor for this mission is SENER Aeroespacial. PROBA-3 consists of two small satellite platforms that will move in orbit in formation, maintaining the precision of each other’s positions. They will perform a series of maneuvers and experimental measurements that will allow to assess the correct functioning of the new algorithms and control systems required for this and future missions. Additionally, the relative mutual precision and stability of these maneuvers will be verified.

Both satellite platforms will be controlled as if they were elements of a common ultra-stable and rigid structure, forming a large coronagraph with an extremely complex optical system that will be used to study the Sun’s corona, an additional scientific objective of the mission. The instrument will be created by precisely positioning two satellites about 150m apart from each other. One of them (the occulter) will cover the Sun’s disk, while the other (the coronagraph) will observe its corona: “The outer occulter on one of the satellites will block the light from the sun’s disk, while the coronal light will pass around the covering disk and then through the circular slit of the coronagraph on the other satellite. After passing through the complicated optical system in the instrument, an image of the Sun’s corona will be created,» explains Marcin Wygachiewicz.

The resulting powerful instrument will be larger than any single device that could be launched into orbit using current technology.

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