Mon­i­tor­ing from Outer Space

The Mon­i­tor­ing-SG pro­gram of the Union State of Be­larus and Rus­sia is de­signed to guide R&D ef­forts of Be­laru­sian and Rus­sian sci­en­tists in the area of outer space re­search

Economy of Belarus - - FRONT PAGE - Snezhana MIKHAILOVSKAYA

Be­larus and Rus­sia have been im­ple­ment­ing joint space pro­grams via the Union State for­mat for 15 years. Ev­ery space ex­plo­ration and rocket en­gi­neer­ing pro­ject drives the de­vel­op­ment of other econ­omy branches in ad­di­tion to utiliz­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies. The Union State pro­gram Mon­i­tor­ing-SG is no ex­cep­tion. Be­laru­sian and Rus­sian spe­cial­ists have been work­ing on the pro­gram for about two years. The pro­gram’s in­no­va­tive com­po­nent has a cer­tain fo­cus on rais­ing the re­li­a­bil­ity and the op­er­at­ing life of space craft, the work­ing ca­pac­ity and sur­viv­abil­ity of com­pact space craft used to re­motely scan the Earth.

Fast and True

Oth­er­wise known as Mon­i­tor­ing-SG, the Union State pro­gram “De­vel­op­ment of space and ground-based so­lu­tions to pro­vide con­sumers in Rus­sia and Be­larus with Earth re­mote sens­ing data” is the fourth pro­gram that is re­lated to the cre­ation of space craft and spe­cial in­stru­ments for space ex­plo­ration. The con­sumers are the Fed­eral Space Agency of Rus­sia and the Na­tional Academy of Sciences of Be­larus. The key con­trac­tors are the A.A. Mak­si­mov Space Sys­tems Re­search In­sti­tute, which is a branch of the M.V. Khrunichev State Space Re­search and Pro­duc­tion Cen­ter, and the United In­for­mat­ics In­sti­tute of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences of Be­larus. As many as 22 top Be­laru­sian en­ter­prises and or­ga­ni­za­tions, re­search in­sti­tu­tions and univer­si­ties and 35 Rus­sian ones are in­volved in the pro­gram’s im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Adopted in 2013, the pro­gram is de­signed to last for five years. Plans have been made to spend roughly RUB2.5 bil­lion on im­ple­ment­ing the pro­gram.

Although work on the pro­gram has been in progress for about two years, one can say to­day that ac­com­plish­ments of Be­laru­sian and Rus­sian space re­search sci­en­tists and spe­cial­ists have been im­ple­mented, orig­i­nal so­lu­tions for de­sign­ing high-tech equip­ment for deep space ex­plo­ration, bol­ster­ing the equip­ment’s re­li­a­bil­ity and op­er­a­tional life have been found. At present re­search in­sti­tu­tions and rel­e­vant en­ter­prises in Be­larus and Rus­sia are work­ing in var­i­ous fields as part of the pro­gram: the cre­ation of space craft for the re­mote sens­ing of the Earth, the de­vel­op­ment of re­li­able sci­en­tific in­stru­ments, ra­dio lo­ca­tion, hy­per­spec­tral and op­to­elec­tronic high-res­o­lu­tion equip­ment, the test­ing of new ma­te­ri­als for space craft and so on. By cre­at­ing new com­po­nents par­tic­i­pants of the pro­gram in­tend to im­prove pa­ram­e­ters of space craft and the ground-based equip­ment that will re­ceive and de­ci­pher pre­cise in­for­ma­tion sent by the space craft.

The Be­laru­sian space sys­tem for the re­mote sens­ing of the Earth that was cre­ated as part of pre­vi­ous pro­grams of the Union State of Be­larus and Rus­sia helps a lot with the ac­com­plish­ment of new tasks. The sys­tem’s data re­cep­tion cen­ter has been built with the as­sis­tance of the Rus­sian space agency. The cen­ter re­ceives data from the Be­laru­sian satel­lite and the Rus­sian satel­lite Cano­pus. Spe­cial­ists of the en­ter­prise Geoin­for­ma­tion Sys­tems ex­plained that the space craft use sim­i­lar tra­jec­to­ries. If the Be­laru­sian satel­lite is above North Amer­ica, then the Rus­sian one is some­where above East Africa. When em­ployed to­gether, they greatly re­duce sur­vey times.

It is nec­es­sary to men­tion that a lot is be­ing done to­day to de­liver data sent by the Be­laru­sian-Rus­sian or­bital group to con­sumers in Be­larus and Rus­sia. This is why within the frame­work of the Mon­i­tor­ing-SG pro­gram tech­nolo­gies, soft­ware and hard­ware so­lu­tions are be­ing de­vel­oped to ef­fec­tively process the data sent by the satel­lites with min­i­mal degra­da­tion. Sci­en­tists and highly-qual­i­fied spe­cial­ists of the uni­tary en­ter­prise Geoin­for­ma­tion Sys­tems, which is in charge of op­er­at­ing the Be­laru­sian space sys­tem for the re­mote sens­ing of

the Earth, work to op­ti­mize data stor­age and de­liver the data to con­sumers, in­clud­ing us­ing mod­ern high-per­for­mance su­per­com­put­ers and grid-based tech­nolo­gies.

Sergei Korenyako, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Be­laru­sian-Rus­sian space pro­gram Mon­i­tor­ing-SG, head of the depart­ment for joint pro­grams on space and in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies of the United In­for­mat­ics In­sti­tute of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences of Be­larus, stressed that the in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies, which are be­ing cre­ated to­day, al­low pro­cess­ing in real time the large vol­umes of data sent by the satel­lites. How­ever, con­sumers also need as­sur­ances that the data is re­li­able. Ac­cord­ing to Sergei Korenyako, the uti­liza­tion of mod­ern satel­lites fit­ted with op­ti­cal-elec­tronic so­lu­tions for the re­mote sens­ing of the Earth from outer space en­tails cer­tain draw­backs. For in­stance, heavy clouds can greatly de­grade the data the satel­lites col­lect. Sci­en­tists in­tend to ad­dress the prob­lem and al­low scan­ning the Earth from outer space in any weather by cre­at­ing spe­cial radar equip­ment. It will be pos­si­ble to im­prove the qual­ity of im­ages of the Earth’s sur­face in the vis­i­ble spec­trum thanks to new hy­per­spec­trum equip­ment. The equip­ment will al­low tak­ing pic­tures of the Earth in the vis­i­ble range and the in­frared range. The pic­tures will in­clude a lot of pho­to­met­ric in­for­ma­tion about lin­ear sizes of the ob­jects and their lu­mi­nance. Spe­cial­ists will be able to use the de­tailed photos to make con­clu­sions re­gard­ing grain crop readi­ness, fire break­outs, changes of river banks, and so on. It is un­der­stand­able that im­por­tant man­age­ment de­ci­sions will be made on the Earth’s sur­face us­ing the in­for­ma­tion. This is why the data can­not be dis­torted. Bear­ing this in mind as part of the Mon­i­tor­ing-SG pro­gram work is in progress to de­velop the Be­laru­sian space sys­tem for the re­mote sens­ing of the Earth by cre­at­ing meth­ods, tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions, and test prod­ucts to cal­i­brate specif­i­cally de­signed equip­ment and val­i­date the data sent from outer space.

The ex­ten­sion of the ser­vice life of satel­lites in or­bit is sup­posed to be­come a ma­jor mile­stone in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Union State pro­gram and the de­vel­op­ment of satel­lite tech­nol­ogy. Spe­cial­ists now be­lieve that five years of satel­lite op­er­a­tion is in­suf­fi­cient. There are plans to at least dou­ble the ser­vice life of satel­lites up to ten years.

The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Be­laru­sian-Rus­sian space pro­gram Mon­i­tor­ing-SG ex­plained that in or­der to suc­cess­fully ac­com­plish the goals it is nec­es­sary to come up with new tech­nolo­gies and tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions, in­clud­ing new com­po­nents to make the satel­lite. They will have to be tested in nat­u­ral con­di­tions and maybe even in outer space.

Sergei Korenyako re­marked, “First of all, a satel­lite needs ef­fec­tive sources of elec­tric­ity. Sec­ond, it has to weigh as lit­tle as pos­si­ble in or­der to re­duce the energy cost of launch and or­bit cor­rec­tions. Third, it is nec­es­sary to bear in mind that satel­lite equip­ment has to work in very tough en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, with tem­per­a­tures vary­ing from mi­nus 120°C to plus 150°C, high lev­els of ra­di­a­tion, and strong high-fre­quency elec­tro­mag­netic field im­pulses. We have to be sure that the op­er­a­tion of the satel­lite’s sup­port sys­tems and the mis­sion equip­ment will be re­li­able for a long time. We also have to be sure that our com­mu­ni­ca­tion lines will be able to han­dle the vol­umes of data that fu­ture mis­sion equip­ment will trans­mit. By the way, bear­ing this in mind, cer­tain al­go­rithms are al­ready be­ing cre­ated to al­low the satel­lite to pre­pro­cess the data and then send it down to the Earth’s sur­face. Thus, re­quire­ments for the rel­e­vant com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels be­tween the satel­lite and the ground-based re­cep­tion cen­ter will be re­duced.”

Sci­en­tists also be­lieve that thanks to the Union State pro­gram the emerg­ing gaps in ex­per­i­men­tal test­ing of satel­lite ma­te­ri­als will be bridged. It is uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged that a num­ber of events have neg­a­tively af­fected the de­vel­op­ment of the rocket and satel­lite tech­nol­ogy and outer space ex­plo­ration in the last few years. Those events were pri­mar­ily ac­ci­dents dur­ing the launch and op­er­a­tion of or­bital and ground-based hard­ware. Re­searchers at­tribute the de­plorable state of af­fairs to poor in­fra­struc­ture for R&D ef­forts, in­clud­ing lab tests and field tests. As a rule, the bulk of the tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions used to de­sign

space craft are based on pre­lim­i­nary cal­cu­la­tions and mod­el­ling done us­ing the rel­e­vant hard­ware and soft­ware sys­tems. If R&D work is in­suf­fi­cient, field tests are used, mod­els and pro­to­types are tested in con­di­tions im­i­tat­ing outer space on the Earth’s sur­face. But some­times even ground-based tests fail to ver­ify the pro­pri­ety of tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions, for in­stance, the use of spe­cific ma­te­ri­als for outer space hard­ware. Tech­no­log­i­cal launches of satel­lites have been used in such cases since the Soviet Union times. Satel­lite pro­to­types are in­serted into or­bit, cer­tain tech­no­log­i­cal modes are tested, spe­cific data is col­lected, and data is ac­cessed or trans­ferred to the Earth and pro­cessed. Only af­ter the satel­lite pro­to­types are tested in the outer space, the de­vel­op­ers de­cided on launch­ing batch-pro­duced satel­lites. Un­for­tu­nately, these prin­ci­ples have been ne­glected in the post-Soviet pe­riod. Sci­en­tists be­lieve it is time to cor­rect the er­ror. In the next few years pro­to­types of new mis­sion equip­ment de­signed for com­pact satel­lites for the re­mote sens­ing of the Earth will be tested in the field. The tested equip­ment will then be used to cre­ate mi­crosatel­lites for the re­mote sens­ing of the Earth. Such satel­lites may be added later to the cur­rent or­bital group.

“It is an idea, which time has come, con­sid­er­ing the fact that the slight de­lay in outer space re­search in Be­larus and Rus­sia has been caused not only by qual­ity fac­tors but also by the fact that the num­ber of satel­lites is in­suf­fi­cient for cov­er­ing the en­tire ter­ri­tory of the Union State of Be­larus and Rus­sia,” noted Sergei Korenyako. “How­ever, mak­ing and launch­ing satel­lites is an ex­pen­sive busi­ness. This is why if we man­age to learn how to cre­ate less ex­pen­sive satel­lites, which will still be able to pro­vide high­qual­ity space data, with in­creased op­er­a­tional lives, we will be able to re­solve the prob­lem of the low num­ber of satel­lites in or­bit.”

Spirit of Co­op­er­a­tion

On the whole, Mon­i­tor­ing-SG is a very ver­sa­tile pro­gram with a large scope. Be­laru­sian co-ex­ecu­tors alone are busy work­ing on 49 projects, which en­vis­age the cre­ation of all kinds of sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal prod­ucts rang­ing from hard­ware and soft­ware sys­tems and lab benches to com­puter tech­nolo­gies and com­po­nents. In a num­ber of R&D ar­eas Be­laru­sian re­searchers have ad­vanced a lot thanks to the ac­com­plish­ments se­cured when the USSR was around and Be­larus took an ac­tive part in USSR projects. The ac­com­plish­ments were also se­cured thanks to pre­vi­ous Union State pro­grams: Cos­mos-BR, Cos­mos-SG, and Cos­mos-NT. The ad­vance­ment in Be­larus can ef­fec­tively com­ple­ment ef­forts of Rus­sian sci­en­tists and de­sign­ers as they la­bor to re­duce the time needed to cre­ate R&D prod­ucts and im­prove their qual­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity, and ser­vice life. Nev­er­the­less, one can hardly dis­pute the fact that half of the projects that Rus­sian and Be­laru­sian sci­en­tists, spe­cial­ists, de­sign­ers, and engi­neers work on are joint projects that make prod­ucts only thanks to in­ter­ac­tion and the pool­ing of de­sign so­lu­tions and com­po­nents made in Be­larus and Rus­sia.

In some cases re­sults of spac­ere­lated re­search projects in Be­larus can sub­sti­tute im­ports. For in­stance, the Be­laru­sian State Univer­sity in as­so­ci­a­tion with the cen­tral me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing re­search in­sti­tute of the Fed­eral Space Agency of Rus­sia, is busy de­sign­ing an in­frared ra­diome­ter meant to scan the Earth’s sur­face in the in­frared spec­trum. The suc­cess­ful ac­com­plish­ment of the pro­ject will al­low fit­ting satel­lites with the rel­e­vant mis­sion equip­ment.

Apart from get­ting use­ful in­for­ma­tion from outer space ex­ecu­tors of the Union State pro­gram are in­tent on learn­ing how to prop­erly process the data and de­liver it to con­sumers. Con­sumers need proper tools to work with the space data. This is why vig­or­ous ef­forts are ex­er­cised to de­velop in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies, soft­ware and hard­ware so­lu­tions for pro­cess­ing the space data sent by radar satel­lites, satel­lites fit­ted with hy­per­spec­trum and in­frared mis­sion equip­ment. Sergei Korenyako said that there are con­sumers for ev­ery pro­ject ful­filled as part of the Be­laru­sian part of the pro­gram. For in­stance, satel­lites can be used to pre­vent emer­gen­cies. As part of the Union State pro­gram an en­tire sys­tem is be­ing cre­ated to use satel­lites and aerial so­lu­tions for the sake of mon­i­tor­ing Be­larus and keep­ing the rel­e­vant de­part­ments of the Be­laru­sian Emer­gen­cies Min­istry in­formed. Tech­nolo­gies can also be de­vel­oped to mon­i­tor forests for the sake of eval­u­at­ing the dam­age of nat­u­ral calami­ties, de­tect­ing fires

and mak­ing the rel­e­vant de­ci­sions to deal with their con­se­quences. Space im­ages can now be used to pre­cisely es­ti­mate the dam­age in­flicted upon the Be­laru­sian forestry in­dus­try by cli­mate and fallen trees. Space mon­i­tor­ing so­lu­tions are also nec­es­sary to eval­u­ate the state of our rivers and lakes, na­ture re­serves with their unique peat land and swamp sys­tems. One can hardly over­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of mon­i­tor­ing the land for agri­cul­tural pur­poses. It will be eas­ier to use space data to track in­ef­fec­tively used ter­ri­to­ries and real es­tate ob­jects in the course of op­er­a­tion of the State Prop­erty Com­mit­tee.

Many in­no­va­tions cre­ated as part of the Be­laru­sian-Rus­sian space pro­gram are based on longterm part­ner­ship of Be­laru­sian and Rus­sian sci­en­tists. As one of the world’s lead­ing pow­ers in re­search­ing and us­ing outer space Rus­sia has a huge space in­fra­struc­ture and at­tracts many re­searchers. Many years of co­op­er­a­tion unite sci­en­tists of the B.I. Stepanov Physics In­sti­tute of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences of Be­larus and the Space Re­search In­sti­tute of the Rus­sian Academy of Sciences. They also co­op­er­ate within the frame­work of the Mon­i­tor­ing-SG pro­gram. Plasma sen­sors are be­ing de­vel­oped to con­trol plasma flows in dif­fer­ent strata of the at­mos­phere as well as sen­sors to eval­u­ate the pos­si­bil­ity of nat­u­ral calami­ties. The pro­ject is a vivid ex­am­ple of suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship: the Rus­sian side cre­ates the plasma sen­sor while the Be­laru­sian side cre­ates its core – the sen­si­tive com­po­nent made out of nanos­truc­tured ma­te­rial.

It is worth men­tion­ing R&D projects that in­volve plasma gen­er­a­tion and ap­pli­ca­tions. It is uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged that plasma is the most wide­spread state of the mat­ter in the uni­verse. Ac­cord­ing to mod­ern es­ti­mates, over 90% of the mat­ter is in plasma state. Stars and star at­mos­pheres, galac­tic neb­u­las and in­ter­stel­lar mat­ter are plasma. Plasma can be found in the mag­ne­to­sphere and the iono­sphere of the Earth. All kinds of gas dis­charge de­vices are used in lab con­di­tions to make plasma as well as specif­i­cally cre­ated in­stru­ments such as plasma torches, plasma ac­cel­er­a­tors and many other plas­mabased in­stru­ments. Ar­ti­fi­cial

plasma is also used to ac­com­plish a num­ber of space projects. For in­stance, within the frame­work of the Be­laru­sian–Rus­sian space pro­gram Mon­i­tor­ing-SG the A.V. Lykov Heat and Mass Trans­fer In­sti­tute of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences of Be­larus works on test­ing heat pro­tec­tion ma­te­ri­als for space craft. The Hall plasma ac­cel­er­a­tor cre­ated by the in­sti­tute al­lows mod­el­ling plasma im­pact on the plat­ing of space craft as they en­ter dense at­mos­phere at subor­bital speeds. When it hap­pens, the plat­ing is heated to thou­sands of de­grees. Ar­ti­fi­cial plasma is used to ex­am­ine the heat­ing re­sis­tance of plat­ing ma­te­ri­als cre­ated by Rus­sian sci­en­tists.

As part of another pro­ject set by the Mon­i­tor­ing-SG pro­gram the A.V. Lykov Heat and Mass Trans­fer In­sti­tute is de­vel­op­ing tech­nolo­gies to cre­ate anti-me­teor screens for satel­lites us­ing a unique qua­si­sta­tion­ary new-gen­er­a­tion high­cur­rent plasma ac­cel­er­a­tor. Such screens will come in handy for deep space re­search and flights to Mars and Venus.

A new Union State pro­gram Tech­nol­ogy-SG is nearly ready. The A.V. Lykov Heat and Mass Trans­fer In­sti­tute will be one of the lead­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions on the Be­laru­sian side. The new pro­gram is de­signed to guide the de­vel­op­ment of new tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions for re­duc­ing the mass and size of var­i­ous com­po­nents, de­vices, and sys­tems used by rock­ets and satel­lites.

“At present Union State pro­grams are the most ef­fec­tive way to im­ple­ment space in­dus­try projects,” be­lieves Sergei Korenyako. “Such pro­grams clearly out­line the tasks that the space in­dus­try needs to ac­com­plish. Mean­while, space in­dus­try con­trib­utes to the de­vel­op­ment of other branches of the econ­omy of Be­larus and Rus­sia a pri­ori. State sup­port for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of all the R&D projects of the pro­gram is very im­por­tant both in Be­larus and Rus­sia. And then the spirit of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Be­laru­sian and Rus­sian en­ter­prises and R&D in­sti­tu­tions en­cour­ages ev­ery one of us to keep up the good work, thus se­cur­ing the high qual­ity of im­ple­men­ta­tion of joint pro­grams.”

Many in­no­va­tions cre­ated as part of the Be­laru­sian-Rus­sian space pro­gram are based on longterm part­ner­ship of Be­laru­sian and Rus­sian sci­en­tists

As part of the Union State pro­gram an en­tire sys­tem

is be­ing cre­ated to use satel­lites and aerial so­lu­tions to mon­i­tor the ter­ri­tory

of Be­larus

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