“Lem” – the first Polish research satellite

The first Polish scientific satellite is being built at the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. Its name is “Lem”.

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“Lem” will go into orbit probably at the end of September next year. The satellite will be lifted into space by the Russian-Ukrainian company International Space Company Kosmotras. The launch will take place from the Yasnyy cosmodrome near the border between Russia and Kazakhstan. ISC Kosmotras uses former SS-18 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) rockets, which were designed to carry nuclear warheads during the Cold War.

During the ceremony, the status of work on the assembly of “Lem” and its successor was presented. The guests visited the laboratory and the recently commissioned clean room where individual components of both satellites are tested. The name for the first Polish scientific satellite has been chosen through a public vote on the Internet, conducted by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. In the vote, which ended in October last year, “Lem” was the clear winner – the name was supported by nearly 21 thousand people. In second place with just over 5 thousand votes was “Hevelius”.

Mini-satellite

“Lem” belongs to small orbital devices, the so-called nanosatellites. It is a cube with a side of 20 cm and a mass of 6 kg, and its walls are densely covered with photovoltaic cells. A wide-angle camera installed on board the satellite will record the brightness of selected stars in the Milky Way, which will allow us to follow even very small changes in their brightness with great accuracy. On this basis, astrophysicists will be able to verify current models of energy transport inside the hottest stars. From Earth, it is impossible to make equally accurate observations due to the fluctuations of the atmosphere.

Clean Room – this is where the satellite is tested:

The supplier of most of the components and subsystems necessary for the integration of the first Polish satellite is Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Toronto. Currently, all components are already at SRC PAS, where for the period of testing they were installed on one large board so that the engineers could have easy access to each element. – Previously, we tested each component separately. Last week, for the first time, all the components started working together and communicating with each other. The satellite is already working, but it is not yet in the package in which it will be placed into orbit’, explains Tomasz Zawistowski, engineer and coordinator of the BRITE-PL Project.

Development through space

– In the first satellite we have a lot of components manufactured in Canada. In the second one, a large part of subsystems will be developed in the SRC PAS and produced in Poland. We want the space projects to stimulate industrial development, both domestically and internationally – emphasizes Prof. Marek Banaszkiewicz, director of the SRC PAS. As an example of such impact he gives one of the photovoltaic cells of the second satellite. – It will be made by the Institute of Electronic Materials Technology in Warsaw. The efficiency of that cell should be twice as high as the previous ones. If the experiment is successful, it will arouse interest not only in the space industry, but also in the power industry,” adds Prof. Banaszkiewicz.

Construction, launch and operation of the satellite “Lem” and its successor has been financed by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The project budget amounts to over 14 million zlotys.

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