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Space Research - Center Aims High
March 27, 2013   
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As it marks its 35 years in existence, the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences aspires to play a significant role in shaping the European Union’s space policy and in raising awareness of space research priorities across the bloc.

The center expects to benefit from Poland’s full membership of the European Space Agency, which it says is good news for the development of aerospace research and technology in this country.

Since it was established 35 years ago, the center has conducted experiments in space physics and dealt with physical and geodynamic studies of planets, including Earth. Many of these experiments have been made possible by the center’s international ties.

Over the years, the center has developed and built more than 70 different devices that have been launched into space. Between 1970 and 1985, a total of 24 Polish-designed instruments were launched into space to enable research into the Sun and the Earth’s ionosphere.

“No other institution or company in Poland was capable of making such complex instruments, so from the very beginning, the center had to deal with that, in addition to conducting research work based on studying processes taking place in our solar system and around the Earth,” says the center’s director, Prof. Marek Banaszkiewicz.

In 1991, the center started working with the European Space Agency. It made agreements with the agency under which Polish researchers contributed to missions such as Cassini Huygens and Rosetta.

In the case of the Cassini Huygens mission, a team of Polish engineers and scientists developed a sensor and a number of electronic systems for an experiment designed to measure temperature and thermal conductivity in the atmosphere and on the surface of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

In the Rosetta mission, Polish engineers built an instrument designed to explore the surface and physical properties of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The device is expected to drop to the surface of the comet in 2014.

The center has also taken part in missions involving research focusing on Mars and Venus—Mars Express and Venus Express—as a result of which it was able to conduct what are called remote sensing studies. Currently, the center is involved in preparations for a mission to Mercury, called BepiColombo.

BepiColombo is a joint mission by the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) due to launch in 2015.

In 1999, Poland signed a cooperation agreement with the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), which was ratified in October 2001 and subsequently extended in 2004 and 2007.

The center played a leading role in the preparation of this agreement. It also took part in two major astrophysical missions: in the Integral mission related to high-energy X-ray measurements in 2002 and in the Herschel mission based on a microwave telescope and launched in 2008.

In 2010, an agreement was concluded between the center and the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education for the construction of two research satellites under the BRITE program focusing on the study of bright stars.

In 2010-2011, the center participated in the construction of a geological robot called Chomik (Polish for hamster). The robot was built to collect a sample of soil from Phobos, one of Mars’ moons, as part of Russian space mission Phobos Soil. However, the mission was aborted due to the failure of the Russian rocket.

On Nov. 19, 2012, Poland became a full member of the European Space Agency, gaining new space research opportunities and access to technology previously unavailable to Polish scientists and engineers.

Karolina Olszewska
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