Roundup: Startup dreams big as Poland nurtures nano-satellite sector

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-21 01:02:09|Editor: yan
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WARSAW, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Poland is confident of its competitiveness in the promising global nano-satellite market, as a Polish company plans to send over 1,000 nano-satellites into space by 2026, two of which are already waiting for deployment at the International Space Station.


Nano-satellites are increasingly popular with governmental organisations, startups and educational institutions, as their small size (one to 10 kilograms) means they come at a fraction of the cost of conventional satellites while offering competitive services.

"This market is changing very fast. Everybody says we will be surrounded by constellations of micro and nano-satellites. Here a window of opportunity is opening for Poland," Jadwiga Emilewicz, minister of entrepreneurship and technology, told Polish media recently.

"Our ambition today is that some of our Polish companies become partners for the most important firms and cosmic agencies, which spend the most on cosmic technology," Emilewicz said.

The first Polish nano-satellite, PW-Sat, created by students at the Warsaw University of Technology, was launched in 2012. Six projects related to the construction of micro and nano-satellites are currently being pursued in Poland, the Polish Space Agency (PAK) reported in January.

"Micro-satellite platforms and the integration of small satellites -- this is one of the specialties of the Polish space industry," Anna Stanczyk, advisor to the president of the Polish Space Agency, told Xinhua lately.

"The domestic space sector, although relatively young, is very ambitious and is developing intensively. In the last years, seven Polish nano-satellites have been launched into space," Stanczyk said.


Established in 2016 in the southern city of Wroclaw, SatRevolution "plans to become Poland's first satellite integrator -- a company capable of developing complete satellites on its own," SatRevolution CEO Grzegorz Zwolinski told Xinhua.

The company is currently developing a constellation of 1,024 nano-satellites called REC (Real-time Earth-observation Constellation), which it plans to launch into the Earth's orbit by 2026 and which will be able to take and process images of every place on Earth with 50 cm resolution and 30-minute refresh time.

The constellation "would allow 100 times mass and cost reduction compared to traditional satellites," Zwolinski said.

The constellation is being developed using CubeSat standards, developed by the California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University with the original purpose of ensuring affordable access to space for university researchers.

This year, two nano-satellites of SatRevolution -- Swiatowid, developed by the company itself, and KRAKsat, co-developed with the University of Science and Technology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow -- were sent to the International Space Station from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, U.S. The satellites are currently waiting to be deployed.

A third nano-satellite of the Polish company -- called AMICal Sat -- is scheduled to be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's far east in July.

"Thanks to the REC constellation, we will be able to provide very high resolution (VHR) data in areas such as natural disasters, precision agriculture, military or smart cities," Zwolinski told Xinhua.

Nano-satellites should be able to process images in a quality similar to that offered by larger satellites, but at much shorter time intervals. In a world where climate change is a reality, nano-satellites could become very handy in providing fast information about extreme weather events, better enabling adaptation. They could also be used for improved air quality monitoring, a particularly relevant sector for governments battling smog, such as the Polish one. They are also being used for beaming internet coverage.

SatRevolution says its nano-satellites disintegrate after three years, therefore not producing cosmic waste.


The first client who expressed its intention to exploit information from the SatRevolution satellites is the Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), said Zwolinski.

In cooperation with Airbus Poland and PricewaterhouseCoopers, SatRevolution is now looking for startups interested in working on the constellation. The company representatives also confirmed to Xinhua that Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit, which provides launch solutions for small satellites, has expressed an interest in the REC constellation.

The booming nano-satellite market implies a democratisation of sorts, with a broader range of actors -- including private ones -- getting involved in creating and deploying satellites.

According to the Georgia-based U.S. company SpaceWorks, which monitors the satellite market, between 294 and 393 nano and macro-satellites (one to 50 kg) will launch globally in 2019, an 18 percent increase over last year, and as many as 2,800 nano and macro-satellites will schedule their launch over the next five years.

According to analysts, the sector is dominated by commercial actors, and about a fifth of nano and macro-satellites are being used for developing communications, slightly more than for other functions, such as Earth observation.

Anna Stanczyk from the Polish Space Agency said that a variety of Polish actors have been developing nano-satellites, including science and research institutes, commercial actors and student teams. The Polish actors develop the projects alone or in cooperation with foreign partners, she added.

"The excellent international reputation of our scientists and engineers and the fact that the conditions exist for the space industry and the NewSpace trend to develop in Poland -- these factors favor the development of this specialization, so that our entities can over time compete for a significant share of the global market of the smallest satellites," Stanczyk noted.