Proba 3 - ESA
In late 2020, the world’s first precision formation flying mission will take place. The Project for On-Board Autonomy (Proba) is a series of satellite missions by the European Space Agency (ESA). The third mission in the project, Proba-3 is dedicated to the demonstration of technologies and techniques for highly-precise satellite formation flying.
Neptec’s FLLS technology is central to the PROBA-3 mission
Neptec’s Fine Lateral and Longitudinal Sensor (FLLS) is a laser-based instrument designed to measure the lateral and longitudinal displacements between two cooperating spacecraft to sub-millimeter accuracy. This sensor is a critical component of the precise formation flying technologies ESA intends to demonstrate in-orbit with its Proba-3 spacecraft.
Proba-3 is comprised of two spacecraft; the Occulter Spacecraft (OSC) and the Coronagraph Spacecraft (CSC) which by precise formation flying will become a virtually fixed structure in space. Proba-3 is predominantly a technology demonstrator, exploring precision formation-flying techniques so that future multiple satellites flying together could perform equivalent tasks to a single giant spacecraft. However, Proba-3 will also use this opportunity to study the Sun’s corona by creating an artificial eclipse using a disk-shaped occultor on one spacecraft so that the coronagraph instrument can scrutinise the corona on the other spacecraft. This creates conditions that are normally only viewed during a solar eclipse.
Scientists have been able to study the sun’s corona during solar eclipse’ and other Sun-observing missions however, the brief window of opportunity during a terrestrial solar eclipse and stray light through Earth’s atmosphere have proven to be limiting factors. The Proba-3 mission will provide the closest view of the corona that has ever been achieved – allowing scientists to study the region where solar wind and coronal mass ejections are born in order to better understand these phenomena.
Neptec's FLLS is being designed and developed in the United Kingdom & Canada
Image Credit ESA