At 6,249 kilometers away from Spain, from the geographical center of the peninsula, the Spanish industry expected to meet a hiro. The SEOSAT-Ingenio adventure at 2.52 (peninsular time) the Vega rocket engines were turned on to take Ingenio, the first completely Spanish satellite, created after twelve years of work, into space.
“There is a 90% chance that everything will go well,” mission sources said hours before launch. The weather report was good and the simulations were good, but the adventure failed within eight minutes of take off.
After the first start of the engine, a deviation from the trajectory was identified “which led to the loss of the mission,” ESA reported. At 2 pm on Tuesday, a press conference was called by Arianespace, the company in charge of the launch, to explain what happened.
500,000 working hours
Something as essential as taking a photo, now so fashionable by influencers and instagramers, can be key such as “not having to depend on foreign technology in space projects,” Jorge Lomba, head of Aerospace Programs at the CDTI, tells this newspaper.
However, these photos do not have filters and the resolution has nothing to do with the cameras of Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi or Huawei. In this case, it is “Made in Spain” technology and is capable of photographing our planet’s surface in high resolution.
For this, this Spanish satellite carried an advanced dual camera that can take images of the earth’s surface with a resolution of 2.5 meters and “is capable of taking 600 images per day, which will allow photographing the Iberian Peninsula in two months”, relates Alfonso Martínez, Head of Systems Engineering Airbus DS Spain.
Watch Spain from space
SEOSAT-Ingenio is the first completely Spanish space project. “It’s a great success,” says Lomba. The adventure, financed by the Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI), has reached more than 100 million euros and “has taken about 500,000 hours of work,” their managers tell this newspaper.
A large part of the Spanish aerospace industry has been involved in its development, including Airbus Defense and Space, as the main industrial contractor for the satellite, and SENER and INDRA, responsible for the payload and the ground segment. “Hundreds of people have participated in this project”, emphasizes the head of Aerospace Programs of the CDTI.
The Ingenio chamber was prepared to map unpredictable natural disasters, such as floods, forest fires and earthquakes, while helping to understand climate change, one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.
A mission for which the Spanish satellite was prepared to monitor land use, will support cartographic production, help to manage water more effectively. “Their cameras could distinguish a one euro coin from 10 kilometers away, being capable of obtaining very valuable images for cartography,” says Martínez.
Thus, Ingenio was able to monitor the state of crops during the growing season, evaluate the effects of droughts and, also, offer information for precision agriculture.
Eight minutes of adventure
According to the plans of the European Space Agency (ESA), Ingenio was to be placed in a heliosynchronous orbit, at an altitude of approximately 670 kilometers from where it should have photographed and monitored the Earth.
An initial flight of almost two hours aboard the Vega rocket developed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and ESA to put satellites into orbit. His roadmap established a daily journey of 14 laps around the planet.
However, the deviation has meant the loss of the mission. Ingenio was going to be able to take images of any point on the Earth’s surface every three days and cover the entire Spanish territory eight times a year, and it would do so with a resolution never before achieved.
At the moment, ESA is studying telemetry to find the failures of the space mission that has ruined the planned plans for Ingenio.
Tecnología ‘made in Spain’
The satellite has been manufactured almost entirely by the European Airbus Space and Defense, but in development for more than a decade it has had a large part of the Spanish aerospace sector.
“The objective of Ingenio is to have independence from foreign technology,” says Lomba. “It creates a real opportunity for the Spanish aerospace industry,” says Martínez, for his part.
The two optics that equip the satellite have been manufactured by Sener. Based in Getxo, the Basque Country, this Basque aerospace firm has been in charge of developing them.
To this technology is added its particular GPS that comes through a solar sensor that will serve to orient the satellite towards the star. The University of Seville and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) have collaborated in its implementation.