Images of the planet and gamma flashes - the satellite VZLUSAT-2 celebrates two years in orbit

Cooperation University Science

Communication with the satellite is ensured by the ground station at the University of West Bohemia.
The satellite VZLUSAT-2 is celebrating two years of operation in orbit. It is the only satellite built in the Czech Republic capable of capturing high-resolution images of the planet. Simultaneously, the satellite monitors gamma flashes originating from distant space or occurring during solar eruptions. The satellite's lifespan was originally estimated at two years, but even after this period, it is still fully functional.
The VZLUSAT-2 satellite was launched into orbit by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on January 13, 2022, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During this time, it has orbited the Earth more than 11,600 times. Its main goal is to verify Earth remote sensing technologies, so it carries two cameras for observing the planet. One captures wide-angle photos of size 500×400 km, while the other is intended for detailed shots of areas 30x20 km.

Using its cameras, the satellite can take pictures of any place on Earth, even repeatedly. In the press release attachment, you will find, for example, a sequence of images of alpine glaciers from September 2022 and then a year later, or a picture of the Czech Republic.

Furthermore, the VZLUSAT-2 satellite continuously monitors gamma flashes from distant space or those generated during solar eruptions. During its operational time, it has recorded 68 observations of these gamma flashes. Among the most significant achievements is the detection of an unusually bright gamma flash on March 7, 2023, resulting from the collision of two neutron stars. It was the second-brightest gamma flash detected so far. Additionally, an experimental measurement of the radiation in the Van Allen belts is conducted on the satellite using two X-ray/gamma-ray instruments with pixel detectors.

The satellite's lifespan was originally estimated at two years. "Even after two years, it is still fully functional, and we do not observe any signs of aging on the platform. However, signs of aging are visible on the detectors," explains Vladimir Daniel, the head of the scientific department of the Research and Test Institute of Aviation, adding that the satellite is exposed to high radiation related to the high activity of the Sun.
Thanks to the involvement of VZLÚ in the global network of SatNOGS ground stations, it is possible to continuously monitor the satellite's telemetry data on a publicly accessible website. Data is collected from more than fifty stations distributed worldwide.

VZLUSAT-2 has dimensions of 10x10x34 cm and weighs approximately 4 kilograms. It belongs to the category of nanosatellites, which weigh a maximum of 10 kilograms. Experts hope that it will follow the success of the VZLUSAT-1 satellite, which became the longest-functioning Czech satellite ever. It burned up in the atmosphere in June 2023, communicating until the last day. The last record from June 6, 2023, is here, and the announcement of the satellite's termination in the form of a parting message is here. "VZLUSAT-2 is a huge step forward. Today there are about 5 times more of us than when we built VZLUSAT-1. Personally, it was a big change in my work, as I now spend most of my time training new people. Since we want to build larger satellites, expanding the team is a necessity," adds Vladimir Daniel.

Among other projects of the Research and Test Institute of Aviation is, for example, the AMBIC satellite, thanks to which the Czech Republic will have its eyes in space. The satellite will be used to take pictures of the planet, which will be useful, among other things, for an integrated rescue system. VZLÚ also leads the QUVIK project, which will be the first Czech space astronomical telescope. Both projects are supported by the Ministry of Transport of the Czech Republic and the European Space Agency, selected for implementation as "ambitious missions of the Czech Republic."

The VZLUSAT-2 project is led by the Research and Test Institute of Aviation, and it collaborates with partners. These include companies Spacemanic, ESC Aerospace, TTS, s.r.o., Rigaku Innovative Technologies Europe s.r.o., ADVACAM s.r.o., Eltvor, Needronix, Konkoly Observatory, and also universities - Czech Technical University in Prague, University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, and Masaryk University in Brno. The project is supported by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic and the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Publications related to the VZLUSAT-2 project:



VZLÚ press release (translated by ChatGPT)

16. 01. 2024