India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will this month launch ESA’s
small technology satellite PROBA from India’s Shriharikota launch base as
a piggyback payload. The launch is scheduled for 21-31 October. The
satellite will be launched into a 600 km polar orbit.

PROBA (Project for On-Board Autonomy) may be tiny in spacecraft terms but
this European satellite is paving the way for future missions of global
importance. Despite its diminutive size and weight (just 100 kg), PROBA
has a mind of its own and boasts an extensive range of advanced
capabilities and instruments.

PROBA is the first ESA spacecraft with fully autonomous capabilities,
meaning it will operate virtually unaided, performing everyday tasks like
navigation, payload and resource management with little involvement by
staff at ESA’s ground station in Redu, Belgium.

The innovative design and operating systems are the result of ESA’s
collaboration with prime contractor Verhaert Design and Development of
Belgium, working alongside other European companies and universities.
PROBA will allow engineers to evaluate the advantages of autonomous
spacecraft operation.

PROBA’s payload is controlled by a computer system 50 times more powerful
than its counterpart onboard ESA’s full-size solar observing satellite,
SOHO, allowing the micro-satellite to combine in-orbit technology
demonstration, such as an onboard mission planning and onboard navigation
and failure detection, with some useful monitoring of the Earth’s

Its instruments are the intriguingly named CHRIS (Compact High Resolution
Imaging Spectrometer, from SIRA/UK), DEBIE (Debris In-Orbit Evaluator,
from Patria Finnanvitec/FIN) and SREM (Standard Radiation Environment
Monitor, from Contraves/CH). PROBA also carries two imagers, a Wide Angle
Camera (WAC) and a High Resolution Camera (HRC) with a 10 metre
resolution, both built by OIP of Belgium.

The cameras will also be used by students from selected Belgian schools
whose experiment proposals have been accepted under the EDUPROBA project.

Images of the Earth and other data gathered by PROBA will be sent direct
to a webserver located at the ESA ground station in Redu, Belgium, where
scientists will be able to access the information over the Internet as
soon as it is delivered from the satellite.

“PROBA’s multi-purpose capabilities are part of ESA’s goal to promote
technological missions using small spacecraft,” said Frederic Teston,
PROBA’s Project Manager. “The micro-satellite boasts a number of
technology firsts, and has the ability to observe the same spot on Earth
from a number of different directions.”

In the first three months after launch, the satellite will be tested by
Verhaert from the ground station in Redu. The satellite will then be
handed over to ESA and the scientific user community. PROBA is expected to
operate for at least two years.

PROBA forms part of ESA’s drive effort to promote technological flights
using small spacecraft. It is hoped it will also demonstrate that
micro-satellites can efficiently combine in-orbit technology demonstration
and operational missions.

For further information please contact:

European Space Agency:

Ms. H. Graf

Communications Department

ESTEC Communications Office

Tel: + 31 71 565 3006

Fax: + 31 71 565 5728


Mr. R. C. Creasey

Head of Control and Data Systems Division

Directorate of Technical Operations and Support

Tel: + 31 71 565 3711

Fax: + 31 71 565 4295



Ms. I. Van Hoye

Communications Office

Tel: +32 3 250 1945

Fax: +32 3 254 1008


For more information on ESA, please visit the ESA website