There were one hundred Finnish satellites in space?
Finland is well placed to succeed in the New Space boom. This, at least in part, is thanks to a four kilo student satellite and the attitude shift that it inspired.
This year, two Finnish start-ups send their first satellites into space. This is quite an achievement, as during the previous decade the satellite manufacturing sector didn’t really exist in Finland at all.
In 2010, Professor Jaan Praks got hold of the idea of building Finland’s first satellite with students, because at the time the special assignment course in space technology needed an exciting project. Seven years later, on Midsummer’s Eve 2017, the four kilo nanosatellite Aalto-1 was finally launched into space.
In addition to the enthusiastic and skilled students and the support received from the University and partnering organisations, the project has also called for the ability to stick it out through difficult situations.
‘A kind of gritted-teeth attitude – a determination that this will get done, whatever comes at us’, Praks says.
‘Traditionally, space technology has been rather on the back foot, generally being concentrating on risks and careful of promising too much. We took right at the beginning a strong forward stance, a start-up approach, and this change of attitude is now boosting the whole Finnish space sector. '
There is demand for this proactive approach, as the NewSpace field is expanding rapidly all over the world. Significance of space will increase and in the future, an ever increasing portion of our infrastructuremight orbit the Earth or even be further out in deep space. Using the radar satellites developed by ICEYE – a company that had its beginnings in Aalto – it is possible, for example, to track sea traffic, quickly observe changes, and make ice maps regardless of the weather or the time of year.
Aalto-1 is a modern nanosatellite which is based on the CubeSat standard and contains state-of-the-art technology from Finland. an imaging spectrometer built by VTT, a radiation monitor jointly constructed by the Universities of Helsinki and Turku and a plasma brake developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The latest is based on the principle of an electric solar sail and aimed at reducing the amount of space debris.
Students have themselves designed the entire satellite and several of its subsystems, such as the radios, structure, antennas and solar panels, which provide the electricity needed for the satellite. The brain of the satellite, i.e. the main computer, will transmit all necessary information from space via radio to the ground station in Otaniemi.
Over 100 students have been involved in the project, and many of these now work in the start-up businesses that students themselves have founded. Of these, ICEYE and Reaktor Space Lab will send their first satellites into space this year.
Aalto-1 has been followed in Aalto by the Aalto-2 and Suomi 100 satellites. Currently under construction are Aalto-3, Foresail-1 and Foresail-2 satellites. Also, a European Space Agency Business Incubation Center has been opened on the Otaniemi campus.
The launch of Aalto-1 satellite also acted as an impetus for the drafting of Finland’s Space Act
Working group: Jaan Praks, Martti Hallikainen, Tuija Pulkkinen, Keijo Nikoskinen, Jyri Hämäläinen, Yrjö Neuvo, Mikko Syrjäsuo, Jari Holopainen, Keijo Heljanko, Arto Visala, Esa Kallio, Ville Viikari.