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Welcome to Telespazio VEGA Deutschland

Telespazio VEGA Deutschland is a well-established consulting, technology and engineering services business. Over the past 30 years, we have built up a first-class reputation in high-technology markets, where quality and reliability are essential. Our roots are in the Space market and the experience we have developed there brings benefits to our other core markets of Aviation and Defence.

Telespazio VEGA Deutschland was created in early September 2012 when Telespazio Deutschland and VEGA Space GmbH merged into one company. These changes were made in order to serve the needs of our markets better and provide more integrated services to our clients worldwide.

    •  
      | November 2016 |
      “Shooting” with lasers at satellites

      Navigating to that new café in your town might occur to you as a simple task. Open your Maps App, let it determine your position and let it guide you. This service is handy for private users and also for commercial users such as the aviation sector, agriculture, and of course road traffic.

      In our previous Navigation highlight, we gave insight into determining a navigation satellite’s position – a mandatory step before the data can be used to determine someone’s position on Earth. And quite exciting!

      Lasers! Phew phew phew! 

      Lasers play an important role when it comes down to verifying a satellite’s position. We spoke to one of our colleagues Henno Boomkamp to understand how this works in more detail. Henno works as consultant for Satellite Navigation and a part of his job is to perform precise calculations to determine a satellite’s position.

      Henno, which data can we use in order to get a first idea where a satellite is?

      Henno: “There are several sources of data. In the case of a newly launched satellite, we know for example the details of the launch and more or less its orbit after separation. This is when we receive the first telemetry radio signals on high frequency via S-band. Through the measurements of the Doppler effect we can improve the estimate where the satellite is, at around 20-50 metres precision."

      04-Navigation-Facility-Vorauswahl-13x19cm-JMai_6968.jpgTelespazio VEGA staff are also experts on determining satellite orbits up to a centimetre level. - Photo Telespazio VEGA Deutschland / J. Mai

      Is this already precise enough?

      Henno: “For some satellite missions, perhaps, but not for most Earth observation satellites or navigation satellites. For precise orbit determination dedicated tracking measurements are used, which nowadays come primarily from Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as Galileo, GPS or GLONASS. GNSS data is used to compute the orbits of low Earth orbiting satellites, but also the orbits of the GNSS satellites themselves."

      And how do you know that your orbits are correct?

      Henno: “Well, this is where lasers come in! An orbit prediction is provided to the International Laser Ranging Service, ILRS, for them to track satellites with a laser. To make it very simple, they send laser pulses in the direction where we believe the satellite to be at a certain time – if it comes back we can compute how much time it took to travel to the satellite and back. Since we know the speed of light, we can determine the distance of the satellite, and have an independent range measurement to the orbit. We have to be very precise in the prediction because the satellite is moving, Earth is moving and the satellite can be thousands of km away, and it is not very big.

      Wettzell Laser Ranging System (WLRS), the satellite and lunar laser ranging system of the geodetic observatory in Wettzell, Bavaria.​

       

      But doesn’t this mean that there has to be a mirror on-board the spacecraft? How else would the laser pulse be reflected?

      Henno: “This is exactly right. Many satellites are equipped with mirrors, so-called Laser Retro Reflectors (LRR). They have the property that they reflect a wave, in this case laser light, back to its source with minimal scattering. A good example is the LAGEOS satellite: It looks like a golf ball and its payload consists only of LRR’s. It’s a perfect, passive measurement system for example to study the gravity field of the Earth. Its data improves our models of the Earth, which in turn helps in the orbit determination of many other satellites.”


      Diagram showing how a corner reflector works.
      ​Image of LAGEOS satellite, courtesy of NASA

      Is the integration of LRR’s a speciality of navigation satellites?

      Henno: “Not necessarily. The LRR’s enable us to determine very precise orbits of satellites through laser ranging. The laser data is in most cases used as an independent validation for the satellite orbits that are computed from other tracking data, such as GNSS, and is fundamental for precise orbit determination of many Earth observation satellites."

      So let’s imagine you have collected a set of laser measurements from the ILRS.  What happens next?

      Henno: “It is essential to keep doing precise orbit determinations throughout a satellite mission, and not just once after launch. The orbit of a satellite changes constantly, by at least a few hundred meters per day, due to all sorts of small perturbations such as gravity of the sun, moon, planets, or radiation pressure from the sun and earth, or effects of asymmetric gravity and tides of the Earth. The laser data forms an important independent verification of the orbit accuracy that is being achieved."

      And how often would you determine a satellite’s orbit?

      Henno: “The work is a constant circle of specific tasks: The primary tracking data, such as GNSS data is collected continuously. At regular intervals, like once per day, a dataset from the recent past is processed to compute the precise orbit of the satellite over this period. This orbit can be extended a few hours or days into the future to get a prediction, and these predictions are for instance needed by the ILRS to track the satellite with lasers.”

      And how many laser measurements are available?

      Henno: “There are around 50 Laser Ranging Stations in the world. All of them can track the low satellites up to 1000 km height, but only around 20 of them can track the much higher GNSS satellites. A few of them can even track the Moon, where some laser reflectors were left behind by the Apollo astronauts. The best stations manage to produce two or three passes per day for a GNSS satellite. There are about 35 GNSS satellites with LRRs and ideally each of these 35 satellites has a handful of passes per day. So you could say that it is possible to validate orbits several times per day.”


      Further Links about Satellite Navigation

      Where is Galileo? We know who knows!

      ESA:  Navigation Facility - Galileo

      DLR: Galileo Control Centre Oberpfaffenhofen

      Telespazio: The Group's involvement - spaceopal - Galileo Control Centre Fucino

      ILRS website

      GSSF Website

    •  
      | October 2016 |
      ExoMars: Telespazio VEGA Deutschland supports arrival at the red planet

      ​Press note - Darmstadt, 14 October 2016

      The ESA spacecraft ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is scheduled to arrive at Mars on 19 October 2016 and land a demonstration module, named Schiaparelli. The preparation and execution of these critical operations, controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESA/ESOC) in Darmstadt, is supported by expert staff from Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, a subsidiary of Telespazio (a joint venture between Leonardo-Finmeccanica and Thales).

      The Telespazio VEGA Deutschland experts, under an overall ESA lead, are members of the ESOC Flight Control Team (FCT) and Software Support Team (SWS) which will be facing a challenging phase of the mission: On 16 October the separation of the Lander Module – Schiaparelli – from the TGO mothership; on 17 October the TGO orbit raising manoeuvre; and the critical burn of the TGO on 19 October, to insert the spacecraft into the orbit around Mars. Also on the 19 of October, Schiaparelli is scheduled to land on Mars.

      he manoeuvres have been intensely trained over the past three months: The FCT and SWS had to undergo simulation campaigns at ESOC to train nominal and contingency scenarios: These training sessions were developed and led by two experienced Telespazio VEGA he manoeuvres have been intensely trained over the past three months: The FCT and SWS had to undergo simulation campaigns at ESOC to train nominal and contingency scenarios: These training sessions were developed and led by two experienced Telespazio VEGA Simulation Officers, using the Operational Simulator that the company developed for the ExoMars TGO, together with other partners. 

      The precise approach, separation and orbit insertion manoeuvre has been thoroughly prepared by the ESOC Flight Dynamics Team, to which Telespazio VEGA Deutschland is providing highly qualified staff. Additional support from the company is provided to the ESA mission through staff in ESA Ground Station Operations and ICT Engineering.

      Many other mission-critical ground systems, used to control the ExoMars TGO and plan its activities, have been developed for ESA by Telespazio VEGA Deutschland and further partners, such as the Mission Planning System (MPS) and the Mission Control System (MCS).

      ExoMars is an exciting Mars exploration programme made possible by a large international cooperation between ESA and Roscosmos. The prime contractor responsible for the ExoMars spacecraft in Europe is Thales Alenia Space (a Thales/Leonardo-Finmeccanica company) and many of the technologies on-board have been developed by Leonardo-Finmeccanica.

      The first phase of the programme involves a Mars Trace Gas Orbiter satellite launched in March 2016 that includes an Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstration Module. In a second phase, in 2020, a Mars Rover and a Surface Platform will be launched, building on the experience gained through these first steps. The 2020 ExoMars Rover is designed to search for traces of past and present life by collecting and analysing sub-soil samples with a drill, developed by Leonardo-Finmeccanica, and a powerful set of instruments. ExoMars will demonstrate new technologies that will help to pave the way for a future Mars sample return mission.

      PDF Version

      PN_ExoMars Arrival English 2016-10-14.pdfPN_ExoMars Arrival English 2016-10-14.pdf


      Further Links

      More about the mission: ESA website - ESA/ESOC - Thales Alenia Space (Video)

      Images

      Thumbnail: Schiaparelli separating from Trace Gas Orbiter / Copyright ESA–D. Ducros
      Simulation: Mars Team training critical manoevres / Copyright ESA/ J. Mai

      Press contact

      Alexandra Sokolowski
      alexandra.sokolowski@telespazio-vega.de
      Tel: +49 (0) 6151 8257-764
       
    •  
      | September 2016 |
      Rosetta mission end supported by Telespazio VEGA Deutschland

      ​Press note - Darmstadt, 27 September 2016  

      The Aerospace Company Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, a subsidiary of Telespazio (Leonardo/Thales), will be supporting the final phase of ESA’s Rosetta mission, controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC/ESA) in Darmstadt. The spacecraft is scheduled to soft-land on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 30 September 2016.

      Telespazio VEGA Deutschland staff is and has been part of the Flight Control, Ground Station Operations as well as of the Flight Dynamics Teams of the Rosetta mission ever since the late 1990s. The company has been also involved in the development of key ground systems for the mission. This level of service stability for over 16 years was made possible through the continuous successes of the company to re-qualify for each five-year ESOC Frame Contract that has been issued since the early stages of the Rosetta programme.

      This long-term support to the Rosetta mission, under the lead of an ESA Flight Director, has had several benefits for both Telespazio VEGA Deutschland staff as well as for the client ESOC: the staff gained in-depth knowledge and expertise of a unique mission, while the continuity of service ensured that this knowledge was maintained and optimally utilised on the mission. Since Rosetta will be turned off the moment it touches down, the mission will come to a scheduled end. The Telespazio VEGA Deutschland employees working on Rosetta will then be transitioned to other missions which will benefit from their experience. 

      In detail, Telespazio VEGA Deutschland has been involved in the following activities within the Rosetta Mission:

      Development of a simulator for the Rosetta orbiter: The simulator has been used by ESOC to support flight control activities during the various phases of the mission: LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase), the different flybys and gravity assists, hibernation, approach & orbit around the comet and now soft landing. The training & simulation campaigns have been led by Telespazio VEGA Deutschland experts.

      Development of ground systems: Telespazio VEGA Deutschland has developed the Rosetta Mission Planning System (MPS), as well as the Mission Control System (MCS), which are and were used to plan, schedule, to monitor and to control the many different activities of the spacecraft over the years. Naturally, various technology upgrades of these systems have also been performed during the mission lifetime.

      Operations: Telespazio VEGA Deutschland experts are part of the ESOC Flight Control and Flight Dynamics teams, ICT Engineering, Ground Station Engineering as well as Administration teams.

      Philae Lander: Telespazio VEGA Deutschland has been supporting the operations team of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) at MUSC in Cologne during the various mission phases of Philae. This support included technical management, development of the Philae simulator; Ground Segment and interface development to allow the international team to support operations; 3D animations of both orbiter and lander, as well as Flight Control during the Philae cruise, landing and scientific phase.

      Telespazio VEGA Deutschland is not the only entity within the Leonardo-Finmeccanica Group to contribute to the mission: Many of the Rosetta’s on-board and ground-based instruments, as well as those of the mission's Philae lander, are made by Leonardo-Finmeccanica in collaboration with key scientific and academic institutions under the coordination of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).

      In particular, the company provided the ‘space drill’, known as the Sample Drill and Distribution (SD2) system, to dig into the comet’s soil surface to a depth of 30 centimetre acquiring samples of material from the comet.

      In addition to the SD2, Leonardo also developed for the Italian Space Agency innovative robotic systems and sophisticated electro-optical instruments based on hyperspectral technologies. These include the A-STR Autonomous Star TRacker, which correctly orientated the Rosetta probe in space and adjusted the antenna to allow signals to be received from Earth; the NAVCAM camera, which aided in the probe’s navigation; the VIRTIS (Visible InfraRed and Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) instrument which measured the temperature of various features on the comet; the GIADA (Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator) which analysed the comet’s dust and particles and the photovoltaic assembly for the probe. Other smaller solar panels covering 2 square metres were installed on the Philae lander’s surface, generating the power for its on-board instruments to work on the comet surface.

      Press contact

      Alexandra Sokolowski
      alexandra.sokolowski@telespazio-vega.de
      Tel: +49 (0) 6151 8257-764 
       

      Press note as pdf

      PressNote_RosettaSoftLanding_English_2016-09-27.pdfPressNote_RosettaSoftLanding_English_2016-09-27.pdf

       

      Thumbnail: Rosetta approaching comet
      Copyright: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
       

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