Latvia’s first satellite Venta-1

Latvia’s first satellite Venta-1 is being developed as an educational project, and is implemented by Ventspils High Technology Park, Ventspils University College and University of Applied Sciences Bremen in collaboration with specialists of the University of Latvia and the Riga Technical University. Till now our country has not performed satellite construction, therefore, first thing to do is to study and acquire experience. Without special equipment the implementation of such project would be impossible, thereof, the greatest part of technical work is performed by University of Applied Sciences Bremen together with German aerospace technology company “OHB Systems”. Latvia’s main contribution and gain is 10 to 12 students and new specialists, who participate in the satellite construction and acquire the necessary skills.

Latvia’s first satellite Venta-1

The vast majority of the satellite construction expenses are covered by the Ministry of Education and Science Republic of Latvia, which in our country is responsible not only for space issues, but also maintains the level of engineering technical education. Project’s total expenses are comparatively low, unlike big satellites that require several millions lats. Unfortunately, it is not possible to comply concrete terms in this project, since everything depends on the availability of funding. For instance, at the beginning of 2010 the project was still short of roughly 100 thousands lats. When the project succeeds to obtain this amount of money, it will be possible to carry out the last stage of the satellite construction.

Weight 7,5 kg
Dimensions 40cm x 40cm x 5cm
Power of solar battery
Data transsmision rate
80MB in twenty -four hours
Planned launch
Year 2011
Orbital altitude
approximately 600 km
Planned duration of active flight 12 - 24 month
Expenses of elaboration approximaltely 350 000 Ls

Modern technologies have developed so far that satellite equipment has become miniature. The planned weight of Latvia’s satellite is 7,5 kilograms, but in these 7,5 kilograms it is possible to install approximately as much equipment as in hundred times heavier satellite 20 years ago. Basic equipment on the Venta-1 will be two receivers of Automatic Identification System (AIS) that will receive ship transmitted wireless signals in seas and oceans and will determine the identity and location of the ship, its direction of movement and speed. Artificial satellite will test the operational possibilities of commercially manufactured AIS receivers in space. In order to install AIS in the satellites, the problem of excessive amount of data has to be solved. Signal receiving stations installed on ships detect small amount of other ships, but satellite simultaneously receives signals from quite many ships. These signals overlap and start to interfere with each other. To adjust equipment for such working conditions, we need to modify hardware and develop special software. This is suitable and interesting working field for students studying at Ventspils University College, faculty of Information Technology.

 Trajectory of "Venta-1”

Emerging Latvia’s satellite will be multifunctional. Satellite is equipped with two digital photo cameras that will capture pictures of Earth’s surface from the space, and with GPS receiver that will identify exact location of the satellite. But this device will also be a challenge for the facilitators of the project, since GPS devices that are built for performing on Earth, do not perform in space. Satellite moves at such speed that receiver, which obtains new positional data, cannot manage to calculate the exact location, therefore, this will also be a work for programmers. Another task of satellite will be evaluating the operational possibilities of commercially available equipment in space.

It has been planned to launch the satellite from a space centre in India, for example, with India’s launch vehicle PSLV. This vehicle will deliver certain big satellite in the orbit, but Venta-1, outer look of which reminds larger laptop, will be attached in the free area under the main satellite, where is enough space to attach several small satellites. 

Venta-1 will orbit the Earth with an altitude of approximately 600 km at oblique orbit. The trajectory of the satellite, similar to thread roll, will “roll” around the Earth, except polar regions. So the satellite will be able to oversee almost all navigable area of the Earth that is not covered with glaciers. The satellite will transmit the information from AIS receivers and the pictures of Earth’s surface to two space communication centres that will be situated in Bremen (Germany) and Irbene (Latvia, region of Ventspils).                   

Irbene Radio Astronomy Centre

Solar batteries that are placed on one of the flat side surfaces will provide energy for the satellite. Small lithium ion battery will collect the excess power. With the help of stabilization system satellite will be turned to necessary direction. The main essence of this system is large magnetic needle that places itself in direction to Earth’s magnetic field. In the satellite a large electromagnet will perform the function of magnetic needle; it will turn and orient the whole satellite. Communication antennas just like moustache will be pointed in different directions.

Source: Journal "Ilustrētā Zinātne"