On February 22nd, the PAZ satellite, one of the main sources of pride for the Spanish space industry, celebrated its 5th anniversary, and we celebrated it in style, as it should be.
Paz is the first Spanish Earth observation satellite using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) included in the PNOTS (National Satellite OT Program). The launch was made from the U.S. space base Vanderberg (California), aboard a Falcon-9 rocket of SPACE-X, a private American company founded by Elon Musk.
The PAZ satellite has a dual function: it covers security and defense needs as well as civilian ones, and is capable of taking more than 100 images per day with a resolution of up to 25 cm, both day and night, regardless of weather conditions.
Celebration in the sector
There are plenty of reasons to celebrate this anniversary in the space sector, a strategic sector for the interests of our country. For its weight in the industrial fabric, in the economy and in the labor market; for its driving role in the innovation of dual technologies and for its high social return. The space sector generates a strong transversal impact on essential services for citizens: transportation, logistics, environment, disaster prevention, communications and, of course, for defense and security. The Paz satellite program is a good example of this.
The national space sector, with an annual turnover of 9,106 M€, generates 1.2% of the total GDP and 5.4% of the industrial GDP. It is the leading sector in R&D&I investment, with 1,556 M€. Proof of this is the recent creation of the National Space Agency and the commitment of the different public administrations.
Today’s industry figures would not have been possible without the likes of Airbus DS and Hisdesat, along with the rest of the consortium members and government agencies, all of whom are responsible for the success of the PAZ program.
Our participation with this group of companies in current strategic programs, such as SPAINSAT NG and PAZ-2, is a stimulating challenge. From Tecnobit – Oesia Group, we feel committed to the most important national companies in the space sector.
SPAINSAT NG will be one of the most advanced communications satellites in the world and is scheduled to enter service in 2024. It will integrate advanced active X-band antennas, developed entirely in the Community of Madrid, and will have a fully flexible payload with in-orbit reconfiguration capability. Airbus DS and HISDESAT have relied on Tecnobit – Oesia Group for the design and development of the control boards for these antennas.
One of our objectives is to continue to add value through our participation in the future PAZ 2, which will take over from PAZ in earth observation. PAZ 2 will quadruple the radar image resolution capacity. Its launch is scheduled for 2028 and the program will have a high percentage of Spanish industry participation, above 70%. This is undoubtedly a sign of national maturity and capacity.
A bit of history
We must go back to 2007 to understand what the PAZ satellite development program meant, this milestone for our space industry. With the support of the Ministries of Defense and Industry, Commerce and Tourism, the National Earth Observation Program (PNOTS) was created at that time.
PNOTS was intended to respond to national Earth observation needs. These needs could only be met by obtaining satellite images. The SEOSAT satellite(Spanish Earth Observation Satellite), or Ingenio, would be responsible for obtaining panchromatic and multispectral images, in the visible and near-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. On the other hand, PAZ would do it through radar imaging in the X-band of the spectrum.
This would make Spain the first European country with dual optical and radar Earth observation capabilities. Strategic and technologically advanced capability, which would allow a triple use of the generated images, military, civilian and scientific. As misfortune would have it, the Ingenio satellite disintegrated 8 minutes after its launch on November 17, 2017.
The launch of PAZ was originally scheduled for 2012 and the launch rocket would be the Russian Dnepr, a launcher based on a Cold War intercontinental missile, ICBM R-36M, designated by NATO as SS-18 Satan. Relations between the European Union and Russia caused the first delays due to the unavailability of the launcher. Both Russia and the EU were vying for influence in geostrategic countries in Eastern Europe, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine; the integration of these countries into the EU would turn the EU from Russia’s first energy exporter into its first competitor.
Thus, it could not be until February 2018, when the PAZ satellite, from the hand of Airbus Space and Hisdesat, is constituted as the first Spanish radar satellite for Earth Observation, of the PNOTS program.
Bats and flying cars
The PAZ satellite, with a mass of 1,400 kg and more than 5 meters long by 2 meters in diameter, incorporates an X-band synthetic aperture radar. Radars are active sensors, i.e. they do not need an external power source, as is the case with passive sensors, such as electro-optical and infrared cameras.
Radars are commonly used to locate targets in a three-dimensional volume from the returned echoes, eliminating unwanted echoes, also known as clutter. Radar imaging is slightly different; it is based precisely on the integration of terrain echoes to obtain an image once they have been properly processed. The longer the length of the antenna in the direction of movement of the sensor, the higher the resolution that can be obtained, hence the antenna is extended electronically, giving rise to its name: synthetic aperture radar.
Radar imaging is independent of weather and light conditions, unlike passive sensors.
Bats fly by orienting themselves in the dark by receiving their own echoes, analogous to radar. Physics dictates that, in order to achieve certain resolutions and performance, dimensions similar to those of a grand tourer are required.
Cold war in space
Two days after the 5th anniversary of the launch of PEACE, it is one year since the start of Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine. Russia has halted cooperation with European partners, ruling out the use of its SOYUZ rockets, previously routinely used for satellite launches. This fact has a direct impact on several space missions, such as the launching into orbit of two satellites of the European Galileo positioning constellation, scheduled for April, and has generated an unprecedented crisis around the International Space Station, even leading to talk of a new Space Cold War.
From Tecnobit – Oesia Group, we firmly believe that the purpose of our company is to build a better, more efficient, safe and sustainable world, providing quality products and services that increase national sovereignty in key capabilities. Tecnobit – Oesia Group, as a reference company in aerospace secure connectivity, contributes to meet the operational needs of the multi-domain 2040+ environment.
Some characteristics of the PAZ satellite
It covers an area of more than 300,000 square kilometers per day and is prepared to circle the Earth fifteen times a day, at an altitude of 514 kilometers and a speed of seven kilometers per second.
Given its slightly inclined quasi-polar orbit, PAZ covers the entire globe with an average revisit time of 24 hours.
Its total estimated weight is 1400 kg. and it is 5 m long. height and is 2.4 m. diameter.
The radar has been developed in a very flexible way, with the ability to operate in a large number of configurations that will allow a choice of imaging performance. It has an image memory of 256 GB and an image transmission capacity of 300 Mbits/s in X-band.
José M. Múñez, SPACE Business Development Manager