ESTCube-1, Estonia’s first satellite to be sent to the Earth’s orbit in cooperation with the University of Tartu, Tartu Observatory and other research institutions, took images of such excellent quality, as experts say, that now the Tartu researchers are getting first orders from the space industry. In January 2017 the first custom-made space camera will be mounted to the students’ satellite of the European Space Agency.
The vice rector for academic affairs of the University of Tartu and initiator of the ESTCube project Mart Noorma views it as a long-awaited opportunity for the development of space technology, “We see it as a chance for entrepreneurship. The European Space Agency needed a high-quality photo camera system for the new satellite and finally only two workgroups remained in their selection from all over Europe, including us.”
Andris Slavinskis, head of the space technology department of Tartu Observatory, adds that the next step is to establish a company and its first developments are cameras suitable for cubesats similar to ESTCube.
At the sTARTUp Day conference held in Tartu on 9 December, European Space Agency announced that the next Business Incubation Centre will be established in Tartu. When developing space cameras and other similar technologies this gives a chance to get support and find contacts here in Estonia.
„Every cube satellite wants an onboard camera because that will give evidence of them having been out in space. At the moment we are in the process of making our first contract for building a camera, although we haven’t even advertised it,” Slavinskis says confidently.
The time of launching the European Space Agency’s satellite has not been confirmed yet. A small onboard camera suitable for satellite costs approximately 10,000 euros. At the moment the team is also working on the orbiting of the renewed ESTCube-2 in 2018 and launching of ESTCube-3 to the Moon’s orbit in future.