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Another ESA satellite is to be produced in Austria


Graz University of Technology has joined forces with RUAG Space to build a new miniature satellite for ESA, the European Space Agency. The nano-satellite is due to collect data for climate research and will be heading into space in 2020.

Miniature satellites are satellites of low mass and size with great potential to advance space research – these compact satellites allow new space technology to be tested quickly and cost-effectively. ESA, the European Space Agency, has now commissioned Austria to build another miniature satellite. ‘Cubesat’ PRETTY is set to become the fifth satellite to be ‘made in Austria’ and sent off into the cosmos.

The device will be a joint venture between Graz University of Technology and RUAG Space GmbH . The PRETTY (Passive REflecTomeTrY) miniature satellite will be about the size of a milk carton; it consists of 3 cubes, each 10x10x10 cm size, and is set to head into orbit in 2020, circling Earth at up to 600 km above the planet’s surface. It will be the first miniature satellite to measure and record ice levels in glaciers and at the poles while also tracking wave motion in the oceans. The Cubesat is part of the ESA’s global climate and weather observation project and is helping to research climate change. PRETTY is the third satellite to come out of Graz University of Technology’s laboratories.

This new ESA commission will move Austria into the premier league of satellite construction, and the Austrian government has allocated the new Cubesat approximately EUR 2.5 million from the relevant federal ministry (Transport, Innovation and Technology). Some 120 Austrian companies and organisations employing a staff of more than 1,000 are involved in the country’s space industry, with the total turnover of the sector amounting to EUR 125 million p.a.