Ready for Space: PRETTY is Ready to Launch

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The climate observation satellite PRETTY will be the sixth Austrian satellite in
The climate observation satellite PRETTY will be the sixth Austrian satellite in space. The picture shows the satellite with unfolded solar panels in the clean room at TU Graz. Image source: Lunghammer - TU Graz
By Susanne Filzwieser

The Austrian climate observation satellite PRETTY is scheduled for launch in spring 2023 from the spaceport in French Guiana on board a Vega-C rocket.

The next Austrian satellite has been built and tested and is ready for launch into orbit in spring 2023. PRETTY will be the sixth Austrian satellite in space, and the third made and tested by TU Graz. The customer of the climate observation satellite is the European Space Agency ESA. Beyond Gravity Austria (formerly RUAG Space) is responsible for the overall project management.

PRETTY is an acronym for Passive REflectomeTry and dosimeTrY and will host two scientific experiments as payloads. The centrepiece is a passive reflectometer system for precise measurement of the Earth’s surfaces, developed by Beyond Gravity (concept and software system) and the Institute of Communication Networks and Satellite Communications at TU Graz (hardware). The small satellite will use the reflectometer system to measure the extent of ice and sea heights as well as ocean currents.

To measure the radiation environment in space, Seibersdorf Laboratories GmbH has developed, built and tested a novel dosimeter platform. The dosimeter payload is active during the entire PRETTY mission and collects scientific data. TU Graz was responsible for the satellite platform, carried out the manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing activities and will operate the satellite from the ground station at Campus Inffeldgasse.

First stage destination: Czech Republic

PRETTY is scheduled to launch into space in spring 2023 on a European Vega-C rocket from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana, South America. The satellite’s first stage destination is Brno, Czech Republic. There, PRETTY will be placed in the launch deployment mechanism by the launch provider together with other satellites, which will then be flown to Kourou for final integration into the launch vehicle.

Cubesat weighing in at just under five kilograms

PRETTY is a CubeSat with dimensions of 10x10x34 centimetres. The satellite has a mass of 4.6 kilograms and will orbit the Earth in a sun-synchronous polar orbit at an altitude of around 565 kilometres. The deployable solar panels have an area of 30x20 centimetres each and supply the satellite with a total average power of 24 watts. PRETTY communicates at data rates of up to 2 Mbit/s, and will be operated via the ground station at TU Graz.

The mission is designed to last at least one year. The satellite complies with ESA and UN guidelines for minimizing space debris and will re-enter into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up entirely.

Austrian satellites in space

PRETTY will be the sixth Austrian satellite in space, and the third from the laboratories of the Institute of Communication Networks and Satellite Communications of TU Graz. The previous Austrian satellites (all of them small satellites) at a glance:

TUGSAT-1/BRITE-Austria from TU Graz
UniBRITE of the University of Vienna (TUGSAT-1 and UniBRITE are part of a constellation of five nano-satellites that measure variations in the brightness of stars; both have been in space since 2013)
PEGASUS of the Wiener Neustadt University of Applied Sciences (investigates the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere; in space since 2017)
OPS-SAT from TU Graz (tests and validates new techniques in the field of mission control and on-board systems, ESA’s first nano-satellite mission and the first ever SpaceOps Award-winning ESA mission in space since 2019)
ADLER-1 of the Austrian Space Forum (observes space debris, tests new technologies; in space since 2022)

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