Norway and the Netherlands share new twin satellites
Norway and the Netherlands will soon be in space with the twin satellites Huygens and Birkeland. The satellites have been developed and built through a collaboration between FFI and two Dutch research institutes (NLR and TNO), financed by the Dutch and Norwegian ministries of defence.
The twin satellites form the most visible part of the MilSpace project. They will be controlled from FFI at Kjeller. When they are expected to be launched from Florida in December this year, they will be able to detect, classify and geolocate radars of interest very precisely. It includes navigation radars used on ships. Once the radars are operational, MilSpace will be able to detect them from its polar orbit.
The satellites have been developed and built in close collaboration between Dutch and Norwegian researchers. Hence the names: Christiaan Huygens (born in 1629) was the Dutch mathematician and physicist who discovered the moon Titan and the Orion Nebula. Kristian Birkeland (1867) was the Norwegian physics professor who, among other things, did groundbreaking research on the northern lights.
This is the first time that Norway and the Netherlands are launching a constellation of satellites that will fly together. This means that you gain experience with formation flying through the project. The two satellites will go into a polar "Low Earth Orbit (LEO)" with an altitude of 550 km.
They will move in the same track plan. The distance between them will vary throughout the mission. The antennas can cover any point on the earth's surface. It can happen at least four times per day. At higher latitudes, as many as 15 daily observations are possible. Solar panels will provide the ten-kilogram nanosatellites with the necessary energy.
Norwegian and Dutch researchers have collaborated on the project since 2017. The researchers have visited each other's institutes regularly. The SMART MilSpace2 system is half-owned by the Dutch Ministry of Defense and FFI, and the ownership agreement was signed last week at FFI.
Working on the satellites in the clean room at NanoAvionics. Photo: NanoAvionics.
Birkeland and Huygens are nano satellites and weigh only ten kilograms. They are the same size as a stereo amplifier without the solar panel. Photo: NanoAvionics.
Solar panel provides the twin satellites with the necessary energy. Photo: NanoAvionics
Kick-off in March 2022 at NanoAvionics with researchers from the Netherlands and Norway. Photo: NanoAvionics
Four of the researchers who have developed the satellites. From the left, Bert-Johan Vollmuller and Sjoerd Gelsema from the Dutch institutes NLR and TNO. They have worked together with Eirik Grimstvedt and Bjørn Holst Pettersen from FFI. Photo: FFI