PROBA2: Belgian scientists keep an eye on the Sun
The Royal Observatory of Belgium in an orbit around Earth
posted: Jan 21, 2010
These days are red-letter days for the Belgian space industry and space sciences. PROBA2 is the first ESA-space weather satellite observing the Sun. More, it is the first satellite with onboard two instruments of which the Royal Observatory of Belgium, ROB has the lead. With pride the ROB can say that both instruments are functioning very well. The first results will be presented on January 26, 2010.

In 2002, ROB scientists and several other Belgian and European partners decided to jump on the PROBA2 train leaving the ESA-station. The science was mending to be focused on solar observations offering a crucial basis for solar research and predictions of space weather, both key activities of the ROB. Turbulent plasma processes, magnetic firework on the Sun, mass and light explosions ... subjects belonging to the daily life of a scientist at ROB. It was an ROB dream to develop instruments of their own which could be handled by themselves and are aiming at the needs of space sciences. This dream got the shape of the "Lyman-alpha Radiometer" and the "Sun Watcher with Active Pixels and Image Processing", LYRA and SWAP in short. These instruments onboard of PROBA2 are classified as 'State of the Art'.
Novembre 2 2009, 02:50 Belgian time: the micro-satellite PROBA2 was launched from a Russian launch basis. The first signal of the satellite reached Redu around 06:00: PROBA2 was in the correct orbit and was alive!
The opening of the SWAP-cover was the next crucial step. During the passage of the satellite above the ground station in Redu on December 14, 2009, the command to uncover SWAP was given. The lock of the door was literally melted. The satellite was pointed towards the Sun. At 21:33, the first SWAP image was made. A piece of the Sun in EUV was visible. The Sun was not centered because of a few attitude problems of PROBA2. To have the Sun (partially) in the picture was an incredible success. The principal investigator, PI of SWAP can assure you that finger nails were being shortened. The confirmation of success was celebrated with a bottle of champagne.
On January 05, 2010, at 14:58, the safety lock of the first LYRA-door was removed. Door 2 and 3 followed on January 06, 2010. In the evening on January 06, PROBA2 finally sent the first data of LYRA to Redu. The LYRA-team was relieved but above all excited about the promising results. With the word of PI of LYRA: "We have not sent 8 precious diamonds in the sky for no reason. We have the proof that these high-tech diamond UV-detectors are like jewels: nice and perfect."
At this moment, the operators of Redu have the satellite and its attitude problems under control. The commissioning phase during which all techniques and instruments are being tested is almost finished. After the closure of this phase, PROBA2 will start its nominal and regular observing program, starting to do experiments and science.

On January 26, 2010, the PROBA2 consortium will present the first results during a press conference.