Spain launches Ingenio tonight, its great space vigilante


Updated:16/11/2020 13: 11h


Spain will have a great space watchdog starting tomorrow. At the edge of three in the morning, the satellite SEOSAT-Ingenio, led by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, will be launched aboard a Vega rocket from Kourou, in French Guiana [La retransmisión en directo, aquí]. Ingenio, the largest space project in which the national industry has embarked, will be capable of taking images of the earth’s surface with an impressive resolution of 2.5 meters. These photographs will have multiple applications in cartography, crop control, urban development and water management, in addition to monitoring the evolution of emergencies such as floods, fires or earthquakes.

The satellite will be launched aboard a Vega rocket from the European spaceport in Kourou
The satellite will be launched aboard a Vega rocket from the European spaceport in Kourou – THAT

After a 122-minute flight, the satellite, a kind of one meter by one meter hexagon comparable in size to a small van, will separate at an altitude of approximately 670 kilometers to position itself in orbit and begin to rotate over the Earth more than 14 times a day. Shortly after launch, it will establish communications with the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt (Germany), where teams will monitor its flight during the first days in space. This will be the riskiest phase of the mission, in which the engineers will have to systematically turn on all their key instruments and test their basic functions. In addition, the European Space Agency (ESA) Office for Space Debris will monitor the risk of collision of the artifact with space debris, as it will enter one of the busiest space highways.

Afterwards, the control of the mission will be passed to the Spanish National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA), which will take over routine operations from its Madrid station in Torrejón de Ardoz. Eva Vega, director of the Space Programs department at INTA, does not hide her nerves and excitement at the launch of the mission. “Yesterday they gave him the green light, but the weather can change and everything stops just a few hours away. Hopefully everything goes well, “he says.

From castrato to climate change

The SEOSAT-Ingenio project (the acronym refers to “Spanish Earth Observation Satellite”) has cost around 200 million euros. It has been financed by the Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI) and has been carried out by an industrial consortium of Spanish companies, including Airbus Defense and Space, as the main industrial contractor for the satellite, and SENER and INDRA, responsible for payload and ground segment.

The most important element on board is a high resolution dual camera, which will allow you to take pictures of any point on the Earth’s surface every three days. “Its two identical cameras will be able to capture 55 km at a single glance and 2.5 million square kilometers every day,” explains Vega. This will be especially useful for making unpredictable natural disaster maps, such as floods, forest fires and earthquakes, while helping to understand climate change, one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.

Likewise, Ingenio will monitor land use, support cartographic production, help manage water more effectively, monitor the status of crops during the growing season, assess the effects of droughts, and provide information for precision agriculture. . It will also follow urban growth and aid in border control. The main areas of observation are the Spanish territory, Europe, Latin America and North Africa. “In reality, satellites are in our day-to-day,” points out the person in charge at INTA, “for example, the information we consult in the cadastre comes from a satellite.”

The one produced by Ingenio will be available to different civil, institutional and government users in Spain, although it may also be used by other European users within the EU Copernicus program and the Global Earth Observation System (GEOSS). The satellite has a lifespan of seven years, but will probably photograph Earth for a decade.

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