ESA begins commissioning Proba-2 demonstrator

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The European Space Agency has begun commissioning the 17 technology experiments and four scientific instruments that are aboard its Project for Onboard Autonomy mini satellite, also known as Proba-2.

Launched by a Russian Rockot on 2 November as a secondary payload to ESA's primary Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity spacecraft, Proba-2's two Sun-viewing instruments have been switched on for health checks.

The Sun watcher using APS detectors and an image-processing instrument observes the Sun's million-degree coronas as they extend far out into space, while the Lyman alpha radiometer instrument monitors solar ultra-violet radiation continuously.

"As well as testing and characterising the Sun-pointing mode, we are now starting to perform a first health check on the payloads and technology demonstrators," says Proba-2 project manager Karsten Strauch. "More elaborate commissioning tests will follow in the mission's second month [December]."

Proba-2 also has a stellar compass that the ESA says is half the mass of Proba-1's startracker, with increased radiation resistance. It uses two camera heads for greater sensitivity, is fully autonomous and the agency says test images have shown a "striking view" of Earth's atmosphere and stars shining around the planet.