SENER Aeroespacial in Poland has signed a contract under which it will design, manufacture and test devices to support the integration of the PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) mission’s probe, carried out by the European Space Agency (ESA). The project is commissioned by the German company OHB System AG.
SENER Aeroespacial in Poland began work on the design of the ground-based satellite installation support equipment (MGSE: Mechanical Ground Support Equipment) in late September 2020. The first stage of the project, which is the initial design review (PDR), was achieved within a month. During this phase, the design of the equipment is being refined and prepared for production. The culmination of this work will be a project review to allow for production start-up (CDR/MRR).
The project will develop equipment to integrate the PLATO satellite, which is being prepared for the study of extra-solar planetary systems. SENER Aeroespacial’s engineers in Poland are responsible for the design and manufacture of the ALD (Adjustable Lifting Device), which will be used to carry the satellite and help to integrate it.
In many cases, ALD will work with the PLM HF (Payload Module Hoisting Frame) device, which is a frame for lifting the satellite’s load. Another element is the S/C HF (Spacecraft Hoisting Frame), a frame for lifting the satellite, which will serve as an intermediate component between the ALD and the whole satellite or its service module during the lifting operation. Like most space engineering equipment, MGSE also requires extraordinary precision and reliability. All the know-how of SENER Aeroespacial’s MGSE has been developed by Polish engineers.
For the company, the path to success in the Polish space industry is to focus on specific niche areas, consistently develop them, and gradually expand the company’s portfolio through the acquisition of new competences and provision of high-quality final products. MGSE, alongside the mechanisms, is one of the specializations that SENER Poland develops.
The PLATO mission will start in 2026. Its main objective is to investigate extrasolar planetary systems, especially rocky planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun. Among the detected objects, ESA expects to find planets similar to the Earth. PLATO is an extension of the ongoing Cheops (the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite) mission, which has been conducting research on exoplanets in space since 2019. The research point of the PLATO mission will be the virtual “L2” point in space (1.5 million km from Earth).
The main contractors of the project are: OHB System AG, Thales Alenia Space and RUAG Space Switzerland.
“Each new contract for MGSE equipment is an important step for us, confirming the role of MGSE leader in Europe. We are one of the few companies on the continent to have such a rich portfolio of these devices,” said Ibon Arregui, General Manager of SENER Aeroespacial in Poland and added, “In the space sector, an increasingly strong trend, which is to reduce costs and increase the competitiveness of companies such as SENER, is the standardization of products and the use of similar solutions in subsequent missions – which is why, for example, the base of the ALD device will be the VLD (Vertical Lifting Device), designed and created for the EUCLID mission.”