bird launched

Dedicated firesatellite BIRD launched 

(22 October 2001)

The Bi-Spectral Infrared Detection BIRDsatellite has been launched successfully. On its first orbit the spacecraft wasacquired over the Fairbanks ground station as planned on 06:03 UTC. The onboardsequence was executed nominally.

  • Lift-off time: 22-Oct-2001/04:53:00 UTC (exactly as planned)

  • Separation time: 22-Oct-2001/05:09:49.44 UTC

  • Solar array deployment: 22-Oct-2001/09:18 UTC (over Fairbanks ground station)

  • Power: battery charge = 13 Ah (100%)

  • Attitude: -z_axis sun-pointed (as expected)

The attitude control software is working verywell, the satellite acquired the sun after about 5 min. after separation. Thesolar panels were successfully deployed over the Fairbanks ground station duringthe 4th contact (3rd orbit). Since then the power budget is positive and thebatteries are fully charged. The onboard power control application worksproperly.
So far, the thermal behaviour is normal, but not all temperature have reachedthermal equilibrium yet, since the time constants are larger than a half day.
In the meantime all three ground stations, i.e., Fairbanks, and the DLR stationsin Kiruna and Weilheim, were successfully employed for a total of 10 contacts.The downlink signal from space to ground was solid during all contacts. A totalof 180 commands have been uplinked successfully to BIRD over all three stations.
Although the DLR station in Neustrelitz was not scheduled to support BIRD duringthis early phase it did receive the BIRD downlink signal successfully duringthree passes.
The performance of the Indian launcher was also superb. The first orbitdetermination has seen very little deviation with respect to the nominal orbit.The semimajor axis turned out to be greater by 0.9 km and the inclination wasslightly higher (less than 0.1 degrees).


The BIRD mission is a milestoneon the way to establish a small satellite program within the DLR and for thedevelopment of a new generation of imaging infrared sensors for Earth remotesensing objectives, which can be used for planetary exploration, too. The BIRDsmall satellite mission shall demonstrate the scientific and technological valueand the technical and programmatic feasibility of the combination of ambitiousscience and new, not yet space‑proofed advanced technologies with a smallsatellite mission conception under low‑budget constraints.

Some basic objectives of theearlier developed FIRES proposal (1994/95 in close collaboration between the DLRand the German space company OHB-System Bremen) are kept within the BIRDmission. The FIRES mission design followed a design-to-science philosophy andfound a wide acceptance in the scientific community of ecologists, fireecologists, volcanologists and the space industry, too. But with regard to thelack of sufficient funding a new approach was looked for to materialize thebasic ideas. The new approach consists in the development of a mission that hasto follow strictly a design-to-cost philosophy. Some iteration loops betweentotal mission costs, technical plan, scientific objectives and operationalaspects were carried out to define a mission with ambitious science, i.e.

  • new problem solutions and no duplication of data products already available,

  • important potential for application of the new problem solutions,

  • user needs and urgency to get the data,

  • implementation of a low‑cost and quick end‑to‑end data flow,

  • innovative character of methods and technologies developed for BIRD with a high potential for technology

  • transfer to industry, 

  • technology experiments and space proof of new technologies for small satellite missions, 

  • an affordable access to space by piggyback launch of the satellite, 

  • technical and programmatic feasibility of the mission under low-budget constraints, 

  • clear limits of the payload and mission operations and of the observation capabilities because of a very

  • limited operational time (duty cycle). 

Despite the drawback of the verylimited mission operations time (duty cycle) the unique combination of the 

  • new scientific data,

  • new technologies and methods to gather and process the data,

  • singular thematically processed data,

  • new technological solutions to get the data 

with low-cost constraints and afast development time, the BIRD mission shall become a pacemaker within thespace application of a new generation of infrared sensors for Earth remotesensing objectives.

The development of BIRD wascarried out by a very close cooperation between the DLR team from different DLRinstitutes and establishments, Dr. Johann G. Goldammer from the Max PlanckInstitute for Chemistry/Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), FraunhoferGesellschaft (former GMD/FIRST), Astrium DJO, Astro‑ und FeinwerktechnikGmbH and Prof. U. Renner and his team of the Technical University of Berlin.  



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