Now, however, engineers at Honeywell's largest and most modern research centre center in Europe have set their sights on a higher plane – space itself.
Technology developed by the engineers at the Honeywell Advanced Tech Lab in Brno will be launched into space onboard the European Space Agency’s Proba-3 mission. The mission, which is scheduled for launch in 2022, will study the Sun’s corona – documenting and analyzing the solar rim from far closer than ever before.
The mission’s objective is to unravel a long-standing scientific mystery: Why is the solar corona so significantly hotter than the Sun itself? It will do so by observing the structure, the dynamics and the heating process that occurs very close to the sun’s surface. It will redefine our understanding of the interaction between the Sun and its atmosphere. The mission will also study Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). These huge ejections of hot matter from the Sun govern space weather and can impact the Earth. For instance, it they may produce high radiation due to solar particles, hazardous for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, or create electrical disturbance for in-orbit satellites or even terrestrial systems on Earth.
However, of far more interest to the space-geeks amongst us, and those in Brno in particular, is that the fact that Proba-3 will witness the world’s first ever precision formation flying in space. A pair of satellites will fly together maintaining a fixed configuration to validate formation flying technologies and rendezvous experiments. An ‘occulter’ satellite will fly just 150m ahead of a second ‘coronagraph’ satellite, casting a precise shadow to reveal the ghostly tendrils of the solar corona. And this is where the tech engineers at Brno have come in. This synchronized flying in space will be achieved at millimetre- level precision and validate the performance of Honeywell Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) based technology. For the first -time, the Honeywell engineers have paired three off-the-shelf MEMS gyroscopes and will demonstrate the robustness of its their performance against the harsh space environment.
There are already interesting space-based applications for space formation flying and millimetre- precision positioning accuracy which this mission will validate. For example, facilitating docking between two spaceships, or rendezvous with the International Space Station. Furthermore, with ever-increasing numbers of satellites in space, including Low- Earth- Orbit constellations, the likelihood of satellites being knocked out of position by space debris is a real threat. This lightweight and cost- effective MEMS-based technology could be incorporated in to individual satellites, providing such accurate positioning data that the satellite could reposition itself.
Technical Manager – Advanced technology Europe, Honeywell International s.r.o.
With over 10 years of professional experience in international and multicultural environments, Tomas has lead the Honeywell team developing the Angular Rate Sensor for Proba-3 mission as well as other projects targeting the technology for space applications. As the primary application of the system is the satellite stabilization, Tomas has been working closely with a EU space primes and suppliers as well as European Space Agency.
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