The Project for On-Board Autonomy (Proba) is a technology demonstration mission of the European Space Agency, funded within the frame of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme (GSTP). It is managed by ESA’s Control and Data Systems Division within the Department of Electrical Engineering, part of the Directorate for Technical and Operational Support at ESA/ESTEC.
Work on the project began in mid-1998 and Proba-1 was successfully launched on 22 October 2001. Originally designed for a two-year mission, Proba-1 is still operating now as an Earth Observation Third Party Mission.
The objectives of Proba-1 are:
- in-orbit demonstration and evaluation of new hardware and software spacecraft technologies
- in-orbit demonstration and evaluation of onboard operational autonomy
- in-orbit trial and demonstration of Earth observation and space environment instruments
A high degree of spacecraft on-board autonomy, together with ground-station automation, considerably reduces the need for ground operations. Proba-1 aims to use and demonstrate automatic functions, both onboard and in the mission ground segment.
Proba-1 onboard automatic functions include:
- nominal operation and resource management
- computation and control of camera pointing and scanning from raw inputs from users (target latitude, longitude and altitude)
- payload operations scheduling and execution
- data communications management
Proba-1 ground-segment automatic functions include:
- spacecraft pass operations
- spacecraft performance evaluation
- high-level user requests to spacecraft via Internet
The spacecraft's commissioning phase has been successfully completed and payload data are being provided to users. Images are also processed by ESA to demonstrate the high stability and pointing accuracy of the spacecraft.
On the basis of the in-orbit data received, an extension of the operational mission beyond the nominal one year is planned.
Users of the Proba-1 satellite to date include:
- more than 60 Earth observation Principal Investigators from scientific institutes within Europe
- space weather and space debris scientific communities
- EduProba (Belgian schools and universities)