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For the first time Austria will be sending its own satellite to outer space!

Small cube, big effects: With the project "Brite Austria" Austria definitely queues itself into the exclusive circle of space explorative nations.

The small Austrian research satellite "Brite Austria" will only weigh 5 kilograms and will be 20 centimetres high
Picture by Technische Universität Graz

The Austrian "Space-David" – a shoe-bar-sized so-called nano-satellite – will only weigh 5 kilograms, but will be clever enough to take on real "Star-Goliaths". Moreover – apart from the on-board camera and the control elements, which were produced in Canada – it is a "red-white-red" product. In 2008 on board of a satellite-launching rocket "Brite Austria" – the name comes from the English expression "Bright Target Explorer" – will prospectively be shot into orbit. From there it will observe large bright stars and take pictures by using its on-board camera with a small telescope which are only possible to take in from outer space, because of the disturbing atmosphere. So to speak: a handbag sized Hubble-Telescope.

Werner Weiss, professor at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Vienna: "We know that all heavy elements like gold, silver and iron and nearly everything a human body consists of originate from massive stars. But we still don't really know how these stars are made up and how the process exactly works. Austrias small satellite will help answer these big astronomical questions."

State Secretary Eduard Mainoni from the Ministry of Innovations: "Austria invested about half a million Euros in this project which is directed by Prof. Otto Koudelka from the University of Technology in Graz. Several national companies and two institutes of the University of Vienna are involved. With it, Austria will join the small circle of those countries that do independent research in outer space."

The research satellite "Brite Austria" will pass Austria every 100 minutes at an altitude of 800 kilometres and with a speed of 30.000 km/h
Picture by NASA

The functions of "Little Hubble" are controlled by special antennas both from Graz and from Vienna whereas the real Mission Control – so to speak Austrias Houston – is located in the study centre in the Inffeldgasse in Graz.

Prof. Koudelka, head of the project, from the Technical University Graz: "One special thing about Brite Austria and a premiere in outer space is its pathbreaking control system developed by the University of Toronto. Our satellite should permanently observe new stars, but it has no own jet propulsion to adjust itself like many of the big satellites which orbit Earth. For this reason "Brite" has several small spinners on board. From Graz we are able to control the spinners' velocity and can so accurately initiate or stop a rotation."

Dr. Klaus Pseiner, manager of the Research Promotion Agency: "20 years ago, we were talking about constructing, launching and running our own Austrian research satellite for the first time. And now this idea becomes reality. And we can be really proud of this achievement."

"Brite Austria" will pass Austria every 100 minutes at a height of 800 kilometres and with a speed of 30.000 km/h sending data to Graz and Vienna. Scientists hope that the cube – only 20 centimetres in size – will operate for at least 5 years. After all it has to resist temperatures of minus 270 degrees and strong heat. During this time it should deliver valuable information that should help disclose the secret of the beginning of our universe.

By the way: the Austrian satellite will not be the only six-pack-sized object in orbit, as you might think. Apart from the famous Hubble-telescope, the space station ISS and many television-, research- and spying satellites, tens of thousands of further objects and wreckage of former space missions are circling around Earth. When someday mankind hopefully starts to remove this self-made space rubbish we can only hope that Austria's proud mini-satellite will not be accidentally collected by the cleaning squad...

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© A report by Tobias Micke (19-02-06) – Contact