Navigating with the sun

On the Copernicus Sentinel-1A satellite, launched on April 3rd 2014, sun sensors from Jena-Optronik will enable the position determination of the satellite during a three-month commissioning phase. The sensors of type FSS (Fine Sun Sensor) are an essential part of the Attitude and Orbital Control System (AOCS). The German company delivered four sun sensors for the mission to Thales Alenia Space, prime contractor for the building of the satellite in an industrial consortium with Airbus Defence & Space, in 2010.

“The reliability of our system as well as the optimization to our customer’s requirements led to very good cooperation with Thales Alenia Space in the past. We are looking forward to this new field of application for our sensor”, Dr. Klaus Michel, COO of Jena-Optronik on the launch of Sentinel-1A.

Sentinel-1A is a C-band imaging radar mission and will be followed by the second satellite Sentinel-1B in 2015, which will also carry the high precision and robust sun sensors from Jena.

Dietmar Ratzsch, President & CEO of Jena-Optronik on the importance of Copernicus: “The future services of Copernicus will provide fundamental information for the monitoring of land, observation of environmental issues, our seas, the atmosphere as well as climate change and, crucially, prepare the political decisions to be taken.”


Sun sensor technology

Within the phase of commissioning Sentinel-1A the satellite will be stabilized via rotation with the help of the sun sensors FSS. Furthermore the FSS from Jena will support the alignment of the solar panels. Over the mission the FSS will be used as a reference for the other AOCS on board the satellite.

Based on a photo diode array, the Fine Sun Sensor FSS from the German space company Jena-Optronik is an analogue sun sensor with a high degree of flexibility to cope with a large variety of customer requirements with respect to field of view, accuracy and robustness. Until now 70 of the systems respectively the preceding model are successfully used in space. The FSS is designed with two orthogonal detectors, full internal redundancy and special radiation stability. The Fine Sun Sensor with a lifetime of 13 years is produced for application on navigation satellites, Earth observation and scientific satellites with high pointing accuracy.


About Thales Alenia Space

Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%), is a key European player in space telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, exploration and orbital infrastructures. Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio form the two parent companies' “Space Alliance”, which offers a complete range of services and solutions. Because of its unrivaled expertise in dual (civil/military) missions, constellations, flexible payloads, altimetry, meteorology and high-resolution optical and radar instruments, Thales Alenia Space is the natural partner to countries that want to expand their space program. The company posted consolidated revenues of 2.1 billion euros in 2013, and has 7,500 employees in five countries.


About Jena-Optronik

Looking back on 40 years of experience in optical precision instruments for space applications, Jena-Optronik is a true pioneer in the field of attitude and orbit control sensors for satellites and optical instruments for Earth observation. During this time Jena-Optronik, with currently 180 employees, became a reliable partner for space agencies as well as for space companies in Asia, Russia, Europe and North America. They trust in products from Jena-Optronik and equip their top-missions with these.

The company focuses on space applications with operational and commercial background:   

  • Opto-electronic instruments and systems for science and Earth observation
  • Attitude and Orbit Control Systems (AOCS) sensors including star trackers and LIDAR systems

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