On August 29, 2008 at 09:15 a.m. local time (CEST), RapidEye\'s constellation of five commercial earth observation satellites were launched successfully from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Russian DNEPR-1 rocket carrying the satellites emerged from its silo, ignited its four engines, quickly gained altitude and speed and disappeared in the clear blue sky.
âThe launch of the satellites into orbit has been perfect. All satellites were released into a shared orbit at 630 km and will circle the globe 15 times daily. We expect to be operational in about 13 weeks.â said Wolfgang Biedermann, RapidEye\'s CEO.The successful lift-off was the first of many successes for RapidEye that day. Reports throughout the early part of the flight provided reassurance that the launch vehicle was performing normally. Fifteen minutes later, the tracking station in Oman received confirmation that all five satellites had been released from the rocket fairing on schedule.The First ContactOne hour and forty minutes after the launch, the satellites were scheduled to pass over RapidEye\'s control station in Brandenburg for the first time. During that pass, using only nominal orbit parameters for tracking, the control station sent out a command to one of the satellites. Five seconds later the first burst of telemetry appeared on the controllers\' screens, confirming contact with one satellite. There were a lot of smiling faces in the RapidEye control room! During the same pass we were able to contact a second satellite. On the next pass at 12:30 p.m., we communicated with the remaining three. This was the crowning event to a very smooth launch of the RapidEye constellation that had been eagerly anticipated by staff, customers and other guests who had gathered in Brandenburg for the event.While the launch event brings to a close the development, construction and testing phases of RapidEye\'s constellation, it is simultaneously the beginning of operations. Work started immediately after the launch and throughout the weekend with stabilizing each satellite, up-loading software, and gradually turning on systems and checking their status and behavior. Full commissioning will last three months, during which systems will be characterized and calibrated, image data will be downloaded and analyzed, system parameters will be tuned for best performance, and the satellites\' orbits will be controlled to achieve the desired characteristics and phasing. At the end of this phase the system will be ready for its intended tasks, accepting and processing orders from our customers.High expectations from the RapidEye systemâWith our satellite constellation, we are able to observe large areas of our earth with a high revisit rate at high spatial resolution. The earth observation data obtained with our system is the basis for important management information services that haven\'t been commercially available until now, especially in the agriculture and forestry industries. We expect to play a decisive role in the quickly growing geospatial information market.â explains Wolfgang Biedermann, CEO of RapidEye. Photo: Launch vehicle, Photo courtesy of SSTL, UKBeginning at 8.30 a.m. local Brandenburg time, RapidEye celebrated the launch with the public in front of their headquarters in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany. Dr. Dietrich Heine, Deputy Chairman of the RapidEye AG Supervisory Board, emphasized the importance of this project. âThis constellation of five satellites with their five spectral sensors makes RapidEye the first Geospatial Service Provider worldwide able to reliably deliver large quantities of high resolution images from every point of the earth. The possibilities are endless thanks to our team of specialists and a highly automated data processing system that catalogs and analyzes images for our customers.â A crowd of more than 400 visitors anticipated the countdown and launch of the RapidEye satellites.As part of the launch event, Pietro Widmer, Head of Operations & Engineering at RapidEye, introduced a model of the RapidEye satellite system and rocket to the audience. With the help of the model, Mr. Widmer demonstrated the launch of the five satellites by showing each stepof the launch as it happened. Simultaneously, an animation of the RapidEye satellite launch was shown in RapidEye\'s lobby, and a full size camera model was exhibited. Two further demonstration stations explained RapidEye\'s business model, products and services, the satellite system and the launch sequence.After the satellites reached their orbit, the launch event continued with the naming of the satellites. Wolfgang Biedermann handed over a check for 2,395 EURO to Prof. Dr. Peter Macke, Chairman Gollwitz Manor House Trust Advisory Board. âWe have decided to name the satellites Tachys, Mati, Choma, Choros and Trochia. The names are derived from the Greek language. Tachys and Mati together are RapidEyeâ mentioned Wolfgang Biedermann.Following the public launch party, Wolfgang Biedermann welcomed invited guests into the courtyard of RapidEye to celebrate with the employees, their families and friends.A short program with guest speakers was given to âlook backâ on RapidEye\'s past, giving participants a quick history lesson about some of the key events that led up to launch day.âThe launch event was a great success, and we are delighted that there was such an enormous turnout from the local public, our invited guests, political dignitaries and the media. We are glad they could join us for this important moment in our company\'s history. We look forward to starting business with our own satellite images and our soon to be fully operational systemâ, states Wolfgang Biedermann.
Author: RapidEye Press release 29 August 2008
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