Czech scientists planning to create map of resources in space

Czech scientists are planning to create a map of raw materials that can be found in space. The ambitious plan, recommended by the European Space Agency (ESA), is expected to result in the launch of two satellites in four years’ time.

The Czech Republic’s National Space Plan has got its first ambitious project from the ESA. The “Space Laboratory for Advanced Variable Instruments and Applications”, or SLAVIA as the project is cleverly abbreviated, will serve as a demonstration of selected technologies that could be used in the future for prospecting raw materials on the moon as well as on asteroids.

Petr Kapoun | Photo: SAB Aerospace

According to Petr Kapoun, the CEO of the Brno-based company S.A.B. Aerospace which leads the consortium of companies in negotiations related to SLAVIA, this could be a big help in an area of industry that has caught the attention of many rich investors in recent years.

“Within a few years, we would like to create a map of resources in space, so that, when we do go mining there one day, we will already know exactly where to go.”

SLAVIA counts on using two 20-kilograms satellites that will each carry three devices designated for exploring asteroid fragments and interplanetary matter entering the Earth atmosphere. They include a so-called hyperspectral camera that will analyse the composition of near Earth meteoroids and asteroids when they enter the planet’s atmosphere, as well as a mass spectrometer that will analyse the separated particles directly in orbit. Finally, in order to understand better how such space debris behaves, the satellites are also carrying a radio antenna to monitor plasma.

The measurements will take place 600km above the earth’s surface and therefore provide much more accurate results than if they were to be conducted by scientists on the ground, says Martin Ferus from the Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry at the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Photo: SAB Aerospace

“Our picture will not be affected by the atmosphere, the ozone layer, aerosols and clouds. Therefore, we will be able to capture a much larger spectral range. At the same time, we will be able to gather the weight ranges of the dust that makes up these meteors. That is something that no one has done before.”

The ESA is set to distribute over a billion crowns over the next five years on specific missions that it requests from the Czech Republic. The money should be sufficient for the launch of up to three missions.

Czechia, which already houses the headquarters of the EU’s Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), has close to a hundred aerospace companies and start-ups that have become involved in the space industry over the past two decades.

While most Czechs are still sober about their country’s role in the space industry, recent years have seen several politicians and business leaders lobbying for more investment into the sector, claiming that the Czech Republic has the potential to become a leading power in European space related technological development.