FireBIRD – using satellites to detect fire

FireBIRD – using satellites to detect fire
FireBIRD –
using satellites to detect fire
FireBIRD is an Earth observation mission with the primary goal of monitoring fires
from a remote location in space. It involves the detection and measurement of socalled high temperature events and the provision of remote sensing data for research
at DLR and for external partners. The mission has purely scientific objectives, and all
segments of this Earth observation mission are controlled by DLR.
The space segment consists of the two satellites TET-1 (Technology Experiment Carrier) and
BIROS (Berlin InfraRed Optical System). The TET-1 satellite has been circling Earth in a polar orbit since July 2012 and has successfully concluded the first part of its mission as a technology
testing platform. The BIROS satellite has the same bus as TET-1, but is additionally equipped
with a propulsion system for active attitude and orbit control. BIROS was launched on 22 June
2016 at 05:55 CEST. The main payload for both satellites is a multispectral camera system.
The high-resolution infrared data acquired by FireBIRD can make an important scientific contribution to climate research. The main payload on board each of the two FireBIRD satellites is an
identical system of three autonomous cameras. At the core of the ‘bi-spectral infrared sensor
system’ are two cameras that operate in the middle (3.4–4.2 micron) and far infrared (8.5–9.3
micron) ranges. The mid-infrared range is ideal for fire detection, while the far infrared system
mainly records the background temperature as a benchmark.
In addition, BIROS was used to dispatch technologies and experiments from various DLR institutes and industrial partners into space: a new propulsion system in the form of a cold gas
thruster is currently being tested that allows a satellite to actively change its position in orbit.
The AVANTI experiment was performed on the basis of these findings, allowing autonomous
approach navigation to a distance of 50 metres from the TU Berlin picosatellite BEESAT-4.
Furthermore, the satellite’s newly designed reaction wheels – so-called high-torque wheels –
enable rapid and precise panning of the infrared camera, permitting even repeat imaging
of a single point of a specific region on Earth’s surface from different perspectives.
Internal data processing and communication capabilities with Earth have also been steadily improved: the OSIRIS experiment provides the satellite with an optical downlink to send data to
Earth at a speed of up to one gigabit per second. There are also plans to use a separate modem to e-mail the parameters for discovered fires to mobile devices, practically in real time.
The data will be made available for scientific use worldwide.
The DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems investigates and develops active and passive optical sensor systems for use in aviation, airborne platforms and robotic systems. It participates in
the scientific analysis of the measured data and uses its core competencies to contribute to
numerous national and international collaboration projects.
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e. V. (DLR) (German Aerospace Center, DLR)
Dr.-Ing. Winfried Halle • Institute of Optical Sensor Systems • Rutherfordstraße 2, 12489 BerlinAdlershof, Germany • Phone +49 30 67055-559 • E-mail winfried.halle@dlr.de • DLR.de
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