The Ulloriaq satellite. Photo: GomSpace

Unique Danish satellite in orbit around the Arctic

Satelittes Earth observation Space technology and instruments
A new Danish satellite has been launched into space to test the monitoring of ships and aircraft in the Arctic region. This is a joint project between DTU, the Danish Ministry of Defence, and the company Gomspace.

The Danish satellite Ulloriaq was launched successfully into space on 2 February 2018. Here, it will orbit around the Arctic approximately 540 km above the Earth to test the ability of the satellite to take pictures and catch signals from ships and aircraft, among other tasks.

When the project ends in 2020, it will be more clear whether this type of space equipment can contribute to the task performance of the Danish Armed Forces. Advanced technology is playing an increasingly important part in the tasks of the Armed Forces, and DTU Space is now contributing to developing this technology.

“We’re pleased to be able to contribute with our knowledge. DTU has many years’ experience with both the Arctic and satellites, which is an excellent combination in this project,” says Director of DTU Space, Kristian Pedersen.

“In addition, the cooperation and the successful launch of the satellite are a perfect example of how—with the development of high-tech solutions—we can help the Armed Forces in the performance of, for example, public civilian tasks.”

Better situational picture
In connection with the test, the Armed Forces are to evaluate the usefulness of such a satellite system in relation to the possibility of obtaining a better 'situational picture' of the Arctic region in the future.
The idea is that the satellite is to contribute to the monitoring of the Danish Ministry of Defence’s area of responsibility in the Arctic and form part of the civilian tasks performed by the Armed Forces in the area. Including—for example—sea rescue.

“The development phase has been exciting. The satellite is fitted with sensors which are now to be tested,” says Charlotte Wiin Havsteen, Head of the Defence Centre for Operational Oceanography.

“On board, there is an antenna for listening for signals from ships and another antenna for listening for aircraft as well as a camera for taking pictures in clear weather in the daytime. Much work has been done to coordinate frequencies with other countries which have satellites in orbit, to make it possible to operate the satellite and receive data in Denmark.”

The satellite and the systems on board—which are now to be tested—have been launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China.

The Ulloriaq satellite

The satellite is called Ulloriaq, which means star in Greenlandic.

Ulloriaq is a small, effective nano-satellite weighing only approximately 8 kg and measuring 30x20x10 cm.

The satellite is fitted with an optical camera and radio receivers which are to capture positions from ships and aircraft in the Danish Armed Forces’ Arctic area of responsibility and monitor them. It will fly over the Arctic 16 times a day—once every hour and a half—from an orbital path approximately 540 km above the Earth.

The Ulloriaq satellite is also called GOMX-4A and forms part together with GOMX-4B (an ESA-funded project) of the GOMX-4 mission

The two satellites were launched together on 2 February 2018 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert in China.

The satellites were launched using a Chang Zheng 2D rocket (Long March D2)—a launcher suitable for rocket launch of small satellites.