The institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Space Research Centre (SRC) and the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Centre (NCAC), both based in Warsaw, in cooperation with the Astronomical Institute of Wroclaw University (AIUW) will carry out the first Polish scientific satellite mission. The Polish satellite will be a part of BRITE (BRIght Target Explorer) constellation. Polish institutes joined the BRITE consortium formed by 2 Canadian and 2 Austrian research institutions, the University of Montreal, University of Toronto, University of Vienna and Graz Technical University. The goal is to make photometric observations of some of the brightest stars in the sky. These observations will be about ten times more precise than any ground-based observations.
In the frame of BRITE-PL project two satellites will be built and launched till March 2013 and will provide the astro-seismological data of 286 brightest stars on the sky. The funding for Polish participation provided by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education amounts to €3.5M, which is the biggest scientific grant in space research awarded in Poland since 1989. Polish satellites will be a part of 6-satellite formation flying on 800 km orbit. Their lifetime is predicted for at least 2 years. BRITE satellites belong to the nano-satellite category and have a shape of a 20cm cube with a mass of 7 kg each. They are 3-axis-stabilized spacecraft with a precision better than 1 arc minute. Their scientific payload consists of an optical telescope with a high resolution CCD. BRITE mission design is based on CanX-class nanosatellite, built by the Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. Polish engineers of SRC will contribute to the development of the payload (e.g., adaptation of the camera to the UV filter and introducing FPGA technology to the on-board electronic system of the second satellite). The BRITE-PL mission will be operated from the ground station built and managed by NCAC in collaboration with SRC engineers. Science based on BRITE-PL data will be carried out by Polish astronomers affiliated with NCAC and AIUW who are experienced in the field of astro-seismology due to their theoretical works and simulation models of bright stars, and by SRC scientists involved in the research program related to possibility of detection of star occultation by Kuiper Belt Objects. The offer of Polish participation in BRITE consortium came from prof. Slavek Rucinski of the University of Toronto in Canada, the initiator of BRITE mission.