Latvia is on its way to becoming an active European and global space sector participant. On 15 March 2013, the country signed the Plan for European Cooperating States (PECS) agreement with ESA. Using its infrastructure and more than 50 years of experience in space exploration, Latvia is now very actively utilizing current capabilities and developing new expertise in spacetech.
Let me introduce you to the most important players in the space industry in Latvia:
Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center (IE VIRAC). Center’s main objective is to carry out observations of natural and artificial space radio sources, thus collecting data for fundamental and practical research programs of radio astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, geophysics, geodynamics, geodesy, coordinate-time service, etc. The IE VIRAC is active in fundamental research in astronomy and astrophysics, applied research in the field of space technology, high-performance computing, and applied engineering electronics research.
Institute of Astronomy (former Astronomical Observatory of the University of Latvia). The Institute has been participating in satellite observations and instrumentation design since the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite on 4 October 1957. Institute staff have designed a range of satellite tracking equipment including optical, photographic and laser systems. The Institute of Astronomy is running a satellite laser ranging (SLR) system and a permanent GPS station. The SLR station is a member of the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS) and Eurolas. The permanent GPS station (RIGA_12302M002) is a member of the International GPS service (IGS) and EUREF permanent GPS network EPN. The SLR station (ILRS code name “1884 Riga”) is capable of day and night observations and measurement of distances to the satellites in the range from 400 to 28,000 km with single shot accuracy around few centimeters, depending on the range and satellite signature. The research is concentrated on SLR-related activities: design and testing of new equipment, data analysis, and algorithms and software for the tracking objects in the vicinity of the Earth.
Eventech. The company is developing high-precision timers. Eventech products have received worldwide recognition by the scientific community, and are the preferred choice of members of the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS), which has included this equipment on their official website as the best practice for Time-of-Flight (TOF) devices. Eventech timers have the following distinguishing features: extremely high precision (better than 5 picoseconds); fast measurement rate (up to 20 MHz); excellent price and performance ratio; simple hardware; ability to adapt to specific field of application (“adaptable-to-application”); and customized user software.
Institute for Environmental Solutions (IES). IES is a modern research organization whose goal is to advance airborne remote sensing science for wise management of natural resources and the environment. In their research projects, IES tackles the 21st century’s major environmental issues, including climate change, reduction of greenhouse gases, biodiversity, conservation and management of natural resources, energy efficiency, pollution and waste management, and others. More specifically, its research is focused on the creation of new knowledge and solutions for the synergetic use of different remote sensing systems and data sets for environmental management.
Latvian State Institute of Wood Chemistry has for many years been carrying out research in polyurethane chemistry and technology, but also in space technology, and thus creating cryogenic insulation materials. The institute is developing space-related solutions in the areas of a) thermal insulation materials/polyurethane foams for space technology and machinery; b) cryogenic insulation — thermal insulation materials are suitable for application in space by providing heat/cold protection; c) hard polyurethane foam; and d) polyurethane foam that would be appropriate for storing liquid hydrogen in special tanks, or vehicles that launch spacecrafts or satellites into orbit.
RD ALFA Microelectronics is a company that develops and manufactures certified high reliability and radiation hardened microelectronics components for aеrоspace and defense equipment as well as video transmission/CCTV components. The company’s production includes: operational amplifiers; comparators; amplifiers; analog switches; sample and hold circuits; circuits for general application in electronics; and video systems for long distance transmission.
Latvia is also active in promoting the space industry to the general public. The most ambitious project of a private team of rocket amateurs and space enthusiasts is to build the first Latvian space rocket. The concept is to launch a small rocket from the stratosphere. The goal of the team is to develop a simple, cheap and reliable system that can be used by universities and companies for high altitude experiments.
The municipality of Cesis in Latvia has the ambition to build a Space Attraction Center. The purpose of the center is to promote space-related careers and STEM education for schools and families in an interactive and hands-on way. It is also planned to host the world’s first Space Academy — a high school level education institution for children who want to become space industry professionals.
About the author
Pauls Irbins. President of Latvian Association of Space Industry. Social entrepreneur, founder of science center ZINOO network. Business coach, investor, space activist. If you want to learn more about space ecosystem in Latvia, connect with Pauls on Twitter.