Laila Kaasik

Space Mission Simulation Centre opened in Tartu Observatory

On Friday, July 1, the Tartu Observatory of the University of Tartu opened a centre for the simulation of space missions, which is partially located underground and has thus earned the affectionate nickname Space Bunker. In recent years, Estonian research institutions and companies are increasingly working on projects whose target is not the Earth but outer space and other planetary bodies. All the instruments that are built as part of these space projects must be tested on Earth under conditions as similar as possible to the destination before being sent on the actual mission. The center is an excellent place to test space instruments.

Therefore, Tartu Observatory's space technology department led by Mihkel Pajusalu started the planning of the Space Mission Simulation centre in the summer of 2021. Today, the center has one large, partially underground room filled with granite sand to replicate the lunar surface. It is connected to a long corridor where space engineers can test instruments requiring greater freedom of movement. Test measurements for the Comet Interceptor have already been made in the hallway. In the summer, they will start testing how the Moon rover can follow the trajectory determined by the software on artificial ground. In the future, there are plans to upgrade the bunker, for example adding a more realistic surface and making the walls more light absorbing. The centre is also open to new cooperation partners.

Tartu Observatory of the University of Tartu participates in the following projects:

● European Space Agency (ESA) Comet Interceptor mission - Tartu observatory is building a space camera called OPIC

● Construction of lunar cameras - will reach the Moon in 2023, project led by Crystalspace

● ESA planetary rover preliminary research - initially, the goal is to create lunar rover control software that could be used on Mars later - a project led by Milrem Robotics

● Development of space light sources for ESA and other customers - led by Crystalspace

● Venus Life Finder - Development of sensors for studying the atmosphere of Venus

Additional information: Mihkel Pajusalu, head of the space technology department and associate professor of space technology,


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