SpaceNed verbindt
de Nederlandse ruimtevaartsector

Interview with the team involved in the BRIK-II satellite

BRIK II, the first military nanosatellite of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), built by ISISPACE, was successfully launched last week onboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne vehicle. The launch vehicle was carried by a modified Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl and released at 7:47 AM (PT) over the Pacific Ocean. ISISPACE has been a major stakeholder in this project, acting as the platform and ground segment designer, integrator and responsible for the launch arrangements and the platform commissioning. Curious to learn some insights about this mission from the team members? Check out the interviews below from some of the ISISPACE team members that have been working on this project:

When did you start working on the Brik-II project?

Ivan: Since I joined ISISPACE in March 2019 the BRIK-II project was given to me. I started the project as a Radio Frequency Systems Engineer.

Coen: I joined the team in January 2019.

Hong Yang: The project started back in November 2017, as an ambitious project to put the RNLAF and the Dutch Industry on the map as a Space Force. I took over the management in January 2019 from my colleague. As you already see the team changed around that point.

What were the major concerns over the project?

Ivan: The development and test of a new radio frontend for a military frequency band was a bit of a challenge. And also, the 6U satellite with 3 different payloads was the most complex project for me at ISISPACE. Mostly because of the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) of the subsystems. It took some time to resolve all the problems. A lot of creativity was required to solve issues that we were facing during the AIT (Assembly, Integration and Testing) phase and EMC testing campaign.

In the end, all the issues were successfully mitigated, and we’ve got a lot of lessons learnt for other projects as well.

Coen: The deadlines were challenging.

Hong Yang: From the start the project had ambition. The parties worked hard together to bring the payloads and platform together. However, like with many of the technology demonstrator projects, interface management was of utmost importance and challenging. The COVID-19 situation made the interface discussions a lot more difficult, blocking parties to work hands-on on the satellite during the period that everything came together for the first time.

How would you classify this project over your career?

Ivan: As I mentioned before, the BRIK-II was the most challenging and complex project for me. Very happy to be part of this mission.

Coen: Incredible experience and I was able to apply almost everything I’ve learned throughout the years and other jobs

Hong Yang: A career-boosting project. The challenging nature, the scope of the project and the complexity of the relationship management is something special. It is bringing a space system from A to Z. And how great is it to also have it launched on the Virgin Orbit LauncherOne Everyone watched with awe at this spectacular journey.

How would you describe all this experience in a few words?

Ivan: Exciting, challenging and groundbreaking. I am very proud of our teamwork and very good collaboration with RNLAF and payload providers.

Coen: Simply awesome and something to never forget. Proud. I was able to partially build and test the satellite and integrate it onto Virgin Orbit’s rocket. So, I got the whole package. Which is incredible.

Hong Yang: In one word: UNIQUE. While sometimes, mind breaking the result is what counts: great teamwork, solving complex issues, paving the road for the next missions.

Last Wednesday, the 30th of June, was a historical moment for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF): the BRIK-II, the first Dutch military nanosatellite, built by ISISPACE, was successfully launched onboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne vehicle. The launch vehicle was carried by a modified Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl and released at 7:47 AM (PT) over the Pacific Ocean.

BRIK-II is a technology demonstrator in answer to the investments in the space program of the Dutch Defense, essential to the future safety and security of Dutch society, as described in the Defense Vision 2035. The BRIK II-is the first satellite of RNLAF to demonstrate the potential of nanosatellite technology for military and civil use cases.

ISISPACE has been a major stakeholder in this project, acting as the platform and ground segment designer, integrator and responsible for the launch arrangements and the platform commissioning. The satellite hosts three demonstration payloads. The first one is a store and forward radio, developed by the RNLAF 982SQN, allowing the forces to send secure messages via the satellite. The scintillation monitor, developed by the University of Oslo (UiO) measures ionosphere scintillation, enabling the RNLAF to analyze and determine whether interferences in the GPS and other communication are due to natural events, or by potential adversaries. The third payload is the ESM sensor, developed by the NLR, which allows the RNLAF to detect and analyze the use of radio signals. The Delft University of Technology was involved in the project as an adviser to the RNLAF.

First signals for BRIK-II were received the same day, confirming strong health and excellent communication conditions with the satellite. Within a day, the team was able to start the commissioning of the first systems, which will be continued in the coming week. It is expected that the satellite will be ready for payload commissioning before the end of the month.

In 1913 Marinus van Meel built ‘The BRIK’ which was the first aircraft for the ‘Luchtvaartafdeeling’ (nowadays known as Royal Netherlands Air Force) in Soesterberg. To commemorate his pioneering spirit, the first nanosatellite gets the honourable name of BRIK-II. Would you like to know more about the historical “BRIK”? Check out the video: https://youtu.be/4Frou4wSJUc