Welcome to "Senkrechtstarter", your YouTube channel for everything about space travel. I 'm Mo and today we're looking at how satellites are built. Have fun! If you've seen the last episode of Upright Criminal, you already know that I was a guest at OHB in Bremen and, in addition to the interview with Charlotte on the subject of space debris, I was able to visit OHB's newest clean room . Have you always wondered what kind of slide that is on the satellites? Robert: The black film is what is known as “Multi Layer Insulation” in technical jargon, or MLI. This is also known as the golden foil. You have seen that often on satellites. But it is now black. But the function is the same: You also know it from everyday life with casualties.
You 've seen it once when a poor, hypothermic mountaineer is rescued. And first of all, the rescue workers wrap it in gold foil. Simple background: It should stay warm. And accordingly, this film helps to keep the heat in the satellite. Its function is that in the satellite, I will call it a "comfortable" 20 degrees, so that all the electrical units work well. They cannot withstand large temperature fluctuations themselves . The outside of the satellite is exposed to somewhere between plus 150 and minus 150 degrees , depending on whether it is currently on the day or night side of the earth . Of course, you want to make sure that it doesn't get inside. And that's why he's wrapped in this foil. In the episode today you will find out how OHB went from a garage company to a space company. We ask Ann from Advance Development what kind of people have been working on such a satellite and for how long.
We go into OHB's newest clean room with Robert and learn a lot about the function and manufacture of satellites. If you like the topic today, please leave the video like there and if you are new to whiz and don't want to miss an episode about space technology, please subscribe to my channel, because there is a new episode of whiz here every Monday . You may have already noticed. I quit my job to concentrate fully on space travel. Because I am of the opinion that much more enthusiasm has to be aroused for the subject of space travel . If you like what I do here and you want to support my work, I would be very happy if you support high-flyers with a donation with a Patrion membership.
Mo: I'm here with Günther. Günther invited me to OHB. Thank you very much, Günther. Günther: With great pleasure. Welcome. I hope you enjoy it here and have enjoyed it so far. Mo: Mega. Mega. Super cool. It's a bit of a childhood dream to see how satellites are made. Of which you usually only hear that they circle overhead. What I found really exciting is the story behind OHB. Because contrary to the usual structures in the aerospace industry, the history of OHB goes back to a small workshop for repairs to marine machinery.
Christa Fuchs joined this company in the 1980s as managing director. Together with their husband Manfred Fuchs, who had already made a name for himself as an aerospace engineer with an Airbus predecessor, the Fuchs couple built OHB into a space company. Günther: Today, as a space company, OHB is one of the three largest companies of its kind in Europe that does projects for ESA, projects for DLR, and projects for states and institutional clients. But also now more and more commercial business. We have 3000 employees at 14 locations in 10 countries and are an extremely diverse workforce with colleagues from almost 40 nations. Mo: That's funny about the garage. That's the typical start-up story from Silicon Valley. Günther: Yes, exactly. Funnily enough, the development in Germany and Europe, which is now taking place in space travel, is going back to where OHB came from, namely from a garage. Basically, we are what is now called a start-up.
At that time it was just a garage company or a small screwdriver shop that paved its way towards big business and big markets in the smallest and cramped conditions. Mo: Before OHB made a name for itself as a satellite system provider , the company built, among other things, experiments and flight hardware for manned missions of the space shuttle and the ISS. Günther: In the mid-1990s, we made almost half of our sales with such orders. That is of course much less now, but there is. The business is still there. And interestingly enough: At the moment we have a project for the new German astronaut Matthias Maurer, who is said to be flying at the end of the year.
He will take an experiment with him that we are making suitable for space here. Mo: Very cool! Günther: Exactly Mo:
Something that really impressed me during my visit was the complexity of the satellite systems and how many people have been working on the development of satellites over several years. But that is understandable: In order for everything to work several hundred kilometers or even several thousand kilometers from Earth, a lot of brainpower and teamwork have to come together. Hey, I'm here in Bremen at OHB with Ann. Ann, what are you doing at OHB? Ann: Moin Moritz.
At de OHB, I am the project manager for the standard platform that we are currently developing. And the best way to tell you exactly how we do it is in the foyer. Mo: Cool. Ann: Come on. Mo: And how long do these development phases last? Ann: This development phase can vary from one year per phase – so we have a phase 0. We have a phase A. That is then one year at a time. Then a phase B1. This can take between 6 to 12 months – so all in all we can already look at a development phase of 2 ½ years on our own . And then if we look at the implementation, really the detailed design and also the assembly of the satellite, that can take from 5 years to 10 years. Mo: If I'm being honest, then I don't even know where to start with such a satellite development. There are a number of problems that you have to consider right from the start. What kind of team do you start with? Ann: So at the beginning of the project, at the beginning of the study, you really start with our all-rounders.
They have a very universal knowledge, very multifaceted. You can really familiarize yourself with all of the departments, so that we can find a rough concept that we will then work out in detail later with the individual departments. Mo: Which team is the biggest in such a satellite construction phase? Ann: Yeah. Good question, Moritz. We start with a very small team that can be used universally. And that then expands more and more. So the more we go into detail, the more detailed know-how the team member brings. And the bigger the team grows to cover all areas. If we take the example of CO2M, this is a project that is currently running, in phase B2, i.e.
At the beginning of the implementation phase , we are talking about a project team of around 50 people. And that will continue to grow the more activities there are in the cleanroom. Mo: CO2M, that sounds somehow like the greenhouse gas CO2. Does that have anything to do with it? Ann: Exactly. Namely: This mission, which is also designed by the European Commission, is carried out by ESA. And in this mission, our final goal is, so to speak, to identify CO2 hot spots.
In other words, with an instrument that can then determine which CO2 emissions are really man-made in order to be able to act there in the future. Mo: And does this satellite then look at Europe or does it look at the whole world? Ann: He's basically looking at the whole world. It starts with a satellite, but we will then build a constellation, so we will then build a second satellite so that we really have global coverage. Mo: And this Copernicus mission, this CO2 measurement mission, who pays for it? Ann: It's paid for by the European Commission. Namely: At the last World Climate Conference it was determined that we need this capability in Europe. That we need to know where the CO2 is coming from, what the local hotspots are. That is why the European Commission has set itself the goal of having the satellites, i.e. these CO2 missions, in orbit by the end of 25, and then pays for this mission here as well. This is practically within the framework of the Copernicus program, i.e.
The European Commission's earth observation program . Mo: What is the most exciting thing about your job? Ann: Uff, good question! So personally, I have to say: The most exciting thing is as soon as you come into contact with the hardware. So when you really get to the hardware and then start testing and then really see the results that you want to see, that is – that gets you out of bed in the morning. Mo: Cool. And are you all aerospace engineers or where are you from? Ann. We are a very mixed team. So both in terms of nation but also in terms of teaching and career.
I am an aerospace engineer myself and studied in Holland. Many of our colleagues are aerospace engineers. But there is a wide range. We also have electrical engineers. We have technicians. There are many opportunities. And what is also very special at OHB: It's a very international environment. We now have a Canadian from the unique countries on our team. We have a lot of Italians and even an Australian. So very diverse. Very exciting. Mo: Thank you Ann for answering my questions about development. Before I quit my job for the YouTube channel , I was a development engineer, so it was really exciting for me to hear how things are going in other industries.
And of course, especially of course when it comes to space travel. I could very well imagine working in a team with Ann . Ann told me a lot, much more about satellite development, but I think you're probably hot for satellite hardware right now . Robert: That means, it starts with a hairnet. Then comes a smock and then finally the shoes are covered.
You see, there's something like that in the back, call it a bobble on it. You are going to put it in your socks right now so that you are grounded. It lets a very low current flow through the person to make sure that one is actually grounded or not. It doesn't hurt, I promise! Press firmly once. OK. Wonderful Already done Mon: Robert is Product Manager at OHB and, among other things, responsible for the MTG satellites. Robert himself explains what MTG stands for. Robert: Here we are in front of one of the MTG satellites. MTG stands for Meteosat Third Generation. So third generation of Meteosat. It's about geostationary weather satellites. They are always over Europe to collect data and then make weather forecasts. In total, Meteosat third generation consists of 6 satellites. There are also 2 types. So it is divided into so-called imagers. This is the continuation of the second generation. They simply take pictures of the earth, where you can see cloud formations, for example, how they move and so on and that, because they are constantly over Europe, actually in real time.
And then there are the so-called sounder satellites. This is actually a major European project now, or really a European stand-alone project. It doesn't exist anywhere else anywhere in the world. They are able to actually – I call it that – look INTO the atmosphere. So instead of only seeing the atmosphere from above, they are able to examine the various layers of the atmosphere and use their complex instruments to collect data there: How the water molecules are distributed in the atmosphere, how they move and in what concentration they are present. A very clear example: If the clouds are already there, then the bad weather will usually be there relatively soon . But if you can see much earlier, through the constellation and movement of these water molecules, where clouds are likely to arise, then you have a clear lead time in order to be able to predict the weather more precisely and earlier. That is the idea behind this third generation of the Sounder satellites. With the Sounder satellites, it is also interesting that we are building the instrument, which is highly complex, in our sister company in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich.
And that is then delivered here. And then it comes on top of the satellite, which is still a bit empty upstairs , then the instrument comes on top of it, in order to be finally integrated here. Mo: That means we will get a much more accurate weather forecast in Europe in the future. So we can look a little further into the future than we can now. The far-reaching positive effects this has for a large number of people and industries here in Europe cannot be emphasized enough. If you would like to find out more about how the MTG satellites work, I'll link you to a video from the operator EUMETSAT here. Robert: What is interesting here is that you don't have the external structure directly on the satellite, but can also take a look at what is actually in such a satellite. First you see big tanks. Those tanks covered with aluminum foil. You can see a lot of wiring harness, everywhere also cables wrapped in aluminum foil. And then you also see such disc-shaped black components.
That is interesting. These are reaction wheels. They'll spin in orbit afterwards. And due to the angular momentum that they generate, the satellite, which is itself exposed to free forces, of course rotates in exactly the opposite direction as this wheel rotates. That means, if you accelerate or slow down, you can control the position of the satellite and its orientation in orbit. Mo: Reaction wheels play a very important role in space travel and actually deserve their own video. Especially since there is an exciting story to be told about the failure of a number of these reaction wheels lately. Would you be interested in a video like that? Just write to me under the video. Perhaps, like me, you have always wondered what kind of electricity such a satellite actually consumes. Robert: It only consumes 2000 watts on average. That means: This huge satellite, including the instrument, then consumes about as much as two desktop computers.
Everything is always designed redundantly. You have to be sure, if something fails, that you have a backup immediately. Something can fail, but then you don't want to lose the entire satellite immediately , you want to be able to switch to the redundant side. Here it is like this: The solar panels are about 5 m long. We have two of them. Each about 1 ½ m high. They are used to generate electricity. You have to consider: In the beginning, they generate significantly more electricity than the satellite needs. This is then stored in the battery.
Or it is simply given off by heat. But at the end of life – because he is also constantly exposed to cosmic or solar radiation, especially these charged particles from the sun – this leads to them slowly being damaged and becoming increasingly inefficient. We always design everything so that the satellite can survive in orbit for between 7 and 15 years, depending on the type of satellite .
And that is how long it has to be able to withstand the charged particles of the sun . And so you make sure that you always ensure this – in our satellite jargon this is called – "End of Life Performance". So not the performance at the very beginning, but the calculated performance that the corresponding components still have at the very end of the satellite's life cycle . Mo: The problem with the aging solar panels in space is not just a problem for satellites. Just last week SpaceX brought new solar panels to the ISS with a Cargo Dragon to support the aging original solar panels. What I'm really interested in is what a satellite like this actually costs. Robert: Well, at MTG, for example, you pay a few hundred million euros per satellite.
They are really very expensive because they simply have these extremely complex instruments. But of course it depends on the type of satellite and, above all, on all of the development work. The more satellites you build, the cheaper it will of course be. But because we have a lot of one-off production or small quantities, it is usually the case that the development work actually takes up the majority of the effort and the satellite prices are very high as a result. Mo: Sure, if you build such highly complex satellites in very small numbers or even as a single piece, the development costs can be immense. Certainly one of the reasons why we are seeing more and more constellations of identical satellites . But also many small special solutions can make satellites very expensive. Robert: On the one hand you can see this silver foil. But then you also see something golden next to it.
And the golden one is called copper braid, copper braid. This fulfills the same function, but is significantly heavier than the aluminum foil. And so, in order to keep the satellite as easy as possible, we actually did the job of wrapping all this aluminum foil around the cables by hand in several thousand hours instead of pulling this finished braid up there. That saved twenty or thirty kilos and they said: It's worth it. Mo: Perhaps the industrialization of space travel, which we are currently experiencing, will mean that there are more off-the-shelf special cables.
Cabling is a good keyword: it is tested on a dummy before it is installed in the satellite. Robert: Well here, Moritz, there is something that somehow looks like a satellite, but isn't really one. This is there to make the whole wiring harness. We installed more than 20 kilometers of cable per satellite here at MTG . And they have to be held together somehow when they are made. Because if they were to be interpreted in any other way, that would be a huge Gordian knot. They are first made in a simple aluminum replica of the satellite. And then there is a highly complex procedure here to detach them and then carefully take them out and insert and build them into the satellite as a whole . Mo: If you've been on a whiz for a long time, you know that I'm very interested in propulsion systems. And so of course I was very curious to see what Robert had to say on the subject of satellite propulsion.
Robert: The satellite itself, to reach orbit it only has one engine. This is what is known as a 400 Newton thruster. So that's how much thrust it generates. But then it has a lot of additional smaller engines. We just call them thrusters. They are there to ensure, in addition to the reaction wheels, which we already showed before, that you have a second possibility to turn it in your position in orbit. That means: by giving an impulse on one side, they can turn the satellite around its own axis, depending on how it is needed.
Now you might be wondering: Why are there both reaction wheels and these thrusters? That is double mocked. Is that additional effort that has to be brought into orbit ? At some point you have turned the reaction wheels so high that they can no longer turn any faster. And then they have to be so-called "desaturated". Then these thrusters will be used to “hold” the satellite as if to “hold” in order to then slow down the reaction wheels in the other direction . And for this, these smaller engines are also required.
Such a small engine costs a few 100,000 euros. If you were to hit it while assembling the satellite, it would be a relatively annoying and expensive mistake. And accordingly, these are protected by these red boxes, which ensure that if someone gets too close, this thruster will not be damaged immediately. Here, the layout was again redundant. We have the main engine that is only available once. But if that main engine fails, or whatever happens, you don't want the satellite to be stranded in low orbit. But then these thrusters are used to heave it into this higher orbit. This will then be less efficient and take longer, but there is still a way that the mission does not fail immediately.
Mo: You can understand that too . If you spend several 100 million euros on such a satellite, you want to keep a few back doors open so that you don't have to give up the entire satellite mission in the event of a system failure . And so that the mission doesn't fail before it really starts, one part is particularly important: Robert: The thing below is called the “Launch Vehicle Adapter”. An adapter for the rocket on which it will be built afterwards. On the one hand, this has the function of keeping the satellite stable in the rocket during launch. There are loads of loads that it has to endure. Just by the dynamic forces that the missile creates. But afterwards there is a feature, you can see it like a “belt” around it. It is then blasted off pyrotechnically when the satellite is released from the rocket after the successful launch.
That allows the satellite to come loose there. It is very important that it works. Because if the satellite stayed on the rocket, that would be too much extra weight to drag along with it. As you may have noticed, Robert was an incredibly knowledgeable companion in the cleanroom and of course had a lot more exciting things to say about building satellites. I'll put the complete cleanroom tour with Robert in an extra video and upload it to you for the week. Thank you Robert for this great tour. You fulfilled a childhood dream of me. I was able to get very close to satellites that are actually going to go into space. Many thanks again to Ann and especially to Günther, who invited me and organized the entire visit to OHB. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the supporters of the whiz kid. Special thanks, of course, to all my patrons who directly support the channel with their donation .
I won't name the newcomers this time, as not everyone wants that. If you would be happy to be named as a direct supporter , write to me directly via Patreon, then I can assign it directly. Next week this will be about the James Webb Space Telescope. This is a cooperation with Andreas von Yiggis Kosmos. You can look forward to that. It's getting galactic! If you don't want to miss these and other developments in space travel, please subscribe to my channel.
Because every Monday there is a new episode of "Senkrechtstarter" here. I hope you enjoyed today's episode. If so, please leave me a like there. I hope to see you next week. Until then: Always stay vertical. Your Moe.