Troll, the Czech satellite that will help protect nature

Troll, the Czech satellite that will help protect nature
Troll, the Czech satellite that will help protect nature

TROLL satellite display|Photo: TRL Space

The countdown to the launch of the new Czech satellite Troll into space is slowly beginning. If nothing unexpected happens, everything should be ready by October this year.

Troll is the first Czech satellite and the third in the world to use a hyperspectral camera capable of photographing invisible light spectra. The images taken by the satellite will be of great help, for example, to farmers and environmentalists.

Petr Kapoun and Michal Mičola|Photo: Michal Šafařík, Czech Radio

Thanks to the precision of the hyperspectral camera images, scientists will be able to determine the level of pollution in rivers, the chlorophyll in plants and discover illegal dumping sites in forests that are currently invisible due to the tree canopy.

Among the more than 7,000 satellites currently in orbit, the Czech Troll stands out for its special camera capabilities, Petr Kapoun, director of the space company TRL Space, told Czech Radio.

“We could compare it to night vision, for example. When we put on night vision goggles, we suddenly see the silhouette of a person in the dark or various objects. A hyperspectral camera is something similar. It can also see through plants, what chemicals they contain, or determine whether there are enough nutrients and water in the soil.”

TROLL satellite with hyperspectral camera|Photo: Michal Šafařík, Czech Radio

The Czech Environmental Inspectorate will use the data obtained in this way to monitor illegal dumping sites in forested areas. But in addition to nature protection and agriculture, the satellite can be used for border control or to track military vehicles.

Scientists have made calculations confirming that Troll will fly over the Czech Republic five to seven times a day, taking pictures in a 120-kilometre-wide area, explained Michal Mičola, director of the TRL Space laboratory.

Michal Mičola holds a model of the interior of a satellite printed on a 3D printer|Photo: Michal Šafařík, Czech Radio

“We will collect a huge amount of data. The satellite has an artificial intelligence module that evaluates and classifies the photographs. It will only send us photos with data that interest us, for example, about water courses or surface systems. At the same time, it will only send us images that are sharp, clean and of good quality.”

On the left, a hyperspectral image recording the amount of chlorophyll in bananas, on the right, an image taken with an optical camera.|Photo: Michal Šafařík, Czech Radio

In addition to the hyperspectral camera, the Troll satellite will be equipped with software that will be responsible for evaluating the data directly on board the satellite. The security of the signal transmission between Earth and the satellite will be guaranteed by an encrypted communication system.

SpaceX is expected to launch the Troll satellite into orbit in October, and Czech scientists have said they want to launch nine more similar satellites by 2030.

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