Poland in space – looking to increase its activity
The Polish space sector is gaining wind in its sails, confirmed by contracts signed by Polish companies, projects in progress, and the country's increased contribution to the European Space Agency.
Grzegorz Wrochna, president of the Polish Space Agency (POLSA), pointed out that the funds transferred to the ESA will mostly return to the Polish industry, enabling the development of technology and the development of competitive products and services.
Poland has a long and rich history in regard to the exploration and study of space, dating back to the 1400s with mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus as well as astronomer Johannes Hevelius, whose contributions still impact the industry. Poland has since upheld its tradition of seeking more information about space, with several Polish universities and research institutes, astronomers, scientists and engineers contributing to inventions and devices important to the history of space conquest.
Today the Polish space sector consists of more than 400 companies and institutions, with more than 200 of which cooperate with ESA on a daily basis. Employment in the sector is about 15,000 people. Contracts won by Polish companies exceed the amount of 140 million euros.
The companies space companies specialise in control and robotics, application of Earth observation data, mechatronics, optics and communication systems for satellites, scientific sensors, space and terrestrial software, among others. Key European space companies as well as ICT and aerospace companies also have their branches in Poland.
In 2022, Poland's National Science Centre funded 28 projects related to the space sector. And the sector is expected to continue to grow.
Just to provide some more recent examples, technologies developed by Polish company Astronika are currently on their way to Jupiter, SatRev continues its space cooperation with Oman, POLSA has launched three new observatories around the world, Liftero, a Polish startup, is looking to revolutionise orbital transportation, Arobs Poland is participating in a project for ESA on satellite quantum communication, N7 Space and ITT are both looking to contribute with technology for better space observation. Equipment and instruments supplied by Polish companies have been used in more than 80 ESA and NASA space missions.
Waldemar Buda, Poland's Minister of Development and Technology, has clear goals for the country and is shooting for the stars.
"We have aspirations, but also predispositions to be among the countries that have strongly developed space technologies in a few years. In 10-15 years, the strength of countries will be judged precisely from this angle. Our goal is not to catch up with others, but to be among the world leaders. Strengthened cooperation between Poland and the ESA will pay us back many times over – the second Pole in history will fly into space, the level of domestic space technologies will increase, high-paying jobs will be created, there will be a dynamic development of our economy," Waldemar Buda said back in August during a cooperation signing with ESA.
Poland does have an opportunity to become competitive, and access to skilled labour and government assistance may be crucial in this regard. It should be noted Polish universities offer at least 27 electronics-related majors, and astronomy itself, as a separate field of study – all of which can become a gateway into the space sector.
When Pawel Rymaszewski, CEO & CTO of Thorium Space, was asked by Evertiq in a previous interview why he chose Poland as the base for his company and not France, he alluded to the skilled workforce that exists in the country.
"I spent many years in France; the ecosystem there is different. In all of this, it's about people. This company is about people. In Poland, we have great people, we have engineers [...]. We started in Wrocław, and now we're also in Warsaw and the Tri-City. Establishing Thorium Space in Poland was a very good decision. It's known, however, that it would have been easier to start this in France, but I might not have had the right people for it," Pawel Rymaszewski said in an interview with Evertiq.
Young space experts are in plentiful supply in Poland. This is supported, for instance, by the participation of young Polish researchers and doctorate students in studies carried out at the Chilean Observatory and by the success of Polish teams in global Mars rover contests. During Evertiq Expo Warsaw 2023 on October 26, 2023, AGH Space Systems from the AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow, the winners of the most recent International Rover Challenge 2023, will take to the stage during the Expo to talk about the development of space engineering related to their projects, and also demonstrate a real Mars rover.