Space Policy

Lithuania has a remarkable potential in space industry. Lithuania’s technological potential of both business and research institutions lies in these areas:

  • optics (in particular, technologies and materials of optical components; optical instruments and its technologies),
  •  optoelectronics (in particular, laser technologies and photonics),
  •  materials and processes (in particular new materials and technologies of new materials, processes of materials),
  • life sciences,
  • physical sciences,
  • systems of radio frequencies,
  • earth observation.

Organisation of Space Activities

Lithuania has historically had a significant involvement in space Research Development and Innovation (RDI). Vilnius University Astronomical Observatory was established in 1753 and it is the fourth oldest observatory in Europe.

Lithuanian scientists and engineers participated in soviet aerospace activities by developing systems and elements for soviet space shuttle Buran and Mars program, for Lunar rover Lunakhod, carrying plant research in scientific satellites Bion 10 and Bion 11 and orbital stations Saliut and Mir. RDI was related to plant physiology in microgravity, piezoelectric control in supply systems of liquid fuel rocket engines, development of space nuclear reactors, development of thermo insulating materials for space shuttle, development of photodetector arrays for the robotic vision systems, astrophotometric observations of stars and their classification for the use in the space craft’s attitude control systems etc.

Since regaining independence in 1990, Lithuanian scientists and engineers have been integrating into European and global space activities. For example, Lithuanian astronomers participated in the development of GAIA, supplying an analysis of the photometric systems, peculiar stars and interstellar extinction.

Lithuania established relations with the ESA in 2010 by entering into a Cooperation Agreement on 7 October (ratified in 2011). This Agreement was followed by the European Cooperating State Agreement signed on 7 October 2014 (ratified in 2015).

The institution responsible for Space Policy in Lithuania is the Ministry of Economy and Innovation which is also the Lithuanian interface with ESA. Coordination is the responsibility of the Innovation and Industry Department of the Ministry of Economy and innovation. The Ministry of Economy and Innovation is also the national coordinator for EU Copernicus program.

Space Technology RDI

Lithuanian research and business entities are strong in the following space related science and technology fields:

  • Astrophysics;
  • Earth observation;
  • Photonics, especially laser physics and technologies;
  • Material science and technologies, including nanomaterials;
  • ICT technologies;
  • Electronics (micro- and nano-electronics);
  • Mechatronics;
  • Biotechnology;

Space RDI are carried out in the frame of the main space-related programs:

  • The Programme on Development of Research, Technologies and Innovation in the Aerospace Sector for 2016-2020 and its Action Plan.
  • National Science Programme “Towards Technologies of the Future“(2015-2020).
  • The five-year Plan for European Cooperating State (PECS) (2015-2020)

The National Science Programme “Towards Technologies of the Future“ (2015-2020) was approved in 2015. The aim of the Programme is to prepare Lithuanian science for ESA membership.

The main areas addressed by this programme:

  • fundamental research in space exploration and applied research in space applications;
  • research for space technologies, mainly research in the field of generation, transmission and detection of electromagnetic radiation in microwave and infrared bands (nano-structural photonics).

National Space Technology

Using high potential in some science and technology fields, such as physics, material science, nanotechnology, microelectronics, biotechnology, laser technologies, mechatronics and optoelectronics, Lithuania is developing its capabilities in space technologies mainly related to emerging sector of small satellites. In 2014, the two first Lithuanian self-made nanosatellites were launched and successfully tested new technologies.

The first two Lithuanian satellites Lituanica SAT-1  (developed by the students and young researchers from Vilnius University) and LitSat-1 (developed by the Space Science and Technology Institute and Kaunas University of Technology) were launched into space in February 2014. Their placement into orbit served as a test bed for Lithuanian technologies in space.  The 3rd Lithuanian satellite “LituanicaSAT-2” was launched in 2017 (developed by “NanoAvionics”).

The most developed is the subsector of space applications: satellite telecommunications and broadcasting, satellite navigation and Earth observation from space (remote sensing, geoinformatics and cartography). More than 90% of Lithuanian satellite telecommunication services are exported.

The Lithuanian industrial landscape that could be related to space is largely SME-based and as such, with high-tech niche sectors, such as:

  • Optoelectronic components and systems;
  • Piezoelectric actuators;
  • Ultrasonic non-destructive testing;
  • Ultrafast picosecond laser manufacturing and laser machining;
  • High temperature materials science;
  • Electronics;
  • Molecular biology, enzymes and genomics;

Laser Damage Testing

Laser systems operating in space require well-characterized optics, which are able to ensure long-term failure-free operation and perform effectively under high average output power. If an optical element used in the laser system would become damaged, the performance of the laser can be seriously reduced or even destroyed. Furthermore, a damaged optical element would also endanger the entire space project since there is almost no possibility to repair optic’s degradation in the orbit.

Up to now, the ability to predict optic’s longevity required by space programs is limited by insufficient experimental data and lack of the validated prediction models. In order to solve this problem, Lidaris and ESA join forces for a two years collaboration project ESPRESSO - ESsential PREparation Steps for Qualification Longevity of Space Optics. The project started on the 15th of January 2016.

Optics longevity is characterized in terms of laser-induced damage threshold (LIDT) – safe and efficient limit to use optical elements. During the project, the standard LIDT measurement system was upgraded for a long-term testing. Up to 50 samples were designed, produced and tested under up to 1 million laser pulses. The most promising production process to manufacture optical elements for space applications has been identified. A new software has been developed, which implements various analysis techniques capable of extrapolating measurement results up to billions of laser pulses.

There are still ambitious technical and theoretical challenges ahead for this project. Yet the successful development of reliable optics longevity qualification process would find highly profitable applications in both space and earth.

The program ,, Towards a future technology "

The goal of the “Towards Future Technologies” program is to create a favorable international context and conditions for research that will help lay the foundations for future technologies, promote innovation and increase Lithuania's competitiveness and security by developing the fundamental and applied research necessary for Lithuania's integration into ESA's science and technology development programs. The national research program "Towards Future Technologies" aims to prepare for Lithuania's membership in ESA, i.e. i.e. to ensure that Lithuanian researchers, after Lithuania becomes a full member of ESA, could compete on an equal footing with researchers from ESA Member States.

Lithuanian Aerospace Program 2016-2020

The Aerospace Science, Technology and Innovation Development Program for 2016–2020 has been prepared taking into account that the successful development of the Lithuanian business and science sector operating in the field of aerospace science, technology and innovation is one of the important factors that can increase the state's competitiveness. to ensure more efficient operation of the public sector and public welfare. Lithuania is seeing a growing need for the public sector, business and society to use services provided on the basis of data received from space and other remote sources, as well as aerospace technologies (robotics, aeronautics, etc.). in the atmosphere, in water and on land. Aerospace activities are important for the state and citizens, as the technologies and innovations developed by the aerospace sector increase the country's competitiveness in the field of state-of-the-art science and technology; transferred to other industrial sectors, increases the overall innovation potential and competitiveness of the state; used by small and medium-sized enterprises, provides a wide range of space-based services to the public sector and citizens, improves their quality of life and reduces social exclusion. Aerospace activities have a very high potential for innovation and cover virtually all fields and technologies horizontally. Aerospace technologies, like military ones, are the most advanced, so by increasing the general culture of innovation, it also ensures the country's competitiveness. Aerospace technologies are used to develop the highest value-added system products and services in various industrial sectors. Space activities help to address key challenges for political, economic and technological independence and security. Cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) ensures the rapid and targeted use of research results in the innovation cycle, access to state-of-the-art technology and international expertise. Participation in ESA activities ensures the implementation of national priorities and a rapid increase in competencies that meet the needs of Lithuania and the EU.

 

Last updated: 09-09-2020