Check out what happened in the world of science and international politics in Q1 2024!
Link
Knowledge article main photo
Poland has been waiting for this flight for 45 years. Who is Sławosz Uznański?

In August 2023, decisions were made that radically affected Poland’s position within the European space market. The contribution that our country pays to the European Space Agency (ESA) between 2023 and 2025 was originally to be 132 million euros. However, plans have been sharply revised, with the Polish Space Agency (POLSA) reporting an increase of as much as 295 million. [1]

What will Poland gain from this? As early as the second half of this year, the next Pole in history will fly into space — and that’s not all.

It is not an expense, it is an investment. Poland’s space aspirations

Science lies at the heart of technological development. With scientists asking research questions and engineers verifying technological concepts, we can develop technologies and later sell products and services. Space is no longer an area we explore just out of pure curiosity. We are treating it as a new market that is receptive to innovation and that can contribute to the country’s economic development. Developing this market is a race in which many countries are participating, and each of them wants to take the best possible position

– said Dr. Oskar Karczewski, director of the Research and Innovation Department at the Polish Space Agency, in an interview with PAP. [2]

It would be difficult to set a better background for the current concept of the Polish economy’s participation in the broader space sector. Poland became a full-fledged member of the ESA in 2012, and individual scientists and entire institutions involved in various projects have successfully forged a good reputation for domestic science and technology in Europe. Apparatus supplied by Polish companies have already participated in more than 80 missions, including Cassini-Huygens, Rosetta and Solar Orbiter. [1]

There are many more possibilities, but grasping them requires expensive research and experimentation. The experience and knowledge gained in the course of them are the ticket to lucrative assignments and a deep injection of the Polish economy into the global space industry.

Some experiments can only be carried out during orbital flights. European companies have the opportunity to do so but the schedule of orders for International Space Station (ISS) crews is closed for at least 3 years ahead. However, a recent opportunity to “get around” this obstacle is the result of the commercialization of flights to the ISS which is now docked by Axiom Space’s flight support ships. One of the customers is ESA which buys seats for its astronauts on board. 

On January 18, a Swede, Marcus Wandt, flew aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon serving the Ax-3 mission to the space station. He is an astronaut who made it to the astronaut corps in a recruitment that began back in 2021. The same one in which the European Space Agency’s reserve astronaut Slawosz Uznański became a member. [3]

Out of 22,500 applicants, the ESA selected 17 astronauts — five professional and 12 reserve — who, if qualified for the mission, will be placed in the group of project astronauts.

How to become an astronaut? Sławosz Uznański’s career to date 

Slawosz Uznański began training on September 1, 2023 [4].

It takes place at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne. One of the most important elements of the entire process is an in-depth understanding of the International Space Station’s systems. Learning is facilitated by mock-ups of the various components of the ISS, most notably the European Columbus module, where ESA astronauts live and work during their mission.

The astronaut training program is in fact the completion of Slawosz’s many years of career, which has long led him in the direction of a childhood dream.

Space has always been close to my heart. I was born on April 12, which is International Cosmonauts Day, established on the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight. On my birthday, my mother wished me well, saying: “Happy Cosmonaut Day”. I quickly realized that I wanted my professional life to be related to space

– Uznański tells in a short video published by ESA. [5]

He earned his degree from the University of Nantes, having also previously earned a master’s degree in engineering from the Technical University of Łódź. While still pursuing his doctorate, Slawosz took a job with a French company, where he worked on developing new radiation-resistant digital technologies.

In 2011, he came to CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), where within two years he became a project manager and senior reliability engineer. His main responsibilities included the development of a radiation-resistant power control system for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The work was successful, and Dr. Uznański was responsible for 24/7 operation and optimal operation for two years (2018-2020).

As recently as 2019, Slawosz also served as an expert and reviewer for Horizon 2020 research, and evaluated several Polish space projects – PW-SAT2, HyperSat and EagleEye, among others. [6]

The second Pole in space. How will the mission proceed?

Although the exact launch date for the Ax-4 mission has not yet been announced, preliminary information points to a flight in October 2024. The entire mission is expected to last about 14 days.

During the stay on the ISS, the main task of the Polish astronaut will be to conduct the most promising experiments proposed by Polish companies and institutions. 

We were keen on experiments from the field of applied sciences. As a result of the call, 66 proposals were received, and from them 18 were pre-selected. Among them are studies on living organisms, but there are also those in the area of chemistry or psychology

– explains Oskar Karczewski. [2]

In addition, the experiments must also be able to be designed in the relatively short time between the announcement of the mission and its launch. An additional constraint is the size of the payload, which for each test must not exceed 10 kg and 35 liters in volume. Of course, they must also meet all safety requirements.

In addition to the experiments which are expected to become a driving force for the Polish high-tech sector, Slawosz Uznański will also carry out other tasks. 

There will certainly be room in his busy schedule for the popularization of science – a lesson in space conducted in Polish for many youngsters may turn out to be an experience that will influence their entire future life.

Bibliography::

[1] Polish Space Agency, Poland in space – we are increasing our activity, https://polsa.gov.pl/wydarzenia/polska-w-kosmosie-zwiekszamy-swoja-aktywnosc/, accessed on 23.01.2024.

[2] Polish Press Agency, Why does the Polish astronaut mission cost a lot? https://www.pap.pl/aktualnosci/dlaczego-misja-polskiego-astronauty-duzo-kosztuje, accessed on 23.01.2024

[3] TVP Science, Axiom Ax-3 mission launched. Saturday docking to ISS, https://nauka.tvp.pl/75458686/misja-axiom-ax3-wystartowala-w-sobote-dokowanie-do-iss, accessed on 23.01.2024

[4] European Space Agency, Slawosz Uznański from Poland will receive training as a project astronaut at the European Astronaut Center (EAC)

https://www.esa.int/Space_in_Member_States/Poland/Slawosz_Uznanski_z_Polski_odbedzie_szkolenie_jako_astronauta_projektowy_w_Europejskim_Centrum_Astronautow_EAC, , accessed on 24.01.2024

[5] National Geographic, Slawosz Uznański becomes ESA’s reserve astronaut. Will we live to see a second Pole in space?, https://www.national-geographic.pl/artykul/slawosz-uznanski-zostal-rezerwowym-astronauta-esa-czy-doczekamy-sie-drugiego-polaka-w-kosmosie-221123051751,  accessed on 23.01.2024

[6] ESA, Slawosz Uznański, https://www.esa.int/Space_in_Member_States/Poland/Slawosz_Uznanski,  accessed on 23.01.2024

Cover photography: Unsplash

Marcin Szałaj
Bio:
Absolwent kognitywistyki na Uniwersytecie Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej w Lublinie. Dziennikarz i copywriter, który od lat na bieżąco śledzi wszystkie doniesienia ze świata nauki i działa na rzecz jej popularyzacji.
Written by:

Marcin Szałaj

Leave a comment