André Monfils, pioneer of the Liege space optics programme.

In order to calibrate the instrument on the flight-a telescope of 0.27 m coupled with a spectrometer, in conditions close to those of the environment of space, the Astrophysics Institute of Liège had to equip itself with a space simulation chamber for photometric calibration tests in a vacuum. While the unit was developed by a French project manager, the chamber, with a diameter of 2 metres and 5 metres in length which housed a high-vacuum and thermal variations, was built in the workshops of la Meuse in Liège. The Liège Company, which gave rise to AMOS in 1983, thus became involved in the development of space simulators: FOCAL-2 (Facility for Optical Calibration at Liège) is still operational today within the infrastructure of the testing capabilities of CSL.

It would take five years, from January 1967 to 1972, for the instrument S2/S68 to become a reality. The Caroloregienne Company ETCA designed and developed its micro-electronics. The satellite weighing 473 kilos was launched on March 12 1972 by an American launcher Thor-Delta (on which the acronym TD-1 is based) from the Vandenberg military base in California. But the TD-1 experimentation team were not out of the woods yet. Two months after being placed in orbit, the two recorders on-board broke down. A rescue plan took the form of a global mobilisation of a network of stations to directly collect the data. The observatory worked, with highs and lows, until May 1974. It made possible the establishment of two catalogues of the spectra of stars in Ultra-violet which even today remain tools of reference for the study of hot stars.

Disappointing days ahead

For IAL Space and the pursuit of its activities in the service of European space study, TD-1 met with disappointing times. The oil crisis in 1973 obliged countries to reduce their spending on science and technology.

Professor Monfils had to deal with a crisis caused by a shrinking of the space budget allocated to ULg. He had to manage a serious situation with resources that were halved, going from 24 to 13 million Belgian francs at the time (from 0.6 to 0.3 million Euros). But space technology requires important funding. It opted for a close collaboration with industry, notably with Matra, not only for optical systems tests, but also for the design and development of innovative instruments. Andre Monfils, aware of this necessity, was on the alert and had to manoeuvre in a delicate situation which was made all the more so because any activity with industrial overtones was not to the taste of everyone within the university.

Page : previous 1 2 3 4 5 next