Postage Stamp for First Danish Satellite
On Wednesday 13th January, 1999, the Danish Post Office authorities issued a 4 Kr pictorial stamp, showing an artists impression of Denmark’s first scientific satellite poised high above Earth in lasting tribute, writes Bert Van Eijck.
The following day from the American Vandenberg Base in Southern California the artificial moon was sent into space via a Delta rocket. The satellite is equipped with five scientific instruments designed to measure and map the Earth’s magnetic field. The measurements will be used for amongst other things, the study of The Northern Lights (aurora borealis).
The artificial moon has been named “Örsted” after the Danish physicists Hans Christian Örsted (1777-1851) who in 1820 discovered the magnetic field associated with an electric current. The postal authority had already featured Denmark’s famous son on a stamp in 1951 to mark the one hundredth anniversary of his death.
The Örsted Project had started way back in 1993 as a co-operative undertaking by Danish research institutes and the space industry of Denmark. A network of more than fifty bodies scattered around the world pick up and analyse the scientific data flowing from the satellite. Funding for the project comes from a number of sources with the USA, France and ESA being some of the main contributors.
The Örsted satellite weighs 60kg, has a height of 69 cm, a width of 45 cm and is a mere 34cm deep. Once operational in space this tiny artificial moon reaches a respectable eight metres length as you can see on the detail of the stamp, through the gradual opening out of a mast rolled into two sections of six and two metres. During the launch the flexible mast is coiled into a spiral which once in orbit proceeds to slowly unfold to its full length.
The scientific findings are transmitted from space to a ground station in Copenhagen. At the same time control signals for the following orbit are sent to the satellite. Back-up stations in Aalborg and Ballerup can eventually take over this task.
Back to Copenhagen, where on 13th January 99 a first day postmark was used for the Danish Örsted stamp. The circular design shown is an international symbol representing Earth’s magnetism, which is precisely what the satellite research, is all about.
Of course research into the magnetic fields around the Earth started quite some time ago in terms of the space age it was in right at the start, with very often both the East and the West participating jointly.
An example is Interbol, a project to which Russia as well as Europe and USA contributed manpower and funding. Magnetic fields and solar wind research were the one focus of the Interbol Project. Russia went as far as issuing two items of postal stationery to mark this joint venture.
An illustrated postcard (11.11.93) carried a 40 rouble imprinted stamp showing the magnetic fields and two Interbol probes and an envelope (not illustrated) similar to the card but with the additional illustration of an Interbol probe studying the solar wind.