From space, we are able to see the changes in the extent of areas covered by snow and forests and shifts in ice cover and can assess the sea ice situation and forest growth.
Jaan Praks, D.Sc. (Tech.), was appointed assistant professor at the Department of Radio Science and Engineering in June 2014. The professorship is in the field of space technology, with remote sensing of the northern regions as the special area.
The Estonian-born Praks graduated from University of Tartu in 1996 in environmental physics, specialising in remote sensing. Praks continued his studies in Finland and wrote his doctoral thesis at Aalto University.
“In remote sensing, the Earth is usually viewed from space, which makes it possible to obtain information over wide areas in one glance. As the world's problems are global, we also need information at global level.”
From space, we are able to see the changes in the extent of areas covered by snow and forests and shifts in ice cover and can assess the sea ice situation and forest growth. All these are important parameters in the monitoring of climate change.
“In teaching and research, we concentrate on the remote sensing chain as a whole. We build photography instruments, develop measurement methods and models and even construct nanosatellites. Aerial measurements, for which the school has its own airplane, are also an important part in the development of remote sensing methods and equipment calibration.”
Finland now has its own centre of excellence in satellite technology
Praks is responsible for the development of the Aalto-1 student satellite. The project began in 2010 and involves several universities and research institutes. Students have played a central role in the project as it was they who created the idea and designed most of the components for the device.
Aalto-1 is Finland's first satellite and all data communications between it and the Earth will go through the ground station located on the roof of Otakaari 5. Aalto-1 has helped Aalto University to set up a centre of excellence in satellite technology, the first of its kind in Finland.
The launch of Aalto-1 into space later this year will mark the high point of the project.
“The coming months will be busy because the launch date has already been confirmed. We are in the process of constructing the satellite flight model and carrying out final testing. The satellite is expected to be launched into space on a Falcon 9 rocket in the United States.”
Dozens of master's and bachelor's theses and special reports have already been written about themes related to Aalto-1. The satellite itself, its central computer, radios, antennas and solar panels have all been designed by students.
“My teaching philosophy is that students must gain experience in the construction of technology and team work in their studies. If Finland wants to remain a high-technology country students must be given a chance to be involved in the design and building of high technology.”
And how do you relax when not working?
“I am windsurfing at Haukilahti from spring until late autumn whenever the weather is right. During the winter, I am snowboarding with my children and My wife and I go to dance lessons at every opportunity.”