Slovakia has taken already many steps towards a membership in the European space agency. This article describes them in chronological order from the newest up to the latest one. Until now, Slovak Republic has only signed a cooperation agreement with ESA, which allows Slovak delegates to participate on preparation talks with ESA so as on official meetings of ESA Council. The next step should be a participation in ESA program PECS, which is intended to prepare countries for the membership through financial support of scientific and developmental projects.
This project aims to construct a first Slovak satellite and prepare it to launch into the orbit of Earth. Its primary role will be to demonstrate capability of Slovak industry and scientific institutions to participate on technological space activities.
The project skBalloon aims to construct and launch near-space balloons (Nobuyuki et al., 2004) connected to a payload being able to transport various instruments as CCD cameras, different detectors or commercial load to the earth's stratosphere in approximately 40 km height above the ground. The project intends mainly to raise awareness and interest about space sciences within broad public and remind them on importance of space exploration. Compared to many other countries Slovakia lag behind during last years in this research field with few exceptions. This should be changed in near future by a Slovakian cooperation agreement with the European Space Agency and activities of the Slovak Organization for Space Activities.
First and necessary step of Slovak Republic towards the full membership in ESA has been taken by Slovak government on 2nd of December 2009, when it has approved participation of Slovakia in cooperation with ESA, which has been followed by an official cooperation agreement signed on 28th April 2010.
Slovak Republic is currently not officially interested to become a member of ESO (European Southern Observatory). There are many reasons, why this status should change. However, it requires a wide mobilization of public and scientific interest in astrophysics and space research. Such a mobilization is one of major goals of SOSA, which has already started with various space-related activities.
Slovak space research has been already through various space-related projects. Currently, it is being developed at many Slovak institutes and goes in many directions. At the beginning, it is worth to mention a participation of Slovakia on future space mission ESA Bepi-Colombo, which is going to study the planet Mercury or Slovak involvement in European project "Global Monitoring for Environment and Security" or GMES for short. This article is based mostly on the latest report of COSPAR national committee in Slovakia from 2008/2009, which contains more comprehensive information about space research in Slovak Republic.
Future aim of SOSA is to build first Slovak cubesat called skCUBE, which will be a miniaturized space satellite. Scientific purpose of this mission is already in preparation. Three preliminary visualizations of skCubes (by M. Hric) are shown on the pictures at the end of this article. First one is a cubesat with small fish-eye camera working in the optical band. Second one contains wide-field X-ray optics based on the lobster-eye design. Third one has a small balloon, which will be inflated in the space and test de-orbiting concepts of low-orbit satellites using rapid increase of balloon's diameter, hence boosting its interaction with tail of the Earth's atmosphere.
The first payload for our near-space experiments is named JULO 1 after famous Slovak actor and entertainer Julius Satinsky. Its content with a parachute weight less then 1.3 kg and encompasses several various detectors with a module providing telemetry back to the ground. The assembly team of JULO 1 met for the first time on 11th of December 2009. Its launch has taken place on 9th of October 2010.
Given the current situation of cutting-edge space research in Slovak Republic, which is compared to many other European countries not as popular, we decided to create a public organisation dedicated to modern space-related sciences named Slovak Organisation for Space Activities or SOSA. Our efforts have already raised considerable public interest, which allowed us to put together a team of young participants. Our current aim is to produce an inexpensive and easy way for studying near-space environment by a small stratospheric balloon carrying various scientific platforms.