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Integration and Testing Challenges of Small Satellite Missions: Experiences from the Space Technology 5 Project

By Timothy A. Sauerwein and Tom Gostomski

Abstract

The Space Technology 5(ST5) payload was successfully carried into orbit on an OSC Pegasus XL launch vehicle, which was carried aloft and dropped from the OSC Lockheed L-1011 from Vandenberg Air Force Base March 22,2006, at 9:03 am Eastern time, 6:03 am Pacific time. In order to reach the completion of the development and successful launch of ST 5, the systems integration and test(I&T) team determined that a different approach was required to meet the project requirements rather than the standard I&T approach used for single, room-sized satellites. The ST5 payload, part of NASA's New Millennium Program headquartered at JPL, consisted of three micro satellites (approximately 30 kg each) and the Pegasus Support Structure (PSS), the system that connected the spacecrafts to the launch vehicle and deployed the spacecrafts into orbit from the Pegasus XL launch vehicle. ST5 was a technology demonstration payload, intended to test six (6) new technologies for potential use for future space flights along with demonstrating the ability of small satellites to perform quality science. The main technology was a science grade magnetometer designed to take measurements of the earth's magnetic field. The three spacecraft were designed, integrated, and tested at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center with integration and environmental testing occurring in the Bldg. 7-1 0-15-29. The three spacecraft were integrated and tested by the same I&T team. The I&T Manager determined that there was insufficient time in the schedule to perform the three I&T spacecraft activities in series used standard approaches. The solution was for spacecraft #1 to undergo integration and test first, followed by spacecraft #2 and #3 simultaneously. This simultaneous integration was successful for several reasons. Each spacecraft had a Lead Test Conductor who planned and coordinated their spacecraft through its integration and test activities. One team of engineers and technicians executed the integration of all three spacecraft, learning and gaining knowledge and efficiency as spacecraft #1 integration and testing progressed. They became acutely familiar with the hardware, operation and processes for I&T, thus each team member had the experience and knowledge to safely execute I&T for spacecraft #2 and #3 together. The integration team was very versatile and each member could perform many different activities or work any spacecraft, when needed. Daily meetings between the three Lead TCs and technician team allowed the team to plan and implement activities efficiently. The three (3) spacecraft and PSS were successfully integrated and tested, shipped to the launch site, and ready for launch per the I&T schedule that was planned three years previously

Topics: Spacecraft Design, Testing and Performance
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:casi.ntrs.nasa.gov:20070022334
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