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Low-cost, automated ground station for LEO mission support

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8 Author(s)
Firestone, D. ; Tiger Innovations LLC, Reston, VA, USA ; Atkin, R. ; Hooks, C. ; Englert, C.R.
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The STPSat-1 spacecraft is a low Earth orbit (LEO), small satellite (total mass: 156 kg) built by AeroAstro, Inc. for the US Air Force Space Test Program. It carries two payloads: The Spatial Heterodyne Imager for Mesospheric Radicals (SHIMMER) and the Scintillation and Tomography Receiver in Space (CITRIS). The satellite bus and its payloads were designed for a 13 month mission. After the successful completion of the one year nominal mission, the payload teams desired to continue satellite operations for at least an additional year to achieve additional scientific objectives. To meet this new mission goal within the available, but limited, funding, Tiger Innovations successfully designed, built, and integrated an automated ground system solution for a low-cost mission extension. Automating a LEO ground station presents a number of unique challenges, including equipment setup, health and safety monitoring, payload interfaces, and anomaly reporting and resolution. The successful STPSat-1 mission extension serves as a powerful demonstration of the tools and procedures necessary to operate comparable future missions in the same manner. Moreover, the entire development cycle from concept to on-orbit commanding was accomplished in less than 6 weeks. Such aggressive schedules are particularly important for operationally-responsive space missions.

Published in:

Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:26 ,  Issue: 3 )