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NASA's Micro-Satellites Complete Technology Validation Mission



SUBMITTED BY ARTHUR N1ORC - AMSAT A/C #31468
> June 29, 2006
>
> Erica Hupp
> Headquarters, Washington
> 202-358-1237
>
> Lynn Chandler
> Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
> 301-286-2806
>
> RELEASE: 06-254
>
> NASA'S MICRO-SATELLITES COMPLETE TECHNOLOGY VALIDATION MISSION
>
> NASA's three orbiting micro-satellites known as Space Technology 5 
> have completed their planned 90-day mission. The mission team is 
> shutting down the spacecraft to conclude operations on Friday, June 
> 30.
>
> The mission primarily focused on flight testing miniaturized 
> satellites in the harsh environment of space and evaluating their 
> ability to make research-quality scientific measurements.
>
> The satellites were launched on March 22. Each fully fueled satellite 
> weighed approximately 55 pounds when launched and is about the size 
> of a 13-inch television.
>
> A major milestone of the mission was reached when the spacecraft 
> assumed a constellation formation on May 24. The satellites lined up 
> in nearly identical orbits, like three pearls on a necklace, 
> approximately 220 miles apart. Reaching formation required seven 
> maneuvers using miniaturized micro-thrusters. Each spacecraft has a 
> single micro-thruster the size of a quarter to perform both attitude- 
> and orbit-adjustment maneuvers.
>
> The mission demonstrated the benefits of using a constellation of 
> spacecraft to perform scientific studies of the beautiful auroral 
> displays that occur near Earth's polar regions. The spacecraft 
> simultaneously traversed electric current sheets and measured the 
> magnetic field using miniature magnetometers.
>
> "Taking measurements at the same time in different locations allowed 
> scientists to better estimate the thickness of current sheets and how 
> they vary over time," said Guan Le, mission project scientist at 
> NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "This could not 
> have been done with a single spacecraft, no matter how capable."
>
> The mission validation team demonstrated the sensitivity of miniature 
> magnetometers, and suitability of the satellites for supporting 
> scientific measurements. Over the next few months, the team will 
> process the mission's magnetometer data, complete its assessments of 
> the performance of the satellite constellation and report initial 
> findings.
>
> The mission also demonstrated an innovative communications technology. 
> The satellites used miniature spacecraft radio transponders for 
> space-to-ground communications and tracking. The transponders were 
> coupled with conventional and computer-optimized or -evolved 
> antennas. The transponders and antennas performed flawlessly.
>
> The satellites' miniature power system demonstrated a high level of 
> performance. All spacecraft lithium ion batteries stayed above 90 
> percent charge, even during some tests intentionally designed to use 
> them. The high-efficiency solar arrays on all three spacecraft 
> produced more power than predicted prior to launch, and their 
> batteries performed to expectations.
>
> During the final days of the mission, the emphasis was on 
> demonstrating ground system technologies. The ground system is highly 
> automated to reduce the cost of operating multiple spacecraft as a 
> single constellation rather than operating them individually. This 
> type of ground system will help pave the way for an affordable means 
> of simultaneously flying from 10 to hundreds of micro-satellites.
>
> The project was developed and tested at Goddard. It is part of the New 
> Millennium Program, which develops and tests high-payoff technologies 
> that provide future science mission capabilities with reduced cost 
> and risk. Each flight acts as a test track for competitively-selected 
> technologies, mission objectives and operations concepts. New 
> Millennium is managed for NASA by the agency's Jet Propulsion 
> Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
>
> For information about the Space Technology 5 mission's technology and 
> detailed results, visit:
>
> http://www.nasa.gov/st5
>
> For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:
>
> http://www.nasa.gov/home
>
> 	
> -end-
>
>
>
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