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Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

NASA Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator visits

February 16, 2017

Today, the Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen visited us at CU. Part of his tour of LASP was a stop to see MinXSS-2, which is ready for it’s launch later this year. We set up an antenna / solar array deployment test and had him hit the button to trigger the deployment. You can see the slow-motion video of the deployment in the video above. It was a pretty cool setup: we handed Dr. Zurbuchen an iPad and just asked him to hit the return key. We were remote logged into our primary operations computer on the iPad and had a script set up to launch upon hitting the return key. That script sent commands through our ground station terminal node controller to the UHF radio, up through cables leading to the roof where our Yagi antennas are. These are the same antennas we use for operation of MinXSS-1 on orbit right now, and will be using for operation of MinXSS-2 once it’s in space. The commands were then broadcast from the Yagis and received and processed by MinXSS-2, which resulted in deployment of the solar arrays and antenna. You may notice that somehow we were able to get commands in even with the MinXSS antenna still stowed. This is because the transmission was only going a couple hundred feet so was powerful enough to get to the MinXSS radio even with its antenna stowed. In space, MinXSS does the antenna and solar array deployments autonomously 30 minutes after ejection from the rocket (in the case of MinXSS-2) or International Space Station (in the case of MinXSS-1). Essentially, the command we sent to MinXSS-2 was to convince it that 30 minutes had gone by so we could see the deployments when it was convenient for us.

It was a pretty nifty system and it worked like a charm! We’ve done dozens of deployment tests under a variety of environmental conditions and have never had one fail.