Daily SORCE Measurements Return
Great news! SORCE successfully transitioned to a new “hybrid” operating mode on Monday, Feb. 24th. The hybrid mode allows SORCE to take solar measurements again after an approximate 6-month break. After months of development and planning, the new version of flight software making this all possible was uploaded to the spacecraft on Friday, Feb. 21st and then activated on Monday, February 24th.
It is called “hybrid” because every orbit is a combination of normal operating mode and safe-hold. The hybrid mode allows SORCE to make solar observations during the daylight part of the orbit, and then put itself into safe-hold every eclipse. Commands are sent to the spacecraft at sunrise from NASA’s TDRSS to wake it up. It then initializes all of the instruments and starts taking data. Either a ground contact later in the orbit or a real-time TDRSS contact then captures the data. A few minutes before sunset, the spacecraft puts itself back into safe mode to conserve power during the night. No other spacecraft has ever operated like this before and the SORCE team is very excited.
The first week in hybrid mode was very successful. Daily teleconferences were held between the LASP mission operations team, instrument scientists, Orbital Sciences Corp., and NASA for status updates. No serious issues surfaced during this trial first week. After one week, the SORCE team presented a Hybrid Mode summary confirming its wonderful success. SORCE has been able to make good solar measurements during almost every orbit in its new hybrid mode. The SORCE extended mission objectives will be fully addressed with the new SORCE hybrid operations.
The SORCE team will next examine a potential option to operate in hybrid mode even with a spacecraft brown-out scenario (caused by another battery cell loss), with the goal being to operate SORCE until after the TSIS launch in 2017. Go SORCE!