Flight Operations

State-of-the-art mission operations centers

After launch, spacecraft and instruments are guided in both their flight and their scientific data-gathering by commands issued by mission operators at LASP’s in-house facilities. Examples of commands that mission operators might give a satellite are powering on or off specific instruments, changing the tilt of solar panels, or pointing an instrument in a particular direction to collect specified data.

LASP uses a worldwide network of sophisticated ground antennas and satellites to relay signals between the Mission Operations Centers and the spacecraft we control. This includes NASA’s Deep Space Network, which consists of several ground stations spread equidistantly around the globe, plus a few antennas orbiting Earth.

LASP currently has several facilities for operating spacecraft, called Mission Operations Centers. Two are used for controlling large spacecraft, such as NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS), and Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesophere (AIM) missions. The third center is where LASP operates its SmallSat fleet.

A rocket launch framed against a bright-blue sky