FASTSAT instruments shipped for tests and launch preparation

October 26, 2009
This is the Mini-Me instrument. Credit: NASA

Three of the satellite instruments that will fly on an upcoming satellite mission called "FASTSAT" have been created at one NASA center and have arrived at another for more tests to ensure they are flight ready for launch. They're now at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. for further testing.

"FASTSAT" means "Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite." The development, integration, test and operations of the three instruments is a collaborative effort between NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Md.

FASTSAT will be flying a total of six instruments approved by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Science and Experiments Review Board multi-spacecraft/payload mission named STP-S26, which is executed by the DoD Space Test Program (STP) at the Space Development and Test Wing (SDTW), Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. which is a unit of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. The mission was designated S26 to correspond to the 26th small mission in STP's 40+year history of flying DoD space experiments. The mission will launch four satellites and three cubesats into low earth orbit.

The three instruments that will fly on FASTSAT were built at Goddard and already went through some tests. They were in a vacuum chamber that simulated the vacuum of space. The instruments include the TTI, or Thermosphere Temperature Imager that will make measurements for things like spacecraft drag; the Mini-ME, a low energy neutral atom imager which will detect neutral atoms formed in the plasma population of the Earth's outer atmosphere to improve global space weather prediction; and PISA, the Plasma and Impedence Spectrum Analyzer which will test a new measurement technique for the thermal electron populations in the ionosphere, and their density structuring, which can interfere with or scatter radio signals used for communication and navigation.

This is the PISA Instrument at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. It will be one of the instruments to fly on the Fastsat satellite. Credit: NASA

The instruments are part of long standing partnership between Goddard and the USNA. Naval Academy Midshipmen have assisted with development and systems integration of instruments, and will be involved in the payload commanding and data analysis.

Past activities involved instrument spacecraft integration including vibration testing and analysis of instrument data including analysis of theoretical instrument response. These activities complement the USNA's engineering and science curriculum. "This continues educational outreach activities between Goddard and the Academy spanning 15 years and builds on NASA experience with the Academy's MidSTAR-1 satellite in which several NASA experiments successfully flew," said Commander David Myre of Aerospace Engineering Dept. at the USNA.

The Thermospheric Temperature Imager, or TTI and it will provide the first global-scale measurements of thermospheric temperature profiles in the 200-400 km (124-248 miles) region. The temperature profile sets the scale height of the thermosphere which determines the density at orbital altitudes and therefore the aerodynamic drag experienced by military spacecraft.

"The MINI-ME instrument is a low energy neutral atom imager. Low energy neutral atom imaging is a technique first pioneered at Goddard, that allows scientists to observe remotely various trapped charged particle populations around Earth that we would normally only be able to observe in-situ - or exactly where an instrument is," said Michael Collier, Principal Investigator at NASA Goddard. "It's an improvement on the same kind of instrument, LENA that flew on the IMAGE mission. Measurements made by instruments like MINI-ME will enable more accurate prediction of space weather."

PISA is the third instrument on FASTSAT. Principal Investigator Doug Rowland at NASA Goddard said that "PISA will determine when and where the ionosphere becomes structured or turbulent, permitting better predictive models of effects on GPS signals."

Collier said "Although the three instruments are stand-alone experiments, the FASTSAT project currently plans at times to operate all three instruments simultaneously in flight. This will allow the three Goddard investigators to use the information from the other two instruments to better understand their own data."

"The instruments are a collaborative effort between the Naval Academy and Goddard, allowing midshipmen to work side-by-side with scientists and engineers providing them unique experiences and training for the future Navy Space Cadre," Commander Myre said.

The satellite was created at NASA Marshall with the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation, in partnership with Dynetics, a corporate partner. "Engineers at NASA Marshall will test TTI, Mini-ME and PISA to ensure they can withstand the vibrations of launch, and the frigid temperatures in space," said FASTSAT Project Manager Mark Boudreaux at NASA Marshall.

Source: JPL/NASA (news : web)

Explore further: NASA Mission Gets Closer to Solving Magnetic Reconnection Mystery (w/ Videos)

Related Stories

STEREO spacecraft arrives at NASA Goddard for final testing

November 9, 2005

The two Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft arrive at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. on Nov. 9 for major testing as they near completion. Set to launch in Spring 2006, STEREO ...

First Solar Dynamic Observatory Instrument Arrives at Goddard

September 7, 2007

The University of Colorado at Boulder delivered the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE), first of three Solar Dynamic Observatory instruments, to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. EVE will measure ...

Bargain Basement Satellites

November 20, 2007

Looking for a cheap fare 'round the world? Your search is over. A NASA team has built a small, low-cost satellite called FASTSAT, and it's almost ready to fly. Need some details before you sign up? Read on.

Recommended for you

Large, distant comets more common than previously thought

July 25, 2017

Comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the sun are notoriously difficult to study. Because they spend most of their time far from our area of the solar system, many "long-period comets" will never ...

Mapping dark matter

July 24, 2017

About eighty-five percent of the matter in the universe is in the form of dark matter, whose nature remains a mystery. The rest of the matter in the universe is of the kind found in atoms. Astronomers studying the evolution ...

New Type Ia supernova discovered using gravitational lensing

July 24, 2017

(—Using gravitational lensing, an international team of astronomers has detected a new Type Ia supernova. The newly discovered lensed supernova was found behind the galaxy cluster known as MOO J1014+0038. The findings ...

Life evolves adaptions to microgravity

July 24, 2017

Life has found ways to overcome, and even thrive, in many extreme situations—from super saline pools to the high temperatures of hydrothermal vents. A new experiment has shown that the microgravity found in space is also ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.