Image: NASA's RapidScat payload

September 5, 2014 by Alan Buis
RapidScat's two-part payload is shown in the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA

NASA's ISS-RapidScat wind-watching scatterometer, which is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station no earlier than Sept. 19, will be the first science payload to be robotically assembled in space since the space station itself. This image shows the instrument assembly on the left, shrouded in white. On the right is Rapid-Scat's nadir adapter, a very sophisticated bracket that points the scatterometer toward Earth so that it can record the direction and speed of ocean winds. The two pieces are stowed in the unpressurized trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Howard Eisen, the ISS-RapidScat project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, said, "Another mission had the idea of a two-piece payload first, but we beat them to the punch." The RapidScat team designed and built both parts of the science payload in an 18-month-long sprint so as to take advantage of an available berthing space on the and a free ride on a resupply mission. The other two-piece payload is still a year and a half from launch.

Each piece of the ISS-RapidScat is attached to the space station by a standardized interface called a Flight Releasable Attachment Mechanism, or FRAM. JPL's Stacey Boland, an engineer on the ISS-RapidScat team, explained, "The space station is almost like a Lego system, and a FRAM is a particular type of Lego block. We had to build on two separate Lego blocks because each block can only hold a certain amount of cargo."

Eisen noted, "We are not only robotically assembled, we are robotically installed." When the Dragon spacecraft reaches the station, a robotic arm will grapple it and bring it to its docking port. Using a different end effector—a mechanical hand—the arm will first extract the nadir adapter from the trunk and install it on an external site on the Columbus module of the space station. The arm will then pluck the RapidScat instrument assembly from the trunk and attach it to the nadir adapter, completing the installation. Each of the two operations will take about six hours.

Explore further: NASA's newest wind watcher arrives at launch site

Related Stories

NASA's newest wind watcher arrives at launch site

May 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —A new NASA Earth-observing mission that will measure ocean winds from the International Space Station has arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin final preparations for launch.

NASA to launch ocean wind monitor to space station

January 29, 2013

(Phys.org)—In a clever reuse of hardware originally built to test parts of NASA's QuikScat satellite, the agency will launch the ISS-RapidScat instrument to the International Space Station in 2014 to measure ocean-surface ...

Watching the winds where sea meets sky

August 14, 2014

The ocean covers 71 percent of Earth's surface and affects weather over the entire globe. Hurricanes and storms that begin far out over the ocean affect people on land and interfere with shipping at sea. And the ocean stores ...

QuikScat's eye on ocean winds lives on with RapidScat

June 20, 2014

Today (June 19) marks the 15th anniversary of the launch of NASA's QuikScat, a satellite sent for a three-year mission in 1999 that continues collecting data. Built in less than 12 months, QuikScat has watched ocean wind ...

Watching Earth's winds, on a shoestring

October 30, 2013

Built with spare parts and without a moment to spare, the International Space Station (ISS)-RapidScat isn't your average NASA Earth science mission.

Recommended for you

Galaxy NGC 1132 has a disturbed hot halo, study finds

June 27, 2017

(Phys.org)—A new study recently published on arXiv.org reveals that the fossil group galaxy NGC 1132 (also known as UGC 2359) has a disturbed and asymmetrical hot halo. The findings provide new insights into the formation ...

New way to form close double black holes

June 27, 2017

A team of three Dutch astronomers from the University of Amsterdam and Leiden University found a new way to form two black holes that orbit each other for quite a while and then merge. Their publication with computer simulations ...

Topsy-turvy motion creates light switch effect at Uranus

June 26, 2017

More than 30 years after Voyager 2 sped past Uranus, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers are using the spacecraft's data to learn more about the icy planet. Their new study suggests that Uranus' magnetosphere, the ...

Arp 299: Galactic Goulash

June 26, 2017

What would happen if you took two galaxies and mixed them together over millions of years? A new image including data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory reveals the cosmic culinary outcome.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

FineStructureConstant
not rated yet Sep 06, 2014
Rotate photo 90° clockwise - it's not in space yet...

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.