Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cluster muscles back from deep hibernation

09.10.2006
On 15 September, flight controllers at ESA's Space Operations Centre watched tensely as 'Rumba', No. 1 in the four-spacecraft Cluster fleet, was switched into a low-power, deep hibernation mode. The aim was to survive a challenging eclipse.

Each year, in autumn, the Cluster fleet must pass several times through the Earth's shadow with respect to the Sun. During these eclipses, which last about three hours, sunlight is blocked by the Earth and the spacecraft solar panels cannot generate electricity.

Batteries then generate electrical power, which is used to run heaters - keeping the spacecraft warm - and to operate on-board computers and maintain spacecraft control.

However, the Cluster fleet, launched in mid-2000, has been in orbit for over six years and batteries, in particular, are beginning to age. This year, spacecraft No. 1, Rumba, had the most severe battery problems; three out of five have already been declared non-operational for nominal use and one has a high leakage current.

As a result, mission engineers forecast that only about half of the battery power required by Rumba would be available during eclipse season.

ESOC, ESTEC, industry team solves power shortfall

The pending power shortfall was recognized in 2005, and an interdisciplinary team of engineers comprising representatives from the Flight Control Team at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), scientists at ESA's Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) and the spacecraft's builder was established to devise a solution.

The team created a computer model of the spacecraft's thermal behaviour to identify how, exactly, it could survive eclipses with reduced, or even with no, active heaters. There were also issues with the on-board computer, designed to restart itself automatically in the event that power is ever lost.

"The most difficult aspect was to find a safe method to switch off the onboard computer, deactivating its auto-recovery function and then to be able to wake it up again from its 'artificial coma' after the eclipse," said Juergen Volpp, Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany.

A solution was finally found by reducing on-board power usage to just a trickle knowing that the three-hour eclipses wouldn't be long enough for the spacecraft to totally freeze up. Rumba would, in effect, be put into deep hibernation.

But to solve the tricky computer problem, engineers hit upon the idea of maintaining power during the eclipses only to the decoder, which maintains the spacecraft's 'listening' function, or its ability to understand commands. This component needs only a trickle of current and would be essential to command the computer to restart once the eclipse was over.

However, there was no way to fully validate this unique 'decoder-only' hibernation mode from the ground.
Thus, on the night of 15/16 September, spacecraft controllers huddled tensely in the mission's Dedicated Control Room at ESOC for the first live implementation of 'decoder-only' mode. Almost everything onboard Rumba was completely shut down, with power fed only to the decoder so as to receive the wake-up signal.

Tension in the Cluster control room was palpable

Once the command was sent, Rumba powered itself down and then entered the eclipse zone while engineers began a long, two-and-one-half hours of silent waiting. Tension in the Cluster control room was palpable.

When the predicted eclipse passage ended at 22:13 UTC (00:13 CEST), engineers sent commands to wake the on-board computer. They had to wait one minute for the computer to restart itself, plus four seconds of telemetry processing and signal travel time. "We never thought that sixty-four seconds could seem so long," said Volpp.

But the meticulous preparations and months of planning paid off handsomely as Rumba emerged from the shadow, grabbed the wake-up signal and powered up its computer just as expected; controllers quickly verified that nothing onboard had cooled below acceptance temperatures, and all systems were back in operation a few hours later.

The strategy was again proven two days later during the next - and longest - eclipse, early on 18 September. The last eclipse was successfully negotiated on 20 September and the Cluster fleet is now back in nominal operation, continuing one of ESA's most successful astrophysics missions.

Juergen Volpp | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esa.int

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts
28.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Researchers create artificial materials atom-by-atom
28.03.2017 | Aalto University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>