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Spacecraft operations

When a satellite passes within range of one of SSTL’s ground stations, log files from its entire orbit are automatically downloaded to Mission Control as well as real time telemetry. This "whole orbit data" includes information on the status of the various systems that make up the satellite. The Control Centre computers monitor the live telemetry and alert an operator if there is a problem. Depending on the severity of the problem, the operator on duty is sent an alert by email and SMS if urgent attention is required. During the day, an SSTL team is always on hand, but if a problem should occur out of hours the emergency response team take it in turns to respond. James Northam, head of the Ground Systems Group, explains: " We use the whole orbit data to monitor the performance of specific system parameters whilst the satellite is out of range of the ground stations. If there is a problem we can replay the recorded data to help determine the issue." All the data is archived so there is a record of the whole mission from when a satellite was first launched to the mission completion. "Having this data record is invaluable. " says James. "It allows us to look at trends in performance and spot the start of an issue early before it becomes a serious problem." Screen in Mission Control The ground stations themselves are also monitored and controlled remotely from Mission Control. From a screen in Mission Control, the operators can check the status of all the groundstations and their associated hardware, and see the dish antennas via CCTV to confirm they are operating as they should. This morning we can see an antenna moving into position to track GIOVE-A on the monitor as it happens, making the experience all the more "real". Like Mission Control, each groundstation is also highly automated: For example, the antenna dish will be stowed automatically in the event of high winds "“ which is essential when a ground station is in a remote or inaccessible location.





27 July 20110 Comments1 Comment

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