Space collision course avoided for TechDemoSat-1
And another first for SSTL, as our new Hollow Cathode Thruster fires up to save the day.
Before switch-on for TechDemoSat-1’s 8 new technology payloads could take place this week, the team from SSTL has worked hard to commission the spacecraft’s systems and some of our new product developments on board.
"Close approach warnings"
One of these new developments, a propulsion system that incorporates new tank weld processes and also trials a new type of electric propulsion system, the Hollow Cathode Thruster, was called upon earlier than expected on 13 August when we received 5 “close approach warnings” – in other words, a collision alert – for object number #23534, DMSP 5D-2 F13 DEB, which turned out to be part of the USA’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.
Collision avoidance manoeuvres
We performed a 5 minute firing of our new propulsion system to move TechDemoSat-1 out of danger, and we’re glad to say that it performed perfectly. That was just as well since a week later it was called on to perform a second 5 minute firing to again move of the way of a second close approach – this time with TechDemoSat-1’s own “little brother”, UKube-1, with whom it shared a ride into orbit!
Another first from SSTL
The inconvenience of having to switch on our brand new propulsion system earlier than scheduled in our meticulous commissioning plan, was swept away with a great result – and we’re well on the way to qualifying the new system, which will be utilised in the design and build of future spacecraft for SSTL.
The Hollow Cathode Thruster is in fact a world first – whilst Hollow Cathodes have been extensively used as neutralisers for larger electric propulsion systems, this is the first time one has been used as a stand-alone thruster.
24 October 2014
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