Ball Aerospace's NextSat Delivers First-Rate Performance
April 10, 2007
The Ball Aerospace Next Generation Satellite and Commodities Spacecraft (NextSat/CSC) has shown excellent performance during pre-separation servicing demonstrations in the first weeks following its March 8 launch with the Boeing Company's Autonomous Space Transfer and Robotic Orbiter (ASTRO).
NextSat and ASTRO are in the first month of a three-month mission for the Orbital Express (OE) Advanced Technology Demonstration Program led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
To date, OE spacecraft activation checkouts have been completed along with a robotic video survey of the vehicles, successful demonstrations of autonomous refueling with the Fluid Transfer System, and robotic transfer of a battery Orbital Replacement Unit (ORU) between the ASTRO and NextSat/CSC.
Following launch, the ASTRO spacecraft experienced an anomaly with the guidance and control systems. To allow time to correct the problem, control of the mated pair was shifted from ASTRO to NextSat and the OE team used NextSat's guidance system to successfully point the mated stack towards the sun. Since then, revised software has been successfully loaded and validated, and the ASTRO vehicle is currently controlling the OE stack in the planned nominal mode.
The OE mission is designed to demonstrate the capability of robotic refueling, autonomous rendezvous and docking, as well as repairs and equipment upgrades of a spacecraft on-orbit. When initial mated demonstrations are completed, the two spacecraft will perform operations to eject the mounting ring used to mechanically support NextSat during launch, enabling the two spacecraft to separate and operate independently. Future demonstrations will include short range separation, proximity operations, and capture, followed by progressively farther-field rendezvous and capture operations from a variety of ASTRO approach directions.
Ball Aerospace supports critical missions of important national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. Over the past 50 years, Ball Aerospace has been responsible for numerous technological and scientific "firsts" and now acts as a technology innovator for the aerospace market.
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