European Space Agency Flickr Update

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Space Internet
04-05-2016 05:16 PM CEST

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Space Internet

On 29 April, ESA astronaut Tim Peake on the International Space Station took control of a rover nicknamed Bridget in the UK and over two hours drove it into a simulated cave and found and identified targets despite the dark and limited feedback information.

Before and after Tim came online from the orbiting Station, control of the rover was passed several times between engineers at the Airbus D&S ‘Mars Yard’ in Stevenage, UK, Belgium’s ISS User Support Centre in Brussels and ESA’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

This complex realtime choreography was possible thanks to the ‘Internet in space’ – a network that tolerates disruptions – put in place by teams at ESOC.

This network enables remote control of rovers or other devices in the difficult environment of space, with its long distances and frequent connection blackouts inevitable with orbital motion.

“A disruption-tolerant network works along the same principles as the terrestrial Internet, and is necessary for this type of complex system,” says ESA’s Paul Steele, System Operations Manager.

“We had already proven the network in previous tests, and this time we needed an astronaut to try remotely driving a rover in darkness to simulate entering a cave or the shadow of a crater. We used the geographically dispersed engineering teams to test and evaluate distributed operations and end-to-end operation methods.”

The effort was part of ESA’s Meteron (Multi-Purpose End-To-End Rover Operations Network) project, which is investigating, for example, which tasks are better done robotically and which by a human, and what data are needed to support the monitoring and control of assets such as rovers, far away on a planet or even a comet.

Its results will feed directly into plans for future exploration and the design of mission systems.

“This experiment showed we can operate rovers while orbiting another body like our Moon or a planet, and marked a significant step in our vision to send astronauts and robots together to explore the Solar System,” said Kim Nergaard, ground segment manager for Meteron.

Credit: ESA

More info:
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Meteron blog

Models of Proba-3 designs
04-05-2016 01:08 PM CEST

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Models of Proba-3 designs

The design evolution of ESA’s Proba-3 double satellite is shown by this trio of 3D-printed models, each pair – from left to right – produced after successive development milestones.

“These paired models, 3D printed in plastic, were not made for show,” explains Agnes Mestreau-Garreau, ESA’s project manager.

“Instead, they’re used almost daily. Because Proba-3 will be the first precision formation-flying mission – with the two satellites flying in tandem– these models help the team to visualise their orientation, as well as to explain the mission easily to people. So the models have ended up somewhat battered as a result.

“The first model set was printed after our System Requirements Review, followed by our Preliminary Design Review and now Mission Consolidation Milestone – with consequent changes in mission mass, volume and design details.“

The latest member of ESA’s experimental Proba minisatellite family, Proba-3’s paired satellites will manoeuvre relative to each other with millimetre and fraction-of-a-degree precision, intended to serve as the virtual equivalent of a giant structure in space and so open up a whole new way of running space missions.

As has become traditional with Proba missions, the success of Proba-3’s technology will be proven through acquiring high-quality scientific data. In this case, the smaller ‘occulter’ satellite will blot out the Sun’s fiery disc as viewed by the larger ‘coronagraph’ satellite, revealing mysterious regions of our parent star’s ghostly ‘corona’, or outer atmosphere.

When in Sun-observing mode, the two satellites will maintain formation exactly 150 m apart, lined up with the Sun so the occulter casts a shadow across the face of the coronagraph, blocking out solar glare to come closer to the Sun’s fiery surface than ever before, other than during frustratingly brief terrestrial solar eclipses.

The challenge is in keeping the satellites safely controlled and correctly positioned relative to each other. This will be accomplished using various new technologies, including bespoke formation-flying software, GPS information, intersatellite radio links, startrackers, and optical visual sensors and optical metrologies for close-up manoeuvring.

Fifteen ESA Member States are participating in the Proba-3 consortium, with SENER in Spain as prime contractor for the satellite platforms and Centre Spatial de Liège in Belgium as prime contractor for the coronagraph.

“This grouping includes several of the newer ESA Member States, including the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania,” adds Agnes.

“It is a strength of this kind of small but ambitious mission that new entrants to the space sector can find important industrial roles to play on a more flexible basis than in some larger-scale programmes.”

Proba-3’s next milestone will be the Payload Critical Design Review for its coronagraph, expected in the autumn followed by the System Critical Design Review for the mission. The two satellites will be stacked together for launch in 2019 before separating in orbit.

Credit: ESA–G. Porter

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