Monday, 30 November 2009

Operations and launch: two giant leaps for Lunchsat

In having commissioned a new Operations subsystem to handle the management of post-launch attitude and maintenance of our nanosatellite, the next step in getting Lunchsat into space is to prepare it for launch readiness!

Representatives from the new Operations subsystem and key subsystem leads met this morning in a videoconference between Astrium's Stevenage and Portsmouth sites to discuss the next major stage in the Lunchsat project – launch. Present at the meeting were Alex Buick (Operations), Fatou Mbaye (Systems), Jason Stones (Media), Stephen Pulker (Project Management, OBC) and Natasha Pushkin (Thermal), alongside project manager Nick Fishwick and project champion Ronan Wall.

Over the next month, this team will compile a comprehensive report to present to Astrium management, detailing the options available in four possible launch scenarios. As such, the report is to address the available launchers and options for the Lunchsat payload, forecasted schedules, prospective team involvement and the budget allocations required to support each option. These areas are to be defined in the four separate scenarios foreseeing launch within one year; three years with Pathfinder; three years without Pathfinder; and five years, respectively. 'Not launching is not an option', emphasised project lead Nick Fishwick.

It is currently envisaged for Lunchsat to become flight-ready sometime in 2011 post-testing, in order to piggyback on a ride with the Lisa Pathfinder when the space science mission is launched into space on an Ariane 5 rocket in 2012. This is deemed a strong possibility – particularly given both the financial infeasibility to use a dedicated launcher, and the potential compatibility of the Pathfinder launch window with Lunchsat as a Cubesat, as the payloads of previously launched Cubesats have taken between 9 months and two years to build.

The Operations focus group aims to compare the parameters of our Lunchsat mission with those of others – Aeolus, KaSAT, Astra 1M, Hylas and ExoMars – by liaising with their project managers to assess the true logistics of launch.

Additionally, the report aims to assess the prospective advantageous outputs from Lunchsat once the nanosatellite is launched. These include strengthened public relations through enhanced visibility between Astrium and the wider community, the establishment of Operations training to maintain the satellite in orbit, lessons learned from our first attempt and accelerated technology development in collaboration with our partners in the wider Cubesat Research Network (CRN), if work begins on a second Lunchsat nanosatellite in the longer-term.

As part of Operations requirements, we have entered the process of researching possible worldwide launch sites and configuration scenarios. As Lunchsat will be launched into equatorial orbit, feasible spaceports include Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida (NASA), Guyana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guyana (ESA), Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (RKA) and the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima, Japan (JAXA), among others.

A review of cost assessment and related contacts for launch scenarios at each of these sites will be included in the Lunchsat Launch Report, to be released in the New Year.

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