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 SOUTHWEST RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Planetary Science

Space Operations

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  Image: The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons lifts off from Cape Canaveral Jan. 19, 2006, on its nine-year journey to Pluto.
 

The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons lifts off from Cape Canaveral Jan. 19, 2006, on its nine-year journey to Pluto. Image courtesy NASA

  Image: The Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) instrument is currently operating on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to produce maps of the Moonís surface, water absorption features and tenuous atmosphere.
 

The Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) instrument is currently operating on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to produce maps of the Moonís surface, water absorption features and tenuous atmosphere. 

The Science Operations Center (SOC), which complements the innovative research at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI)-Boulder, supports a growing number of robotic missions. The SOC performs three main tasks:

  • Designing the commands that control the capture of images and data by spacecraft

  • Automated processing of data returned to Earth

  • Archiving data for generations to come

New Horizons Mission

The most active and prominent current mission is the New Horizons mission. Now past Saturnís orbit on its way to Pluto, the spacecraft is entering hibernation, but planning activity is still going strong. The SOC acts partly as an interface between the science team (where specific mission observations are carefully selected) and the Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which sends commands to the spacecraft. While New Horizons peacefully drifts toward the outer reaches of our solar system, the SOCís uplink sequencing team is developing commands for the complex maneuvers that will take place during the Pluto encounter in 2015.

 

UV Spectrometers

Three UV spectrometers on active missions are supported at the SOC.

  • The ALICE instruments onboard New Horizons and Rosetta will examine the surfaces and tenuous atmospheres of Pluto and the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, respectively.

  • The LAMP instrument, currently orbiting the Moon on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, seeks to peer into permanent shadows near the poles and identify frosts.

  • The SOC also performs data processing for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiterís SHARAD instrument

SOC scientists and engineers are also designing data pipelines for RAISE and SHAZAM. Science operations for MSLís Radiation Assessment Detector will be executed at the SOC. The growing experience base makes the SOC a valuable resource for future spaceflight projects.

 

For more information about our space operations capabilities, or how you can contract with SwRI, please contact John Andrews, at jandrews@swri.org or (303) 546-9670.

 

planetaryscience.swri.org

 

 

Contact Information

John Andrews

Director of Space Operations

(303) 546-9670

jandrews@swri.org

planetaryscience.swri.org

Related Terminology

planetary science

robotic missions

New Horizons

UV spectrometers

ALICE

LAMP

SHARAD

active space missions

Related SwRI Links

Planetary Science Directorate

Space Science & Engineering Division

| Planetary Science Directorate | Space Science & Engineering Division | SwRI Home |

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Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 10 technical divisions.

August 06, 2014