This week is seeing the first release of the Mission Control System (MCS) for Solar Orbiter, and it’s already being put into action! The Electrical Test Bench (ETB) located at AirbusDS, Stevenage, UK – builders of our plucky spacecraft – is being used to test engineering models of the platform and payload units, which will go on to make up Solar Orbiter.
With the installation on ESOC servers of our dedicated Mission Control System software, we can “listen-in” on those tests. We don’t send any commands yet – that would interfere with the tests currently underway – but we can see how the units respond to the commands sent by the testers.
Receiving data from a remote site into our systems at ESOC is an important achievement.
It helps us to validate the MCS itself, as well as our copy of the spacecraft database, which describes the data generated at the ‘other end’, on the ETB. The next step is to set up the system that allows our science planning colleagues in ESAC, Madrid, to access the data and feed it into their own systems for further processing. This helps us prepare the ground systems in readiness for the more formal testing we will do later in year, and in the time leading up to launch, when we will be able to command the ETB and eventually the spacecraft flight model itself.
These System Validation Tests (SVT) play an important role in ensuring all of our procedures and systems are in place and tested, in preparation for launch.
But I get ahead of myself – at the moment we simply monitor the data to ensure nothing unexpected occurs in the MCS or the systems linking it to the ETB.
Here, Spacecraft Operations Engineer Mauro Pantaleoni checks the set-up in preparation for Monday’s listen-in tests.
Mauro says: “We finally managed to receive some real hardware data in our brand new mission control system. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but this is an important first step to operate our mission to the Sun.”
Editor’s note: Today’s post contributed by Solo Spacecraft Operations Engineer Daniel Lakey