January 18, 2011
With the first Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission simulation just about a month away, let’s check in on the progress of the twin RBSP spacecraft.
The complex process of subsystem integration is going well: both spacecraft (A and B) are currently in a cleanroom at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. There, engineers and technicians are carefully installing the critical parts that will let the probes fly, maneuver and communicate – as well as measure the particles, waves, and magnetic and electric fields that surround Earth.
Both spacecraft have had their propulsion systems, flight harnesses (wiring) and power distribution units (PDU) integrated into their flight structures. Spacecraft A is slightly ahead of its twin, as A is currently having its integrated electronics module (IEM) installed; B’s module is still being assembled and tested, and will be delivered for integration with the spacecraft in the next few weeks.
Four other major subsystems are also in unit-level integration and testing, and will be ready for spacecraft integration in the coming weeks. These include the power-switching electronics, battery management electronics, solar array junction boxes and transceivers.
The Radiation Belt Storm Probes are scheduled to launch in May 2012 and survey the harsh environment of the radiation belts that surround Earth. The mission moved into Phase D (NASA’s designation for the system-level integration and test stage) in November 2010.
APL manages the RBSP mission for NASA and will operate the spacecraft. Check back for more photos and updates as the mission moves toward launch!
Click on the thumbnail image for a larger version.
Spacecraft activities from December 2010: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory technicians move RBSP spacecraft B between cleanrooms; integrate the power distribution unit (PDU); then test the PDU after integration.