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March 1, 2012

Loading RBSP Into Thermal Vacuum Testing: The One-Minute Video Version

This one-minute video, taken on Feb. 21, is a compressed version of the loading of NASA’s twin Radiation Belt Storm Probe satellites into two identical thermal vacuum testing chambers. The process of actually lifting the spacecraft into the chambers took less than half an hour, and followed many days of preparation by the RBSP team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

The video first shows RBSP spacecraft A being wheeled into position below the right thermal vacuum chamber, then slowly raised by a hydraulic lift into the chamber. The RBSP team raises the spacecraft slowly and steadily in part because the clearance between RBSP and the sides of the chamber is small (around one inch). The many foil-wrapped cables visible in these shots carry power to and data from the spacecraft, and connect to the spacecraft via cylindrical chamber feed-throughs (easily seen by their red connector covers). Finally, the chambers themselves are shown (spacecraft B is in the left chamber, A in the right); these will be RBSP’s homes for the next six weeks while the spacecraft perform rigorous performance tests and simulate normal science operations – all while being subjected to extreme temperature variations in an airless environment to make sure the probes are ready to handle the harsh conditions of space.

During RBSP’s two year primary mission, the probes will help scientists study the Van Allen radiation belts which surround our planet, and learn more about the processes that create them and cause them to vary in size and intensity.

RBSP is scheduled for launch no earlier than Aug. 15, 2012, from the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. APL built the RBSP spacecraft for NASA and manages the mission. The RBSP mission is part of NASA's Living With a Star program, guided by the Heliophysics Division of the NASA Headquarters Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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