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April 3, 2012

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Geoff Brown
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RBSP Completes Thermal Vacuum Testing

RBSP Completes Thermal Vacuum Testing
The two thermal vacuum chambers at APL where the RBSP spacecraft have spent the past six weeks undergoing extreme heat and cold tests. These tests, performed in vacuum, mimic the harsh space environment above Earth in which RBSP will operate, following their scheduled launch in August 2012. Credit: JHU/APL

NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes have completed their thermal vacuum testing today, Tuesday April 3, one day earlier than planned. Thermal vacuum testing, which includes the cycling of temperatures between extremes of hot and cold, represents the culmination of the several severe tests that the spacecraft engineers use to assure that the spacecraft can survive the rigors of outer space. The early conclusion comes thanks to the efficient testing procedures and adroit time management of the RBSP team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., where the twin spacecraft are being built and from where they will be operated following launch in August 2012. 

“The thermal cycling testing proceeded nominally with very few issues encountered,” says Bruce Williams, thermal lead engineer for the RBSP mission. “All spacecraft system and instruments, and test support hardware and software, performed as expected throughout the 30 day long test. The RBSP team should be very proud of this significant accomplishment.”

The spacecraft are scheduled to be lowered from their test chambers today, and will then undergo several days of inspection and preparation for further testing prior to being shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 1.  

The Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission is part of NASA’s Living With a Star program, which is managed by Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., manages the mission and is building and will operate the RBSP spacecraft for NASA.

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.

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