Image Acquired!

On Thursday, January 3rd 2019, the STF-1 team successfully down-linked an image that was captured at approximately 16 minutes after deployment!   The image shows the sun reflecting off the deployed VHF antenna element.  As shown below, the camera is physically located under the antenna element.

STF-1 continues to remain healthy and experiments are beginning.  On January 9, 2019, the STF-1 marked the 10th successful communications pass, where multiple commands were sent to STF-1, and telemetry was received.

Image_Acuired_STF1STF-1 Captured Image - Sun reflecting off of VHF antenna
STF1_CameraSTF-1 Camera and VHF Antenna Locations

STF-1 is Alive and Well!

On Wednesday, December 19, 2018, the STF-1 team made successful contact with West Virginia’s First Spacecraft. The team confirmed via telemetry that STF-1 is in a nominal state, and its power systems are performing very well. Upon release from the kick stage from the Rocket Labs Electron Rocket and sub-sequence power on, STF-1 snapped a picture. The team plans to receive the picture data during our next pass scheduled for this Friday (12/21) as well as continue to start doing checkouts of our on-board instruments.
Thank you to everyone who has made this mission a success!
This is a great day for STF-1, West Virginia, and NASA!

LIFTOFF!

The STF-1 team is excited to announce that on Sunday, December 16, 2018, at 1:33 AM EST West Virginia’s first spacecraft was successfully launched into orbit on the first ever Venture Class Launch Services mission via Rocket Labs Electron Rocket (https://www.rocketlabusa.com/electron/).  The launch can be viewed on-line at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7Kr3664hJs&t=1080s.  The launch took place from Auckland, New Zealand, and STF-1 was one of several payloads housed within California-based Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle within the ELaNa-19 mission (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites).

5c10350b9f978.imageThe Electron launch vehicle prepping for the ElaNa-19 mission launch.
5c10350c32ad8.imageUp close and personal with the Electron

Years of effort have gone into achieving this moment.  To say that the team is excited about this milestone would be and understatement.  The ITC Lead, and Principal Engineer Justin Morris has this to say about the STF-1 achievement:

“This is West Virginia’s first spacecraft that’s ever been built and tested in the state, so that’s pretty remarkable,” Morris said. “A lot of the folks who worked on this satellite were born and raised in West Virginia, so that’s kind of neat to me, both professionally and personally.”

5ab53a1fa9712.imageSTF-1 - all grown up, and ready to fly!
5ab53a21cd5bc.imageZemerick, and Grubb pose with the completed STF-1 Cube sat

“Just about everyone working on this is from West Virginia.  This shows that there are very capable engineers in high-technology jobs in the area and that West Virginia has the ability to compete, national and globally, with everyone else, even in space.”  — Program Manager Scott Zemerick

5c0fff60e77cd.imageAlways working, always testing ... Engineers Scott Zemerick, and Matt Grubb.

“Besides providing valuable services to NASA, the IV&V Program is motivated to inspire future generations in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics throughout the state while advancing technologies for the nation through partnerships and collaboration with other West Virginia entities.” –NASA IV&V Director Greg Blaney

West Virginia University will perform experiments including measurements to analyze space weather, Precise Orbit Determination, and the durability of III-V nitride based materials.

The ITC team anxiously awaits communication with the cube sat now that the electron and STF-1 have pushed into space and are successfully orbiting the planet at some 600 miles above the surface.  Though the stress and excitement of the launch is now behind the team, work anxiously continues to retrieve data and to track West Virginia’s first satellite in space.  The STF-1 team plans to communicate with the spacecraft via the Wallops Flight Faclility ground station over the next couple of days.  Following, in the next couple of weeks, the STF-1 small satellite will be commissioned, and begin all of its science observations.

LiftoffLiftoff! - Image Credited to Rocket Labs USA

STF-1’s 4 Year Anniversary

This week marks the 4 year anniversary of the first meeting held to discuss the concept of STF-1. The pictures here show STF-1 being loaded into the TYVAK dispenser that will be mounted to the Rocket Lab Electron rocket for launch. The current launch window is expected to be in December of 2018. Check back for updates as December approaches!

STF1 CubeSats inside Rocket Lab facility, located at Huntington Beach California.
Engineer, Matt Grubb, measuring the STF1 cubesat .
STF1 CubeSats inside Rocket Lab facility, located at Huntington Beach California.
Engineers working with the STF1 CubeSats deployer.
STF1 CubeSats inside Rocket Lab facility, located at Huntington Beach California.
STF1 CubeSats getting loaded into the deployer.
STF1 CubeSats inside Rocket Lab facility, located at Huntington Beach California.
An engineer performs a fit check for the STF1 CubeSat.

Delivery

We are proud to announce that STF-1 has made it to the Rocket Lab facility in Huntington Beach, CA, and has successfully been integrated.  STF-1 will now make its way to Mahia, New Zealand.  The launch window currently opens on May 30, 2018.

The team anxiously awaits the launch of West Virginia’s First Spacecraft, Simulation-to-Flight 1 (STF-1)!

STF1-Delivery-Integration
Engineer, Matt Grubb, being interviewed after the integration of STF-1

STF-1_13

Integration Engineers, Matt Grubb, and John Lucas.
Integration Engineers, Matt Grubb, and John Lucas.

Thermal Vacuum Testing

The thermal vacuum or TVAC facility is at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), the parent campus of NASA IV&V.  This facility has been used recently by the Dellingr team and proved they were ready for flight.  First off, what does the TVAC (pictured below) do?

stf1_tvac_gse (2)

This chamber holds the spacecraft in a vacuum, essentially removing the air around and inside of it.  Unfortunately this does not mean the spacecraft floats around inside as gravity still has it’s effect, but this does change the thermal characteristics to those similar to space.  Without air the only means of transferring heat to the spacecraft from an external source is through radiation.  This is possible due to electromagnetic waves.  These same waves are what a thermal imaging camera detects, showing hotter objects as brighter colors and colder ones darker.  The image below is of a deployed antenna system heating up while running.
IR_0521

In addition to all the sensors inside the spacecraft, more were applied externally to ensure proper calibration of those mounted on each of the solar panels.  The spacecraft had to sit on special spacers made from a composite material.  STF-1 in the TVAC chamber is shown below.

stf1_tvac_grubb Once everything was setup, the chamber was placed under vacuum and heated to 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit for over six hours!  This ensured that all components had enough time to reach that temperature and proved that they would still function after exposure to those extreme conditions.  After that, four simulated orbits were performed.  The chamber would cycle from 50 degrees Celsius to 0 degrees Celsius or freezing.  Tests were performed throughout these procedures and all passed!  STF-1 is currently undergoing preparations for vibration testing in a couple of weeks.

Assembly and Wiring

Once all the components that were ordered as a result of the integration fit check arrived, the assembly and wiring process could begin.  Previously each unit or individual cube had been crudely spaced using spare standoffs and lots of washers.  New standoffs of the correct sizes replaced these and allowed for much easier assembly of the entire unit, as well as fit into the chassis after the deep cleaning each component received in preparation for environmental testing.  stf1_stack_top

Although each of the components are connected to the stack or back plane of connectors making up the spine of the spacecraft, additional connections are required to reach external components as well as to jump certain things into or out of the spine.  The image below shows a large portion of these connectors completed, but does not yet include all of the solar panels that will provide the power needed to charge the batteries and run the experiments on-board.  The stack connectors are on the opposite side of the camera.

stf1_integration (2)

The electrical power system wiring harness proved to be the most difficult as each face needed to be able to connect before you mounted the panel to the spacecraft.  This required lengthening some of the planned cables and defining an appropriate assembly and disassembly process.  The solar panel that has the whole for the camera will always go on last and be the first to come off should we need back into the spacecraft.  STF-1 with the solar panels, debug port, and remove before flight connectors is shown below.  Some packing of tools and extra hardware is required prior to a trip to Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) for a week long thermal vacuum test, but for now all systems are operational.

stf1_flight

Integration Fit Check

The STF-1 team has been hard at work completing an integration fit check.  This process took an entire day and was turned into a time-lapse for you to see.  Unlike what is shown in the video, each stack had to be assembled multiple times in order to add or remove different combinations of washers and spacers in order to achieve the required fit.

Upon completion new measurements were taken for the entire spacecraft.  These will be used to determine the lengths required for cables and new spacers to be ordered for the flight integration test only weeks away.  The final product can be seen in a close up below.

STF1_Integration_FitCheckAfter all the measurements were taken and some modifications settled upon, the entire satellite needed to be disassembled for cleaning and conformal coating prior to final integration for environmental testing.

FlatSat Tear-down

With all of the STF-1 components acquired, the team has been working on functional testing of each.  Once the component was checked out and proven, it was integrated into a FlatSat version of the spacecraft.  The FlatSat includes all components and experiments, but laid out on a single lab bench instead of stacked together allowing for modifications and checks of each component to be performed with more ease.  Upon completion of testing in the FlatSat configuration the STF-1 team was tasked with the tear-down process.  With all the wires needed to connect all the components and all the pieces themselves being very sensitive, this task had to be taken seriously.  A time-lapse was taken of this process and is shown below.

 

Every Millimeter Matters

The STF-1 spacecraft is so small that on multiple occasions, measurement errors of less than a quarter millimeter have caused concern.  One example of this occurred during the model review of the battery unit.  The EPS was colliding with the chassis as highlighted in the image below in blue.  The fix for this was as simple as ensuring the connectors were fully mated, but even adjusting the EPS this much caused the entire spacecraft to have to be rechecked. every_mm_maters

To provide some scope, on average a grain of sand is 0.5 millimeters and the head of a pin is 2.0 millimeters.  The STF-1 spacecraft has some very small components with low tolerances.  Even forgetting to include washers will cause issues during assembly.  Currently the STF-1 team is focusing very hard to ensure we use every piece allocated as the spacecraft gets constructed unit by unit from the top down.