February 2009 has been a busy month for the CSIR Satellite Applications Centre and its tracking, telemetry and command team supporting launch agencies worldwide to put satellites safely into orbit.
The CSIR says the first of these launch supports took place on 5 February, when NOAA N Prime was successfully launched on 6 February, 2009 at 2:22 Pacific time, from Vandenberg Air Force Base by the NASA Launch Services Program office at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The countdown proceeded smoothly throughout the night and early morning.
Neither the spacecraft nor the United Launch Alliance Delta II launch vehicle experienced any technical issues, and the weather conditions remained favourable.
The CSIR monitored the separation event that occurred toward the dying moments of the station’s visibility, delivering the much-needed confidence to the mission control team.
After NOAA-N Prime successfully arrived in its orbit, it was renamed NOAA-19.
NOAA-19 is in a nominal orbit and all spacecraft systems appear to be functioning properly. This satellite, built for NASA by Lockheed Martin, will improve weather forecasting and monitor environmental events around the world. It is the fifth and last in the current series of five polar-orbiting satellites with improved imaging and sounding capabilities, and has sensors that will be used in the Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System to monitor for distress signals around the world.
On Friday 13 February the team took up the challenge of tracking multiple satellites when Arianespace orbited two communications satellites: Hot Bird 10 for European operator Eutelsat, and NSS-9 for the global operator SES New Skies, an SES group company. The mission also launched two microsatellites for the Spirale demonstration programme.
The mission was carried out by an Ariane 5 ECA launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Liftoff was on 12 February 2009 at 19:09 local time in Kourou.
NSS-9 is operated by the SES group, one of the world’s leading satellite operators. Built by Orbital Sciences Corporation using a Star-2 platform, NSS-9 weighed about 2 290 kg at launch. It is equipped with 44 active high-power C-band transponders and has a design life of at least 15 years. From its orbital position at 183 degrees west, it will offer seamless operational continuity to a variety of customers, including TV broadcasters, government users, operators and transport firms in the Pacific islands, as well as the maritime industry.
The CSIR was contracted by Intelsat to render the transfer-orbit support service (TOSS) from its own Intelsat-hosted antenna system. The station beat its Australian counterparts in acquiring (locating) the spacecraft, although the ‘Aussies’ were due to acquire first, based on their geographical location and satellite trajectory. As such, the CSIR monitored the vitally important ‘separation’ event. This acquisition allowed the much-anticipated spacecraft vitals data to be relayed to the mission control centre on time.
The CSIR ended on a high note to provide exclusively the critical support of the LAE (liquid apogee engine) early on 17 February 2009.
The CSIR’s Yunus Bhayat confirms, “In all, the mission was successfully supported for launch plus five days of support. We expect that we will be officially released not later than 19 February to resume routine operations.”
This was not all that the CSIR accomplished. Bhayat confirms, “The HB-10 mission was supported as the craft was aboard the same launcher as NSS-9S and Spirale A/B. HB-10 support was intermittent to monitor a few critical events for our client, CNES.” He notes, “In this case, our participation in the ground station mission operations was limited as CNES had contracted alternative network stations for most of the primary operations.”
He explains that the Spirale programme comprises the two microsatellites Spirale A and B, based on the Myriade platform designed by French space agency CNES. This demonstration programme is designed to collect infrared images of terrestrial backgrounds and analyse them to assess the detectability of ballistic missiles during their powered phase. It will pave the way for a future ballistic missile warning system.