Spacecraft Missions

spacecraft missions

Spacecraft missions involve journeys by uncrewed spacecraft or robots to explore distant planets, moons, or objects within our Solar System. For instance, NASA Galileo provided evidence of liquid water on Jupiter’s moon Europa before being sent careening into Saturn’s atmosphere to prevent it from landing there and potentially polluting any underground lakes that might support life.

1. Hayabusa

Hayabusa (Japanese for peregrine falcon) spacecraft, originally known as MUSES-C or Mu Space Engineering Spacecraft C, was launched on 9 May 2003 and rendezvoused with Asteroid Itokawa in September 2005 for study. Its goal was to collect samples and return them.

The main instrument was a small lander and penetrator designed to land on the surface and penetrate its interior, as well as three MINERVA rovers, an imager, and sample return capsule.

The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft, the successor to Hayabusa, will travel to asteroid 1999 JU3 in 2020 for 18 months of research. Utilizing a central data handling unit, this spacecraft self-commands spacecraft functions while receiving orders from Earth as well as providing housekeeping and payload instrument data delivery. Furthermore, an attitude control system using reaction wheels along with navigation sensors such as two star trackers and inertial measurement units ensures stable attitude control of this orbiter.

2. Solar Wind Analyzer (SWA)

The Solar Wind Analyzer suite’s ability to measure moments and 3D velocity distribution functions (VDFs) of both electrons and heavy ions is crucial in reaching its top-level science goals, such as determining compositional signatures of solar wind to reveal nonthermal processes heating and accelerating it, and linking Sun-spacecraft interaction with coronal source regions and suprathermal populations of suprathermal ion populations in interplanetary space.

The SWA instrument features four individual sensors capable of measuring various particle types. Two will measure electrons (Electron Analyzer Sensor or EAS), one will detect protons and alpha particles (Proton and Alpha Particle Sensor or PAS), and another one (Heavy Ion Sensor or HIS). Together these instruments measure three-dimensional velocity distribution functions (VDFs) independently for each particle type to assess density, speed, temperature and mass fluxes from solar wind plasma.

3. COSMO-SkyCrossing Mission (COSMO-SCM)

COSMO-SkyCrossing Mission (COSMO-SCM), built and operated by Telespazio, is an Earth observation constellation built for dual use in civil and military applications, featuring daily global coverage capabilities that deliver vast amounts of data.

This mission features two satellites and an enhanced Ground Segment that were developed to ensure service continuity with the first-generation constellation, as well as to increase performance, functionalities, and systems services for international users and meet different dual use requirements.

Mission Analysis involves monitoring spacecraft and ground network state-of-health, orbital trajectory and mission accomplishment data to provide feedback to mission planners, spacecraft engineers (especially for resolving anomalies) and customers. COSMO-SkyCrossing mission provides rapid mapping response in support of crisis management during emergency events such as earthquakes or volcano eruptions.

4. Space Shuttle Discovery (SST)

NASA’s oldest and longest-serving orbiter, Space Shuttle Discovery first flew its inaugural mission on August 30, 1984 for STS-41D mission involving satellite deployment.

This mission marked two significant firsts: Latin Americans becoming space shuttle astronauts (Judith Resnik), as well as Sweden sending its first crew member (Christer Fuglesang). Additionally, this flight saw the delivery and installation of P5 truss segment onto International Space Station as well as major refurbishment to its power system.

On EVA Day 4, Curbeam and Fuglesang completed installation by connecting power, data, and heater cables on the truss. In addition, they took closer looks at the shuttle’s heat shield to determine whether or not it was safe for reentry; additionally they conducted medical tests evaluating human performance under microgravity conditions.

5. Orbital Flight Test (OFT)

Boeing will conduct its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT), also known as Mechazilla or Starship 7/24, for the first time since attempting to dock with the International Space Station on December 2019. This oft-2 mission, also known as “Mechazilla,” will launch on April 20, 2023.

Onboard Orion for OFT-2 flight will be three manikins to help NASA simulate what astronauts will experience during launch and landing, as well as to verify whether Orion can reach the International Space Station and return home safely by itself.

After losing prototype SN1, which underwent cryogenic proof testing with simulated engine thrust loads, this second test will verify whether any design changes made to its thrust section are working as intended.

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