Enabling and Support

06/05/2023
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Euclid spacecraft

Currently, approximately halfway through Euclid’s simulation campaign, the primary focus in the main control room is Initial Launch and Orbit Phase (LEOP) and spacecraft commissioning.

These are the two most critical moments in the life of a mission, when it wakes up after the rigors of launch, makes its first maneuvers to its target destination, and when instruments are commissioned.

Stress when Euclid thrusters fail

Joe Bush, head of simulations for Euclid, spent months meticulously planning all the ways Euclid could fail. From problems on the spaceship to human problems like team cohesion, trust and morale.

Deputy Director of Flight Operations Tiago during a simulation at ESA’s mission control: “No one can fly a mission alone”

You’d be forgiven if you think March 23 of this year has gone too far. Joe broke not just one, but two sets of thrusters on the Euclid spacecraft simulator. It was up to the Flight Control and Flight Dynamics teams to decide which they could and should use.

Suddenly, a suspected mechanical failure meant that one of Euclid’s attitude thrusters was stuck, producing no force, forcing us to use the backup set of thrusters. But then, the orbit control thrusters, part of that backup set, started behaving strangely, one underperforming by 10 percent and the other underperforming by the same amount, recalls Tiago Loureiro, director of operations. flight operations by Euclid.

Structural and thermal model of the Euclid satellite

The team discussed a potential hybrid solution that would make use of both sets of thrusters, but no procedure existed for this, and creating one would require input and advice from the scientific project at ESA’s technical heart (ESTEC) and the partner industry. While not involved in this previous simulation, these teams have now joined the simulations and will, of course, be available throughout Euclid’s life in space.

I wanted the teams to get used to making decisions under severe time pressure, and having two sets of bad power units definitely did that, explains Joe.

The twin thruster nightmare scenario underlined how successful mission operations include a diverse range of experts and specialists, able to support and brainstorm with our control teams for the plethora of potential issues that may arise.

Later in the simulation campaign, a mock bomb threat to mission control sees the Flight Control Team evacuated in broad daylight

Tiago adds to this; The simulation campaign is all about teamwork: no one can lead a mission alone. Knowing who or what to rely on for information and advice, and when, to support us in those high-stakes decision-making moments is an important skill in mission operations, but also in life!

It would be unfortunate for such a thing to actually happen, but it’s certainly not impossible. Whether it’s its Euclids thrusters, solar arrays, or any other critical spacecraft component, the team’s ability to remain calm but decisive in the midst of a serious problem, to know who to call and to rely on at what time , will be vital to mission success.

Engineers to soothe a sensitive soul

Euclid’s exceptionally sensitive 1.2-metre telescope will capture light that is ten billion years old, originating in the early Universe and only now reaching us. In doing so, it will shed light on a simple question for which we still don’t have an answer: What is the Universe made of? Surprisingly, this is now a cosmic mystery.

The pile of bullets

The matter of which it is composed and the light that makes us see, constitutes just 5% of the Universe. The rest is dark: with dark energy making up about 70% and dark energy the remaining about 25%.

But what are dark matter and dark energy? Euclid hopes to find out, but his instruments are only as sensitive as their operations allow them to be. ESA’s mission control engineers will need to protect the unshielded telescope during and after launch, making sure that direct sunlight does not touch it. They will then have to calibrate and aim the spacecraft very precisely, to make sure it can see clearly.

From launch to Lagrange

Euclid will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, no earlier than July. A trajectory correction maneuver will propel it to Lagrange point 2, one of five points around the Sun and the Earth where the gravitational forces between the two bodies balance each other, creating gravitational plateaus around which objects can orbit, steadily, without too much work to keep them in place.

The orbits of Gaia and Webb

Euclid will join ESA’s Gaia telescope here at L2 and the NASA/ESA James Webb Space Telescope. From an average distance of 1.5 million km beyond Earth orbit, it will transmit a record amount of data to Earth via ESA’s Estrack network of ground stations around the world, providing valuable details on the early Universe and its evolution .

All of this will be tested in ongoing simulations taking place at ESA’s ESOC mission control centre, first with local teams and later by bringing science teams together at ESA’s ESTEC technical heart, SpaceX, land and Thales industry partners.

Follow @esaoperations for updates on Euclid’s simulations and launch preparations, as teams are tested with dozens of worst-case scenarios while Euclid is on Earth, preparing for the unknown of space.


#dark #matter #Euclid

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