||Rocky Mountain AIAA Newsletter|
|Rocky Mountian AIAA Newsletter||#97-06 October|
|Air Force Academy Cadets Launch Satellite|
|Cadets at the
U.S. Air Force Academy will send their own satellite up on an Atlas IIA
launch vehicle Oct.24 from Cape Canaveral, Fl. Academy staff and cadets
have worked jointly with the University of Colorado at Colorado
Springs, and Lockheed Martin on this mission which they've named Falcon
Gold. The objective of the mission is to characterize the Global
Positioning System (GPS) signal for use in orbit determination at
altitudes above the GPS constellation. Falcon Gold will relay GPS
signal measurements for approximately three weeks until the on-board
batteries expire. The spacecraft will downlink the signal measurements
to ground stations for post-processing.
Falcon Gold will remain attached to the Centaur rocket, which is the upper stage of the launch vehicle. The small spacecraft will activate once the primary payload, a Defense Satellite Communications System III (DSCS) satellite departs from the Centaur. It will then receive GPS signals and transmit them to ground stations.
This proof-of-concept mission is intended to take the first step in determining if above constellation GPS navigation for spacecraft is possible. If successful, the need for ground tracking devices may be reduced, saving money, time and resources.
A prototype of the satellite has undergone extensive testing to ensure that it will not interfere with the launch vehicle or the primary payload. A prototype of the Falcon Gold spacecraft was tested on a high altitude balloon flown to 96,000 feet above sea level in April and was successful. After the prototype flight, the Falcon Gold design was slightly modified and the space-flight version was constructed.
The current class will participate in monitoring signals at a ground station in Boulder, Co. during the three-week mission. Cadets at the Naval Academy will also monitor signals from a ground station in Annapolis, Md.
In addition to the astronautical engineering students, many other cadets get the chance to put theories into practice from their areas of study. Cadets studying electrical engineering, computer science, engineering mechanics and physics take part in aspects of the design and construction of the satellite.
The payload will depart the U.S. Air Force Academy on Oct.12, and will be transported to Cape Canaveral, Fla. for the Oct.24 launch.
The Astronautical Engineering department has several more projects planned for future classes. Any news media interested in covering the Falcon Gold mission, or future missions, may contact the Air Force Academy Public Affairs office at (719) 333-2990.