Satellite-to-satellite tracking in operation
A major aim of this week's LEOP work was to bring the Satellite-to-Satellite Tracking Instrument (SSTI) - a highly accurate GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) receiver - into full operation. Emanuelli confirmed that it is working normally.
"Switching on the SSTI was especially important, as this meant the satellite could start performing its own autonomous orbit determinations. SSTI identifies GOCE's position very accurately, and we need this functioning before we can bring the satellite into its final drag-free operations mode," he said.
First science data sets already received
In addition to providing realtime navigation data for flight control, SSTI is one of GOCE's two payload instruments and it is a very accurate scientific tool for recording and reconstructing the satellite's actual orbit. The first SSTI data have already been successfully received at the Payload Data Ground Segment at ESA's Earth Observation Centre (ESRIN), Frascati, Italy.
"Receiving initial science data from SSTI so soon has been an excellent first step and, now that the SSTI is operating, we are already proceeding with commissioning of the scientific payload," said GOCE Mission Manager Rune Floberghagen, who worked in ESOC's Main Control Room alongside the Mission Control Team during LEOP to monitor progress.
"GOCE is operating very well, and we are already looking forward to commissioning our other main instrument, the Electrostatic Gravity Gradiometer, starting in mid-April. It's going to be a very busy but tremendously exciting time as we begin science operations," said Floberghagen.
In the coming weeks, the mission is expected to achieve a number of crucial milestones, including switching on the electric ion propulsion, switching into Drag-Free Attitude Control mode and lowering the orbit to the planned altitude of about 260 km.
Source: European Space Agency
Smiling faces: GOCE team from industry and ESA at end of LEOP in Main Control Room, ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany.
(Photo Credit: ESA)