In-flight performance of the Van Allen Probes RF telecommunications system

TitleIn-flight performance of the Van Allen Probes RF telecommunications system
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsSrinivasan, DK, Adams, N, Wallis, R
JournalActa Astronautica
Volume116
Pagination211 - 221
Date Published11/2015
ISSN00945765
KeywordsVan Allen Probes
AbstractThe NASA Van Allen Probes mission (previously called the Radiation Belt Storm Probes) successfully launched on 30 August 2012. The twin spacecraft, designed, built, and operated by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL), has been successfully operating within Earth׳s radiation belts since then, returning critical science data revealing new insights into the physics of the radiation belts. Because of the extreme radiation environment, all spacecraft subsystems including the communications system had to make special accommodations to withstand the effects of the radiation. Each Van Allen Probes spacecraft׳s telecommunications system includes an S-band version of the Frontier Radio, a solid-state power amplifier, RF routing components, and dual low-gain antennas. This mission marks the first flight of the Frontier Radio, which is baselined for use in the upcoming Solar Probe Plus and Europa Clipper missions. This paper will present an overview of the as-built telecommunications system and its ground station interfaces discuss key communications flight hardware components, and then discuss in detail its activities and performance in-flight, including the launch and commissioning operations, performance enhancements since launch, and performance trending in flight. Pre-launch preparations at the APL 18-m ground station revealed occasional RF interference that could disrupt Van Allen Probe downlink. A monitoring system was installed to help mitigate some interference sources, and to characterize the residual environment and show that RF interference was not a mission risk. Post-launch commissioning activities were driven by the requirement to verify both spacecraft׳s communication systems over multiple ground networks, including JHU/APL׳s own 18-m ground station, the Universal Space Network, and TDRSS. Enhanced science data downlink volume was enabled by expanding the usable field of view of the spacecrafts׳ antennas once in-flight calibrations of the antenna patterns were completed, as well as reducing downlink link margins to a bare minimum when downlinking via APL׳s 18-m dish, where the CFDP (CCSDS File Delivery Protocol) is used to guarantee file delivery. Radiation drove some of the hardware design; the radios have experienced several predicted fault conditions at the predicted rates and have reacted autonomously as designed to minimize impact to the science downlink.
URLhttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0094576515001824
DOI10.1016/j.actaastro.2015.05.001
Short TitleActa Astronautica


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