[SatNews] ...the mission has achieved all checkout objectives on or ahead of schedule since launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base just over a month ago.
Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), a major space technology company, announced the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, built by the company for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has successfully arrived at its operational orbit at the head of a group of NASA and international scientific satellites known as the Afternoon Constellation, or “A-Train,” which fly in formation to collect environmental data for the same location on Earth almost simultaneously.
“The OCO-2 mission has achieved all checkout objectives on or ahead of schedule since launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base just over a month ago. The post-launch operations, including the critical maneuvering of the satellite into the A-Train, have all gone very smoothly,” said Mr. Joseph Bushman, Orbital’s OCO-2 Program Manager. “With the instrument’s initial checkout complete and the return of the first science data, we are very pleased to be able to support JPL as part of the OCO-2 team in conducting this extremely important science mission.”
The OCO-2 satellite was initially deployed into a 428-mile (688-kilometer) polar orbit during the mission’s launch operations that took place on July 2, 2014. In the weeks that followed, satellite controllers at Orbital’s Dulles, Virginia, Mission Operations Center (MOC) successfully commanded OCO-2 through in-orbit tests of its critical subsystems, as well as a series of nine orbit-raising maneuvers to reach the A-Train orbit at 438 miles (705 kilometers) above the Earth. The OCO-2 team also has successfully tested the onboard instrument, recently capturing initial science data, known as “first light,” as it was activated in preparation for the beginning of full science operations later in 2014.
Orbital designed the OCO-2 satellite for at least two years of operations with single-axis articulated arrays and three-axis attitude control to ensure high-precision positioning to support the Earth observing instrument’s operation. The company will manage the day-to-day operations of the satellite from the company’s MOC at its Dulles, Virginia campus for the duration of the mission. At the time of its launch, OCO-2 was the 151st satellite Orbital had built and delivered to commercial, civil government and national security customers over the past 32 years. Four other Orbital-built satellites have since been deployed, bringing the company’s total satellite deliveries to 155, which together have amassed approximately 1,100 years of in-orbit experience.
NASA and its international partners operate several Earth-observing satellites that closely follow one after another along the same orbital “track.” This coordinated group of satellites is called the Afternoon Constellation, or the A-Train for short. The satellites are in a polar orbit, crossing the Equator traveling northbound at about 1:30 p.m. local time within a few minutes of each other and repeating the same ground track every 16 days. This allows near-simultaneous observations of a wide variety of parameters to aid the scientific community in advancing man’s knowledge of Earth-system science and applying this knowledge for the benefit of society. Besides OCO-2, the current member missions of the A-Train are GCOM-W1, Aqua, CALIPSO, CloudSat and Aura.
Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company’s primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit and planetary exploration spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to U.S. Government agencies and laboratories. More information about Orbital can be found here.