UPDATE: A video of the fit & function test is available here
Written by Dougal Maclise, Flight Opportunities Payload Manager
The Flight Opportunities – CRuSR team passed an important milestone early January (4-5-6 January) when we completed the fit and function test of the two payloads (ADS-B and SFEM) in the Masten Space Systems vehicle, Xaero.
Bruce Webbon, the payload manager for the CRuSR developmental test flights, brought the ADS-B and SFEM payloads along with their development teams down to the Mojave Air and Space Port where the Masten facilities are located for testing with the Xaero vehicle prior to the first test flight.
The big issues to be resolved during these fit and function tests were would everything fit in the payload canister of the Xaero vehicle and would any of the payloads interfere with the operation of the vehicle avionics. The main concern was electro-magnetic interference (EMI) between the ADS-B and the vehicle GPS system.
Karolyn Ronzano programming the Suborbital Flight Environment Monitor (SFEM) payload prior to the test.
Karolyn Ronzano, from the small satellite group at Ames, leads a team that has developed the SFEM or Suborbital Flight Environment Monitor. The SFEM measures several parameters of the flight such as G-loads, vibration, temperature and pressure that a future payload will have to be designed to survive. Evan Jackson, the mechanical engineer on her team, also developed a rack system that both the SFEM and ADS-B will be mounted in during the test flights.
Nick Demidovitch of the FAA provided the ADS-B (Automated Detection Surveillance – Broadcast) transceiver for these early test flights. The ADS-B uses GPS to determine its location and broadcasts that information to special ground station receivers being installed around the country. Chuck Greenlee, also from the FAA, brought a portable ground station to Mojave for these function tests.
Nadir Bagaveyev and Dave Masten of Masten Space Systems and Nick Demidovich and Chuck Greenlow of the FAA take a look at the ADS-B groundstation display.
On the first day we had to deal with delays in the Masten test schedule caused by recent snow storms in the Mojave area that closed several of the mountain passes and roads leading into Mojave. Before the Masten team moved the vehicle out to their test pad for a tied-down test firing, they checked the fit of the payloads in the payload canister. As expected everything fit just fine. The snowstorm had delayed the delivery of a cable needed for the Xaero GPS antenna, so the function test was delayed until after the test firing scheduled for the next day.
Xaero ready for transport.
Bruce Webbon of NASA – Ames watches the mounting of the payload rack onto Xaero
Nadir Bagaveyev and Dave Masten mount the NASA payload rack to the payload bay base plate.
The next day, Wednesday, was cold but clear and we all gathered at the test site to see the test firing. Unfortunately, the vehicle developed a problem during the fueling and the test firing had to be called off for the day. However, once the vehicle was returned to the Masten facilities, we were able to integrate the payloads into the system and test their operation with the vehicle avionics active. All systems worked as planned with no EMI effects indicated!
The next steps towards the first flights are FAA approval of the flight waiver submitted by Masten and the Mission Risk Assessment to be held at Dryden once the waiver is approved. Once those two are completed we will be cleared for take-off!
Much thanks to the FAA, Masten Space Systems and Dryden Flight Opportunities teams for their support of these tests. Onward and Upward!
Photos of the process of preparing Xaero for a tie-down test firing: