SpaceLoft-6 Flight Preparations for the SFEM

SpaceLoft-6 patch

The team flew in to Albuquerque Sunday evening and drove to Truth or Consequences in preparation to participate in the pre-launch activities for the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft-6 launch. The SL-6 launch is a mission by the Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS), but there was extra space available in the Nose Cone section of the vehicle that the Suborbital Flight Environment Monitor (SFEM) was able to occupy. This is a great risk reduction opportunity in preparation for the upcoming SpaceLoft-7 NASA mission in August 2012.

Up Aerospace launch facilities

The SFEM had been previously shipped to UP Aerospace in Denver, CO for the balance and integration testing on March 21, 2012. Prior to shipping to Denver the SFEM was bolted to the Nose Cone 3 section mounting plate for flight. Ultem stand-offs were inserted between the SFEM and the mounting plate for thermal isolation. The SFEM was attached using #10-32  - 5/8” bolts and locking nut, the bolts were torqued to 25 in- lb of torque.

Following the balance and integration test the SFEM was transported to the launch site via ground with the UP Aerospace launch crew. The Ames crew traveled with the programming laptop, cables, tools and other ancillary ground support items.

Integration of the Suborbital Flight Environment Monitor (SFEM) into the Nose Cone of the SpaceLoft rocket

Up Aerospace Control Center

Monday morning the SFEM team traveled out to the UP Aerospace payload facilities, which is about a 45 minute drive from Truth or Consequences along the Rio Grande and El Camino Real. The UP aerospace facility is comprised of two trailers, a generator, quads and a port-a-potty. Each morning starts with a 08:00 daily briefing. This was the first morning the entire payload team(s) had arrived, so introductions were made and a safety briefing for the general area was provided; following this, an overview of the daily activities and integration flow were presented. The main activity for Monday was payload integration. Most of the payloads were ready for integration, except for the SFEM and the FAA’s ADS-B. The ADS-B needed to perform a functional test and the SFEM needed to charge/replace batteries and program the unit for flight.

The SFEM original programming protocol, for Masten and Armadillo, relied on very late access and was manually activated to start recording immediately prior to integration and required the flight to occur within the 4 hour limit of memory capacity. With the UP flight, integration occurs at L-3 days, so this protocol was not going to work with this vehicle. A new protocol using a time delayed start was created for this flight. Additionally, since the launch window is 5 hours, 07:00 – 12:00, and the SFEM can only record for 4 hours, a g trigger condition was also added to the protocol. A very low g trigger of 0.5 g was used so none of the launch profile will be missed. The new program was tested and worked successfully prior to the final programming for flight. Once the SFEM was prepared for flight it was inserted and bolted to the Nose Cone 3 section of the rocket. The nose cone was than placed in a crate and transported out to the launch pad for integration.

Written by Karolyn Ronzano - Flight Opportunities Program Special Projects Lead

Bringing the flight hardware to the integration facility

Payload integration onto the vehicle

Nose Cone integration

SpaceLoft-6 Launch Pad

SpaceLoft-6 Launch Pad


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