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2022 | Book

Spacecraft Operations

Editors: Dr. Florian Sellmaier, Dr. Thomas Uhlig, Michael Schmidhuber

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

Book Series: Springer Aerospace Technology


About this book

This book describes the basic concepts of spacecraft operations for both manned and unmanned missions. The first part of the book provides a brief overview of the space segment. The next four parts deal with the classic areas of space flight operations: mission operations, communications and infrastructure, the flight dynamics system, and the mission planning system. This is followed by a part describing the operational tasks of the various subsystems of a classical satellite in Earth orbit. The last part describes the special requirements of other mission types due to the presence of astronauts, the approach of a satellite to another target satellite, or leaving Earth orbit in interplanetary missions and landing on other planets and moons.

The 2nd edition is published seven years after the first edition. It contains four new chapters on flight procedures, the human factors, ground station operation, and software and systems. In addition, several chapters have been extensively expanded. The entire book has been brought up to date and the language has been revised.

This book is based on the “Spacecraft Operations Course” held at the German Space Operations Center. However, the target audience of this book is not only the participants of the course, but also students of technical and scientific courses, as well as technically interested people who want to gain a deeper understanding of spacecraft operations.

Table of Contents


Overview Space Segment

Chapter 1. Space Environment
The environment in which spacecraft have to function is not only life-threatening for humans but also challenging for the spacecraft itself. To successfully cope with this environment many aspects including acceleration, atmosphere, vacuum, solar radiation and its implications have to be taken into consideration. Such factors are examined in more detail in the following chapter “Space Environment”.
Adrian R. L. Tatnall, Hauke Fiedler
Chapter 2. Spacecraft Design
In the chapter “Spacecraft Design” the systems engineering process is described, starting from a mission statement and deriving goals and requirements from it. The treatment of design drivers and trade-offs is discussed as well as the use of concurrent engineering.
Adrian R. L. Tatnall
Chapter 3. Fundamentals of Space Communications
This chapter covers the basics of communication with a spacecraft. After an overview, baseband, modulation and carrier aspects are discussed. In the baseband section aspects of source coding, channel coding and shaping are presented. Afterwards, different modulation methods are shown. Finally, carrier aspects like the link budget equation and an example for a link budget calculation are presented.
Felix Huber

Mission Operations

Chapter 4. Mission Operations Preparation
This chapter describes the tasks and activities required to prepare for mission operations. The success of a space mission depends not only on a properly designed and built space segment and the successful launch via a launch segment. It also depends on the ground segment and successful mission operations carried out by a team of experts using the mission ground segment infrastructure and processes. Its organization and design, as well as the assembly, integration, test, and verification (AITV) are therefore as important as the respective activities of the space and launch segment. In this context, a ground segment consists of a ground system, i.e. infrastructure, hardware, software, and processes, and a team that conducts the necessary operations on the space segment.
Andreas Ohndorf, Franck Chatel
Chapter 5. Mission Operations Execution
This chapter describes in detail the tasks of mission operations execution phases. The basics concerning the different phases during LEOP, commissioning, routine and disposal phase are explained. The differences are described as well as the necessary team members and the support from other teams. Various examples and procedures are discussed, and the transition between the phases is presented in detail. Finally, some examples of different missions for LEO, GEO, deep space missions and human spaceflight are given. This chapter will mainly concentrate on operating unmanned spacecraft from ground, but special aspects of human spaceflight missions will be mentioned where relevant.
Sabrina Eberle, Thomas Uhlig, Ralf Faller, Michael Schmidhuber
Chapter 6. Flight Experience
This chapter covers examples of lessons learned at DLR/GSOC, particularly in the course of multiple LEOP phases of communication satellites. It describes the process of dealing with system contingencies, mostly on spacecraft side and wraps up with several spacecraft anomalies and the attempts to deal with them.
Ralph Ballweg, Andreas Ohndorf, Franck Chatel
Chapter 7. Flight Procedures
This chapter describes flight operations procedures which concentrate specific flight operations related knowledge from different resources. After a short introduction, the basics concerning flight operations procedures are explained. Different types of procedures are described as well as the life cycle of a procedure from its creation through the validation process until its utilization. Various technical procedure concepts are discussed, and a simple spreadsheet approach is presented in detail as a practical example. Finally, some general rules and guidelines for setting up and using flight operations procedures are given. This chapter will mainly concentrate on operating an unmanned spacecraft from ground, but special aspects of human spaceflight missions will be mentioned where relevant.
Ralf Faller, Michael Schmidhuber
Chapter 8. Human Factors in Spaceflight Operations
One aspect which is predestined to be overlooked in a highly technical environment like space operations is the “man in the loop”, who acts not fully predictable like a computer, but whose actions are partially influenced and affected by completely different, non-technical domains: the psychological or physical constitution of human beings and their interactions within a group. This chapter focuses on factors which minimize errors with potentially severe consequences and which improve the performance of high responsibility teams acting in a complex and dynamic environment. It establishes a link between those factors and operational concepts of spaceflight operations.
Thomas Uhlig, Gerd Söllner

Communication and Infrastructure

Chapter 9. Design and Operation of Control Centers
In this chapter we deal with different aspects of the design of a control center. First, the necessary infrastructure is analyzed. Then, the design of the local control center network is examined, followed by the required software. Various aspects of the design for the facility itself (the building), various office and operational subsystems, and IT hardware are discussed.
Marcin Gnat, Michael Schmidhuber
Chapter 10. Ground Station Network
The ground station network (GSN) plays a major role in space missions. It establishes links with the spacecraft and with other control centers, supports specific characteristics of the spacecraft and provides the functionality and safety of the mission. By its nature, GSN participates in cross-support activities between different organizations and agencies. The GSN comprises several functional aspects, the communication path between the control center and the ground stations (online data transport, offline data, voice), the management of the stations and their antennas as well as coordination tasks and station scheduling.
Marcin Gnat
Chapter 11. Ground Station Operation
This chapter introduces the basic tasks and functions of a satellite ground station. The main task of a ground station is the telemetry, tracking and command operations (TT&C) of a spacecraft to support mission preparation, as well as test and operation phases. Also, devices and measurements, protocols and interfaces are shown.
Amanuel Geda
Chapter 12. Software and Systems
The monitoring and control system (MCS) is the heart of a control center. In this chapter, we focus on the description of this system, since other important software (SW) systems of a control center are described in other chapters of this book. After clarifying some basic MCS terms, the data stream exchanged between the spacecraft and the MCS is explained in more detail. Using the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) as an example, it is shown which SW modules make up the MCS and which SW modules can usefully supplement the operations. An outlook on SW development and maintenance within a control center concludes the chapter.
Markus Hobsch, Michael Schmidhuber

Flight Dynamic System

Chapter 13. Orbital Dynamics
As all objects in space are moving all the time, it is essential to understand the dynamics of the satellite motion in the frame of satellite operations. The following chapter will introduce the reader into some theoretical background, which is necessary for the understanding of the orbital dynamics of a satellite. With this background knowledge, the reader is then guided through the major topics of flight dynamics aspects of satellite operations.
Michael Kirschner
Chapter 14. Attitude Dynamics
The theory of attitude control for satellites is presented. The definition of “attitude” is followed by a description of the several disturbances and of the methods to determine the current status of rotational motion. An attitude prediction into the near future allows for active control, either in one or in three axes, either done autonomously on board or by commanding. The principles of attitude propagation and control are described, as well as the possible types of control mechanism. Comparisons between theory and practice are made and several examples are given from real missions.
Jacobus Herman, Ralph Kahle, Sofya Spiridonova

Mission Planning System

Chapter 15. The Planning Problem
In this chapter, we discuss key concepts for designing a mission planning system for a satellite mission. This includes in particular the GSOC modelling language for planning problems which will be illustrated by various example use cases from current missions at the German Space Operations Center (GSOC).
Christoph Lenzen, Sven Prüfer
Chapter 16. Mission Planning for Unmanned Systems
This chapter illustrates the various manners in which the overall design of an unmanned satellite mission can influence its mission planning system. We build on the basic principles from Chap. 15 and discuss the mission planning system for the TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X missions in more detail. Furthermore, we will have a look at the numerous timescales at which mission planning operates and that need to be considered together.
Tobias Göttfert, Sven Prüfer, Falk Mrowka
Chapter 17. Mission Planning for Human Spaceflight Missions
Planning is an essential part of human space flight. Therefore, it is crucial to understand its development during the last years and the current planning concepts. This chapter gives an insight into crew and ground activity planning, based on the International Space Station (ISS) as example.
Thomas Uhlig, Dennis Herrmann, Jérôme Campan

Spacecraft Subsystems

Chapter 18. Telemetry, Commanding and Ranging System
This chapter describes operations of the telemetry, commanding and ranging components of a satellite. Using radio frequency transmissions, they allow remote monitoring and controlling of the spacecraft.
Michael Schmidhuber, Tarsicio Lopez-Delgado
Chapter 19. On-board Data Handling
This chapter describes the operations of the spacecraft components that handle the distribution and processing of on-board data. This subsystem is referred to as on-board data handling (OBDH). Modern spacecraft are built around a powerful processing module that uses software to perform many functions. Complex data structures that need to be handled are defined to communicate with the ground stations, but also to handle on-board components. Using classic communications satellites and scientific satellites in low Earth orbit as examples, we present the basic components of OBDH in more detail, including typical operational tasks and considerations.
Michael Schmidhuber
Chapter 20. Power and Thermal Operations
This chapter provides an overview of various power sources used on satellites and the high-level physical principles they are based on. The same is done with the design elements related to maintaining proper temperature conditions in which a satellite’s electrical components can function. Several approaches to operational tasks are given in the second and third section, including the handling of batteries.
Kay Müller, Sebastian Löw, Sina Scholz
Chapter 21. Propulsion Operations
This chapters gives an overview of the propulsion system operation. The principle of propulsion is briefly recalled, and the typical structure of a bi-propellant propulsion system is presented along with brief comments on other systems. Real-time and offline operation is then explained, with an emphasis on the orbit maneuvers and related activities like mass computation and lifetime estimation.
Franck Chatel
Chapter 22. Attitude and Orbit Control Subsystem Operations
This chapter provides a general overview of the attitude and orbit control subsystem, its components, and the operational tasks to be performed by the ground control personnel. It supplements the fundamentals of attitude and orbit control explained in Chap. 13.
Ralf Faller
Chapter 23. Repeater Operations
This chapter is dedicated to the description and operation of communications payloads of geostationary satellites. The main component of this subsystem is called a repeater, as it receives a communications signal from a ground station and simply transmits it back to a different place on Earth. Communication was the first commercial application of spaceflight.
Jürgen Letschnik

Special Topics

Chapter 24. Human Spaceflight Operations
Human spaceflight operations incorporates most of the aspects of satellite operations, but require some conceptual modifications; in addition, some new domains must be added to accommodate humans in space. This chapter briefly describes the required modifications to the classical subsystems presented earlier and introduces the additional subsystems Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), Visiting Vehicles, and extravehicular activities (EVA). Aspects specifically related to the crew, such as safety, health care, and communications are discussed, as well as the structure of the ISS flight control teams and their operational approach.
Jérôme Campan, Thomas Uhlig, Dennis Herrmann, Dieter Sabath
Chapter 25. Operations of On-Orbit Servicing Missions
This chapter gives a comprehensive insight into the operational aspects of On-Orbit Servicing as well as rendezvous and docking missions. By means of several examples, the operational challenges are explained, and solutions are outlined. The orbit mechanics of a rendezvous mission is described in the local orbital frame. We use the Clohessy-Wiltshire equations to explain the different elements of the approach navigation. The influence of the sensor technology on the approach strategy is also discussed. In the context of robotic capture, we address the necessary changes in the communication concept, e.g., to ensure teleoperation. Finally, we describe the use of test and validation facilities for the critical maneuvers of a rendezvous and docking mission.
Florian Sellmaier, Heike Frei
Chapter 26. Interplanetary Operations
Interplanetary mission operations are characterized by extreme variability, high complexity and high vulnerability. Missions that simply fly-by their target object in the solar system, those that enter in orbit around a planet or minor body and those that attempt a landing on it have increasing levels of operations complexity. Typical challenges of interplanetary flight that impact the operations are the long signal propagation delays, the high variability of operations workload, from quiet cruise to time-critical orbit insertion phases, the scarce availability of electrical energy and communications bandwidth. Special operations like asteroids fly-by, planet orbit insertion or landing on the surface present unique operational challenges that require dedicated tools, procedures and training.
Paolo Ferri
Chapter 27. Lander Operations
A special case of interplanetary missions includes devices that land on a planetary surface or descend through an atmosphere. Operations become more challenging, as a lander typically has additional restrictions in terms of visibility and mission planning. The landing and descent phase is particularly critical and needs special operational provisions, as it usually cannot be repeated or interrupted. The chapter gives insight on missions to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Titan and small bodies like asteroids or comets where landers, entry probes or rovers have been operated.
Stephan Ulamec, Paolo Ferri
Spacecraft Operations
Dr. Florian Sellmaier
Dr. Thomas Uhlig
Michael Schmidhuber
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