Press Release

Technology Mission Accomplished, NASA Goes for More

By SpaceRef Editor
January 23, 2002
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The mission was to validate nine new breakthrough technologies in the unique environment of space — technologies that will change the way spacecraft and Earth-viewing instruments are built and operated in the future. After a fully successful series of experiments and tests, NASA’s going for more.

The Earth Observing-1 technology-testbed spacecraft was launched just over a year ago to see how a set of advanced technologies would fare in the actual space environment — the final step in validating these new concepts. The instruments — ranging from a hyperspectral imager (a “camera” that views the Earth’s surface with spectral discrimination never before seen) to an X-Band Phased Array Antenna that sends high volumes of data back to Earth in a unique “pencil beam” pattern — all met test objectives with “flying colors.”

A pulsed plasma thruster was tested as a new way of controlling spacecraft attitude and “pointability,” and an Advanced Land Imager validated a new low-cost way of providing Landsat-type or better views of Earth from space with more desirable size, mass and power and improved performance.

Breakthroughs in carbon composite-structure technologies to keep spacecraft lightweight and cool, and an advanced, wideband recorder processor were tested and found fit for use in future flights. A new lightweight, flexible solar array also proved a success.

Now that the mission has met all objectives within the one-year on-orbit goal, mission scientists and the user community want to keep things going. To accommodate user needs, NASA has formed a partnership with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Reston, Va., to continue the mission through the acquisition and provision of mission data based on user requests.

The EO-1 Extended Mission partnership is modeled on the successful NASA/USGS Landsat data-purchase model, and parallels NASA’s policy of charging for use of unique NASA capabilities. EO-1 is one-of-a-kind and no equivalent commercial source exists; the private sector is part of the user community that has requested continuing mission operations.

Under the extended mission agreement, NASA will continue to command and control EO-1, while USGS will take researchers’ cost-reimbursable orders for spacecraft data. EO-1 price levels have been set to recover satellite operation, data processing and customer interface costs, estimated at approximately $5 million per year.

NASA and USGS believe that data from EO-1 may be valuable in global land-cover studies, ecosystem monitoring, mineral and petroleum prospecting, and agricultural crop discrimination and assessment, among other potential applications. The extended mission will allow a broad range of users to experiment and learn from these advanced capabilities. It also provides an ideal mechanism for technology transfer to the private sector.

Potential customers for these data include the existing 31 science teams who have been supporting the mission. The satellite-manufacturing industry; the value-added commercial remote-sensing community; the Earth Sciences research community; and federal, state and local agencies, as well as a variety of national security organizations, all may find potential use for the new, experimental data unique to EO-1.

NASA and USGS will review EO-1 operations on a monthly basis. Depending on the demand for EO-1-unique observations and spacecraft health, satellite decommissioning could occur as early as this spring or as late as the spring of 2005.

The EO-1 mission is part of the advanced technologies research conducted by NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term research effort dedicated to understanding how human-induced and natural changes affect our global environment.

SpaceRef staff editor.