Tag Archives: OCFlight1

OC-Flight-1’s First Flight

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Just after 6 a.m. on Aug 13, 2013, the OC-Flight-1 picosatellite payload was flown on a sub-orbital testing experiment as part of the “RockSat-X 2013” competition at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The payload was launched from a Terrier-Malemute sounding rocket to an altitude of ~170km, roughly half the altitude at which the picosatellite will orbit the earth and 70km above the Karman line (conventionally used as the start of outer space).  At this altitude, the shell of the RockSat-X payload canister was ejected and the experiments were exposed to elements of the ionosphere.

The intent of testing this science payload in the upper atmosphere was to increase the level of confidence that each subsystem component will behave as intended during on-orbit operation. Since the team is planning on using low cost components-off-the-shelf (which haven’t been manufactured specifically for space applications), there will be a slight risk of adverse performance. By testing normal operation in space conditions, weak points in the design can be identified and adjustments can be made before a large amount of money is spent launching the satellite into low-Earth orbit.

OC-Flight-1 Picosat

OC-Flight-1’s picosat after suborbital flight.

Although the communication systems test was unsuccessful due to a failure in antenna deployment, the payload data was stored on-board and recovered after the RockSat-X payload canister re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and was retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean 90 miles off shore. Using this data, it was determined that the payload subsystems were functioning properly during upper atmosphere operation and the main testing objective was achieved. Additional testing is in the works to prove the long range capability and reliability of the communications system.

NASA’s IV&V Program partnered with students from West Virginia University to integrate the OC-Flight-1 subsystems with other scientific experiments intended to be performed in the upper atmosphere as part of the overall competition. Other participating universities included University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Puerto Rico at San Juan, University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, West Virginia University, University of Minnesota, and Northwest Nazarene University. Even though the team was not alone in encountering mishaps during the integration and operations phase, every team involved with the competition came out a winner. The hand-on practical knowledge gained from participating in RockSat is highly valuable and will be an experience that’s never forgotten.

To see the re-entry of OC-Flight-1’s picosat, watch the video below.

Steven Hard
Project Manager
NASA’s Independent Verification & Validation Program

OC Flight-1 Team at the State Fair

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Steven Hard is the Project Manager for IV&V’s OC Flight-1 effort. He is also a member of the West Virginia University (WVU) Robotics Team in Morgantown, West Virginia.  

OC Flight-1 development team member Alan Didion and I went to the State Fair of West Virginia to join the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources (CEMR) booth set up within the West Virginia University building on the grounds. We represented WVU’s chapter of the Student Partnership for Cosmic Exploration (SPACE), which is a multi-disciplinary student group aimed at helping students get internships with NASA and broadening student awareness of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) opportunities. Alan is the co-president of SPACE, whereas I’m just a member spreading the word.

We brought with us the WVU Mars Rover, which was built by the WVU Robotics Team and competed in the Mars RASC-AL RoboOps Challenge. We also brought both a mockup and a real version of the TubeSat flying on the OC Flight-1 mission. We talked about the results of the RoboOps competition, showed a demonstration of the mobility and manipulation capabilities of the WVU Mars Rover by turning in place, performing short arc-steering translations, and retrieving rocks with the robotic arm. The vision system was also displayed using a nearby Video Graphics Array (VGA) monitor. Discussions transitioned to the Space Flight Design Challenge concept and the OC Flight-1 mission as interest propagated across the display table.

This booth was a wonderful venue for getting the word out about our efforts. We all very much enjoyed the State Fair of West Virginia and hope that our message made an impression.

Steven Hard
Project Manager
NASA’s Independent Verification & Validation Program