Jeffery Cleveland is on a goal to save a supervision a lot of money. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) uses a common software, called Neptune®, to fly all a satellite missions and conduct a antennas on a ground. But Cleveland thinks Neptune could be even bigger. “It’s a multi-mission authority and control software, means of drifting probably any satellite,” says Cleveland. Kirkland Air Force Base is usually one place that’s already satisfied how regulating Neptune, instead of essay all new module for any mission, saves time and income on satellite operations.
Satellites aren’t mass-manufactured; any is built to be singular for a mission. With such opposite in hardware and in a information they collect, don’t we also need singular module to run any one?
It turns out no. “NRL was in satellites before anybody was in satellites; what they fast found is that they can’t keep reinventing a wheel,” says Cleveland. NRL has been drifting satellites out of a Blossom Point belligerent sinecure in Maryland for over 50 years. “Blossom Point has some critical antennas and some critical capability,” he says. “We can hoop roughly any series of satellites, any kinds of satellites, any orbits; Neptune is a module that does that.”
NRL’s creation was to comprehend that, while satellite payloads change widely, they roughly all float on buses that do a same few things. “The satellite train is arrange of a infrastructure: it handles power, it handles heating and cooling, it handles communications,” says Cleveland.
The Neptune module uses a common module for a functions that any goal does, and afterwards engineers tailor it to a mission. “There’s always mission-specific software, there’s always something that needs to be added,” says Cleveland, “so we have interfaces during a right places, well-managed interfaces, that concede we to do that.”
This saves a lot of income in growth and maintenance. “A lot of places, a supervision buys a complement from a space on down to a ground,” says Cleveland. “I worked during one site where there’s a family of 4 satellites; dual are operated by one belligerent complement and dual are operated by a totally different, exclusive belligerent system.” That means a supervision is blank out on a efficiencies that would come with a common approach.
In further to handling satellites, a Neptune module also can also conduct a belligerent sinecure receiver array. Traditionally, one receiver listens for one satellite, so it’s not in use many of a time. “Leo missions in particular, we have a 10-15 notation contact, and afterwards we go divided for 90 minutes,” says Cleveland. “And usually down a street, there competence be another antenna, same capability, sitting idle—why do we keep doing that?”
So in 2013, NRL demonstrated how an Air Force satellite operations core (SOC) in New Mexico could, by regulating a Neptune software, use existent antennas during Blossom Point. “We came adult with a capability that allows opposite SOCs to share resources,” says Cleveland.
Cleveland hopes a Neptune module will assistance allege satellite investigate some-more quickly, and during reduction cost. “If you’re a government,” he says, “the diversion is to take as many use of a common module as possible, and minimize a mission-unique module as many as possible.”
Busting detached data: Neptune module takes advantage of commonalities
Every satellite collects and sends down information that needs to be decommutated out of binary code. “That acclimatisation is something that everybody does,” says Cleveland, “so that’s in a common software: collecting, logging, storing, decommutating, and alarm checking.”
The Neptune module does need to be configured for any mission. “It gets down to, we have to tell us what your 1s and 0s mean, and how we can make them into engineering values,” says Cleveland. “We have a approach for [the user] to define, with a elementary Excel spreadsheet or database, this is what my telemetry looks like,” he says.
The initial setup can be intensive—”But that’s given this is rocket science,” he says. Once done, however, a Neptune module creates it easy for onsite operators to make modifications. “They’re a ones that know a spacecraft, they’re a ones that know what to do,” says Cleveland. As an example, “I know this heater is flaky and so we don’t wish a heat sensor to go off during 50 degrees Celsius anymore, we wish it to go off during 60 given a temperature’s creeping adult and that’s okay, we’re examination that.”
This is unequivocally opposite from traditional, mission-unique software-where a SOC has to go behind to a executive for modifications, that is dear and time-consuming. Using normal module is like wanting to change your default page margins from one in. to one-and-a-quarter—and afterwards carrying to sinecure a organisation of engineers to come to your home and implement a new handling system.
“What we’re doing, by isolating a common things and some goal singular software, we’re giving a internal engineers a energy to do their pursuit themselves right there,” says Cleveland. “We usually learn them how to put that into a book or cgange a database entrance and they’re done; they never call us, they take caring of it themselves.”
Better CubeSats with a customary train and common antennas?
Nowhere is cost assets some-more critical than with CubeSats. CubeSats started apropos renouned about 10 years ago, as a approach for universities and labs to low try out innovative ideas. They’re mostly launched with many bigger satellite missions, packaged into a additional space in a rockets. “CubeSats are going to change a universe for sure—but that’s a payload,” says Cleveland.
Cleveland sees people too straightforwardly usurpation disaster from CubeSat missions, given they’re viewed as inexpensive and high-risk. “I consider a numbers would contend we’re not contacting approach some-more than we should be contacting,” he says.
He thinks that if sponsors worked with experts to yield a customary bus, gripping a creation to a payload—”we’ll get we your data, we do a cold payload”—more missions would be successful and investigate would allege faster.
He’d also like for to sponsors mix belligerent capabilities into one high-power station, like a Blossom Point, instead of regulating many lower-capability receiver networks. “You can’t inexpensive out on a ground,” Cleveland says, “because once it’s up, it’s a satellite; a laws of production don’t know CubeSats from anything else. You’ve got to communicate, you’ve got to stay adult in orbit, you’ve got to find them.”
The initial hit with a satellite right after launch is hard; space is vast, and there’s always some cone of uncertainty. “Even on NRL missions, we’ve launched some unequivocally large things; and it’s tough to separate, that’s a spacecraft, that’s a launch vehicle,” he says. It’s even some-more formidable with CubeSats, that are too tiny for many of a radar lapse and send usually unequivocally low-power transmissions. “There’s a lot of CubeSats that are never contacted, and they write that off as, ‘Oh, good a train never incited on,’” says Cleveland; “when we consider of a lot of it is, it was articulate over here and we were listening subsequent doorway and usually blank it.”
NRL could assistance significantly urge a success of CubeSats. “What NRL brings to a list is a ops knowledge and a innovative module to do authority and control, so that we don’t have to worry about that,” says Cleveland.
Neptune module demonstrated SOC2SOC and how to learn from failure
As an example, Kirkland Air Force Base used a Neptune module for a Space Environmental NanoSatellite Experiment (SENSE), a launch of dual CubeSats in 2013. It was NRL’s initial proof of pity antennas between dual opposite SOCs, a capability Cleveland calls SOC2SOC.
NRL was configuring a Neptune module for a SENSE goal and asked if they could also use it to usually exam out SOC2SOC. “But it incited out that on launch day, a receiver a SENSE module had, it wasn’t means to command, it didn’t work,” says Cleveland. “And so they contacted Blossom Point.” Thanks to this resource-sharing “test,” a Air Force continued to get telemetry for a subsequent 18 months (until a satellite deorbited). And even yet a satellites had problems, by being means to hit a bus, “You get a lot some-more profitable feedback, and so that can go into improving a subsequent mission.”
Though NRL configured a Neptune module for SENSE operations, it was a organisation of Air Force lieutenants they taught to run it. “These guys were illusory to work with, they got what we were perplexing to do and it was fun,” says Cleveland. “They came adult with a testing, they came adult with a displays, they did a ops.”
SENSE is also a good instance of how Blossom Point can be used as a belligerent sinecure by a SOC run remotely from computers somewhere else. “[Kirkland] has been good to work with, and I’d like to see some-more of that continue,” says Cleveland.
Being a partial of selecting obliged solutions
Cleveland’s managed a Neptune module for NRL given 2011; yet he’s been during NRL given 1984, when he graduated from Penn State with a university’s initial mechanism engineering degree. “I like formation and testing, we like to find out what’s wrong,” he says.
He’s upheld countless launches, including Clementine, TacSat4, and WindSat. “I like to consider that I’m a rocket scientist,” he says. “I’ve been during a bottom of a building when a rocket’s going off, I’ve had some good experiences.” He’s now operative on a vital operations alleviation to a Kirkland Air Force Base SOC.
In Cleveland’s office, cinema from prior Neptune missions are tacked adult right alongside his son’s drawings of space. His son is now nine. “He’s extraordinary and interested, so it’s kind of fun to speak about what we do,” says Cleveland. “We’ve left stargazing and I’ve talked to him about satellites and what we do. He doesn’t have a minute understanding, though satellites are cold and he knows his father works on satellites—so that’s flattering cool.”
One thing Cleveland appreciates about NRL is a goal focus. “When we find problems, what we unequivocally favourite is there wasn’t a lot of finger pointing. It was like, what is this, we figure it out, find out where it is.”
He brings that goal concentration to a Neptune team, creation certain that goal success is a priority. “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Better is a rivalry of good enough,’” he says, “which is not a copout to doing a peculiarity job, though a significance of meaningful what we wish to do and interlude when you’ve finished it.”
He hopes a Neptune module will renovate a satellite industry. “I like removing to other places and saving other people money,” he says. “I’m happy when they select obliged solutions, and we consider we’re a partial of that.”