Data acquisition critical to booster-stage debris reentry

European Space Agency's heavy space-launcher, Ariane 5, is designed with two solid-fuel boosters, a main cryogenic stage, called EPC, and a storable propellant upper-stage. EPC is left on a controlled reentering-orbit after its burnout to avoid any risks of uncontrolled reentry over inhabited areas.

02/01/2006


European Space Agency's heavy space-launcher, Ariane 5, is designed with two solid-fuel boosters, a main cryogenic stage, called EPC, and a storable propellant upper-stage. EPC is left on a controlled reentering-orbit after its burnout to avoid any risks of uncontrolled reentry over inhabited areas.

To improve the reentry model, and to more accurately characterize the physical phenomena that occur during reentry, CNES (French aerospace agency) on behalf of ESA, decided to conduct observation missions of the EPC reentry.

System Planning Corp. (SPC) of Arlington, VA, undertook the challenge of observing and measuring Ariane 5's EPC reentry from orbit. Its Multifrequency Airborne Radar System was developed to observe and record debris dispersion over water, allowing CNES to optimize launch trajectories and improve overall safety. System includes wide field-of-view narrow-band VHF-radar coupled with data acquisition and other subsystems.

Searching for a higher performance solution to its data collection needs, SPC discovered Conduant Corp.'s StreamStor technology that records to disk. SPC learned that by using StreamStor, situated in a rack-mount chassis built to withstand extreme shock and vibration, it could bypass its current operating system, CPU, and system memory and could sample data continuously.

"The long VHF wavelength limited us to conformal patch antennas, which were custom-designed to fit the curvature of the aircraft cargo door," said Gary Rubin, physicist, on the SPC Ariane-5 project. "We were observing at 50 MHz with 2 to 2-persion. We didn't miss a second of data."

In 2002 and 2003, building on work commencing in 1999, SPC transitioned the system to an Airbus A300 operated for the European Space Agency by Bordeaux, France-based Novespace. In March 2004, SPC performed another successful mission, recording data on the EPC reentry after launch of the Rosetta space probe by Ariane 5.

Today, extensions to Conduant's real-time digital data capture technology record and playback up to 400-MB per second. For more information, visit: www.boulderinstruments.com





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