NASA awards control systems contract for Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter


Aerospace technology company SpaceDev’s Starsys subsidiary has been awarded a contract valued in excess of $6.3 million to design and build solar array drive, antenna pointing actuators and gimbal control electronic assemblies for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) program from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and Swales Aerospace. This award further expands Starsys' role on the LRO mission, which began late last year when Starsys won work the work for the optics pointing mechanism for the LRO Diviner payload in development at NASA/JPL. In total, Starsys LRO related contracts amount to over $7.25 million.

embedded control, software, motion control

Artist’s conception of LRO orbiting the moon.
Credit NASA.

'The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is an important next step in NASA 's continuing exploration of the moon and beyond,' said Mark Sirangelo, interim chairman of the board and chief executive officer of SpaceDev. 'One of the more exciting aspects of the mission is that the spacecraft will be investigating permanently shadowed cold-trap regions at the poles for the presence of water ice. We are proud to be a significant contributor to this high profile mission.'

The LRO mission is scheduled to launch in fall 2008 as part of NASA's Lunar Precursor and Robotic Program. The mission will deliver a powerful moon orbiter to obtain measurements necessary to characterize future robotic and human landing sites. It will also identify potential lunar resources and document aspects of the lunar radiation environment relevant to human biological responses. Starsys will provide drive actuators to align the spacecraft's solar panels with the sun, a two-axis pointing mechanism to align the downlink antenna for communication with Earth, and the control electronics to drive each system. The Starsys actuator design is a derivative of the antenna gimbal actuators it is providing to NASA GSFC for the Solar Dynamics Observatory mission.

'NASA's selection of our QuAD silent drive technology for the solar array and gimbals reaffirms that this is an enabling technology for future spacecraft missions,' said Robert Vacek, President of Starsys. 'With the inclusion of the control electronics, Starsys is providing our customer with a total system solution for the solar array drive and antenna pointing actuators. We are proud to have a growing role on this program to provide the science and data required to return to the moon.'

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C.G. Masi , senior editor,

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