April 15th, 2021

A story of collaboration and support

Today, we want to share with you a short story of remarkable collaboration and support.

After the launch into orbit of our ION SCV Laurentius aboard the SpaceX Transporter-1 mission in January 2021, our operations team was faced with the challenge of identifying and then contacting our spacecraft among the over 140 satellites that, for the first time in history, were delivered from the same rocket.

After we located the beacon, we realized that, to start our mission in the shortest time possible, we needed further ground station support. We decided to reach out to some of the ‘solid players’ of the space industry.

We contacted the European Space Agency’s ESOC mission control center, in Darmstadt, Germany, who have a widespread network of ground stations around the world as well as their own CubesSat-optimized small antenna right there at ESOC.  

We also contacted the Satellite Applications Catapult in the UK, who reached out to the team at Goonhilly Earth Station ltd (GES), where the Catapult’s antenna is located.

Goonhilly Earth Station ltd (GES)

Copyright Satellite Application Catapult

ESOC, the Satellite Applications Catapult, and GES responded immediately and arranged for signals to be sent from their antennas at Darmstadt and from Goonhilly, which required emergency authorization from the German and UK licensing authorities.

ESOC, in particular, were especially happy to help, as we were a great test case for their recently finished, open-to-use mission control and validation environment, which they happily call their “SMILE lab” (for Special Mission Infrastructure Lab Environment). This includes a 3.7 m-diameter dish antenna and lots of cool, cutting-edge satellite control hard and software. 

 

The SMILE team liaised with local authorities to get an exceptional uplink permission. While waiting for the transmit permission, the team configured the ESOC-1 ground station to support the ION Pulse mission.

We want to express our deepest gratitude to these organizations, who responded to our call without hesitation and so generously shared their know-how and resources with us.

ESOC  Smile Lab

Copyright ESA / André Løfaldli

Space is tricky, and we are all pioneering while learning and improving. The space community is building the basis for the future of humankind, and the keyword is ‘community’: working side by side, in our respective fields, will make this possible. This is a call to action for ourselves – to be ready to help the space community as promptly and effectively as we were helped by ESA and by Satellite Applications Catapult, assisted by GES.