March 21, 2019

Controller Experience & Training

All aspects of mission and science operations are performed by members of the multi-mission operations team that currently comprises 20 UCB full-time employees (FTEs). Six of these team members were already involved in operating EUVE in the 1990s, and the total accumulated team experience with space operations amounts to more than 200 person years. Team members have an educational background in various science and engineering disciplines, such as physics, astronomy, mechanical and electrical engineering, aerospace engineering and computer science. Three team members have a PhD. There has been relatively little turn-over within the team.

The involvement of all operations team members in the ground systems design and implementation is an excellent way to ensure that ground systems not only meet technical requirements, but are also easy to use in day-to-day operations. This approach allowed lessons learned from the earlier missions, namely FAST and RHESSI, to be applied to the more advanced ground systems for THEMIS and ARTEMIS. With NuSTAR and ICON this approach was carried further still, as the operations team provided the ITOS command and control system in almost a turnkey fashion to spacecraft bus providers for flight software development, spacecraft bus, instrument and mission integration and testing. Future missions will directly benefit from these efforts.

All UCB flight controllers participated in mission integration and testing as console operators. This approach began with RHESSI, and was followed with CHIPS, THEMIS, NuSTAR and ICON. In case of NuSTAR, the Flight Operations Team (FOT) clocked 1,740 hours on console from the first day of spacecraft bus turn-on throughout bus and observatory integration, environmental testing and eventually mission integration. This approach was also carried through for ICON, with the FOT supporting 2,600 hours to date at the console.

The familiarity with all flight systems gained during all phases of the mission development, integration and testing is a very valuable training tool and allows for a low-risk transition to on-orbit operations. As part of their duties, flight controllers are also involved in development and fine tuning of telemetry pages and scripts for spacecraft command and control.