Flight Training: Introduction

  1. (energetic music playing)
    1. Video of Mission Operations stages
  2. "What is Mission Operations? Mission Operations is what the people on the ground do to ensure mission success by controlling and maintaining the spacecraft."
  3. "Welcome to Mission Operations"

Mission Planning and Scheduling

  1. "First, the Mission Objectives must be specified and detailed. The teams of engineers and operators controlling the spacecraft must always follow the mission objectives to ensure mission success."
  2. "Next, the commands to be sent to the spacecraft must be designed. Commands are computer instructions that control and operate the spacecraft. Most spacecraft and satellites have more than one instrument onboard, and commands are also sent to each one individually. An instrument is simply a device on the spacecraft that performs a certain function."
  3. "Every mission has certain constraints that must be acknowledged and understood. For example, a spacecraft can only bring a certain amount of fuel onboard. Other examples of mission constraints are thermal control, power system settings and attitude."
  4. "The orbit and attitude of a satellite must be precise in order to perform its mission. For example, these variables determine how well the Hubble telescope can see a particular galaxy or how the GOES satellite can view an approaching hurricane."
  5. "The mission operation teams will have to choose targets for the spacecraft to aim at for their mission. The targets may be on the Earth, such as weather formations and forest fires. Or they may be in space, such as planets and galaxies. Many spacecraft also use "guide stars" to help them determine their position in space."

Mission Facilities

  1. "Each mission involves an organization of different places and facilities. This section describes a typical arrangement of facilities for a mission. Keep in mind, not all missions are like this."
  2. "Scientists work at a Science Operations Center, or SOC. From there, they design commands for the spacecraft for their experiments. For example, scientists at a SOC may want to learn more about a distant galaxy, so they will design commands for the Hubble Space Telescope to focus on that galaxy."
  3. "Commands and data are sent from the SOC to the Mission Operations Center, or MOC. The MOC is the primary place where a space mission is managed. The MOC receives the commands from the SOC and sends them up into space, often using ground stations."
  4. "Ground stations are facilities designed to send and receive data from the spacecraft. The one shown here is in White Sands, New Mexico. They use their large satellite dishes to beam data to a satellite in space. Often, that data is sent to the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, or TDRS, first…"
  5. "TDRS will get the data first because TDRS will be in the best place to send data to the target satellite. The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System is a series of several satellites equally distant from each other and in geosynchronous orbit around Earth. Not all missions use TDRS, but many important ones do, such as the Hubble Space Telescope."
  6. "The spacecraft receives the data then carries out commands as needed for different science and engineering purposes. All these places on Earth and in space are what make up a typical Mission Operations organization."

Mission Teams

  1. "Now let’s discuss the people involved in Mission Operations. Many engineers, scientists, and technicians work together to operate and maintain the spacecraft at the MOC. This team of people is called a Flight Operations Team, or FOT. "
  2. "The top person in charge of the FOT and all Mission Operations at the MOC is called the Mission Director. This person is responsible for the overall success of the mission."
  3. "Often, a spacecraft will have not one but many instruments onboard. At the SOC, a group of scientists is in charge of a specific instrument onboard the spacecraft. This team is called a Science Instrument Team." They develop a science plan and determine what the instrument should do.
  4. "The scientists on a Science Instrument Team report to a lead scientist, called the Principal Investigator. This person takes responsibility for the success of his or her particular instrument on the spacecraft."

Tracking Method

  1. "NASA has different networks that conduct Mission Operations for tracking satellites and spacecraft. The Space Network consists of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System and ground stations to track Earth-observing satellites. The Space Network has two ground stations in New Mexico and a third on the island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. "
  2. "The Deep Space Network, or DSN, is an international network that tracks spacecraft that are exploring our solar system and the universe. The primary ground stations for this network are in California, Spain, and Australia."
  3. "The third network for tracking spacecraft is NASA’s Ground Network, which supports direct communications to Earth-orbiting satellites. Ground Network facilities are located in Norway , Antarctica, Alaska, Florida, and Virginia."
  4. "These networks use different types of antennas to track spacecraft. The most efficient type of antenna to send and receive data is a parabolic antenna, like this one. The Deep Space Network uses parabolic antennas with dishes almost as large as a football field."

Command Generation for Engineering Functions

  1. "Commands must be programmed and sent to the spacecraft so it can perform different engineering functions. The MOC is the main place that receives and writes commands and then sends them to the spacecraft."
  2. "The Command and Data Handling System, or C&DH, is the main component on a spacecraft that receives these commands. The C&DH then controls the spacecraft by sending those commands to the other components and instruments onboard."
  3. "Let’s discuss some types of engineering commands. One command is for the spacecraft to check instrument integrity. For example, the Hubble Telescope will receive a command to check the imager instrument, to make sure it is working, then send a yes or no signal to the ground."
  4. "Another engineering command is to measure the instrument output. The GOES satellite will receive a command to measure the output from its imager instrument and send that information back to the ground. Engineers and scientists will review the information to see if any changes must be made."
  5. "Other examples are commands to control the thrusters and gyroscopes on a spacecraft. The command to use a thruster may be for a scientific purpose, such as changing the angle of the spacecraft, or to make sure the thruster is firing normally. The same applies for gyroscopes, which may also be used to change the spacecraft attitude or verify its output."
  6. "One last example of an engineering command is to operate a star sensor. A star sensor is used to determine the orientation of a spacecraft relative to a particular star in the galaxy. The star might be our Sun or any other visible star in space."

Telemetry Data

  1. "Much of the data being sent to the ground is something called telemetry data. Telemetry data is the information about the spacecraft that engineers must have to see how well the spacecraft and the mission are doing. This data may also be called engineering or housekeeping data. Let’s discuss some examples of telemetry data."
  2. "Spacecraft attitude data is is a very common type of telemetry data. It shows where it is pointing, and how fast it is rotating. Engineers review this data to make sure the mission is on track."
  3. "Another type of telemetry data is the power system measurements, such as voltages of electronic systems on the spacecraft.
  4. "Power can come from solar panels, batteries, fuel cells and many other sources. The level of power and voltages flowing to the different instruments and components is very important."
  5. "Another simple example of telemetry data is the on/off status of all commandable equipment and heaters. Engineers on the ground can see whether these components are off and can turn them on by sending a command, and vice versa."
  6. "Temperatures of major components must be monitored to make sure nothing overheats and malfunctions. If temperature rises too high, engineers may decide to decrease usage of the component or any related systems. Loss of any major component on a spacecraft could affect all other components on a spacecraft and could cause the mission to fail."

Command Generation for Science Functions

  1. "Commands are prepared at the SOC and sent to the spacecraft and the MOC and a ground station so it can perform tasks that will achieve the scientific objectives of a mission."
  2. "For example, the science team of the Hubble Space Telescope must periodically upload the observation schedule to meet requests from astronomers around the world."
  3. "Using its attitude control system, the space telescope turns to the target, following the instructions received from the MOC/SOC"
  4. "Here is another example. Besides regular weather observing, the GOES satellite can be instructed to use its onboard instruments to track storm systems during hurricane season."

Science Data Processing

  1. "Science data is the facts collected from the science instruments on a spacecraft. Data may include temperature readings, the density of some gases, or the chemical make-up of certain materials found in space. Often, the SOC will acquire the data in code form and turn it into readable graphs and charts."
  2. "For example, the Space Telescope Science Institute, STScI, automatically processes and calibrates all the data received from HST. Some images are actually pictures taken at different times, then combined. This forms a bigger picture that provides a better view of the observed object."
  3. "The hurricane images collected by the GOES satellite are combined to show the path of the hurricane."

Science Data Distribution

  1. "Usually, the SOC is the central library that makes the science data and information available to the rest of the world."
  2. "Organizations like universities, Science Centers, STScI, the Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) use the data to provide us with the latest weather forecasts, Earth observations, new astronomical discoveries, and space exploration capabilities."
  3. "For example, STScI is the archive for available HST science data and images. Scientists can download archived images directly from the STScI Website."
  4. "Meteorologists acquire the weather data they need from NOAA to provide us with weather forecasts and other services."


  1. "Our "Space Communication" module talks about how we communicate with satellites. "Flight Dynamics" talks about how we put the spacecraft in place and maintain their position."Information Processing" describes how we make the data into understandable information. This module has demonstrated how different organizations within a mission team work together to achieve the same mission goals."
  2. "Mission Operations is crucial to mission success. It requires planning, teamwork between organizations, and day-to-day monitoring of the spacecraft and the instruments onboard."
  3. Closing Video

Fly It!: Introduction

Here we will test your understanding of the Mission Operations training for the Fly It! Module for Mission Operations. You will be tested on the knowledge of different commands sent to a spacecraft, such as the space shuttle. You will be in the Mission Operations Center and sending commands to the shuttle to interact with a battery and connect it to the Hubble telescope to repair it. Then you will be interactively tested on locating different objects scattered around the Mission Operations Center, such as seen in an "I Spy" game. Good luck!

Phase 1 - Initiating rescue of Hubble...

You are presented with a screen of the space shuttle, Hubble, and a battery. The crane from the shuttle needs a set of commands to connect from inside the shuttle, to the battery, and then insert the battery into the space inside of the Hubble. You send the proper left, right, up, and down commands from the MOC to the shuttle. Success with Phase 1 leads to Phase 2

Phase 2 - Let's zoom into the MOC, where you are located.

Here you play a fun game where you must find eight different items scattered around the Mission Operations Center. The image shows a typical MOC setting with computers, screens, and many different objects in different locations. A video plays showing a congratulations screen showing space and technology imagery and a "Good Job" message.

Conclusion - We hope you have learned a lot about Mission Operations. Please visit the Space Operations Learning Center home page for more training modules and a lot more for you to learn.

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