Friedrichshafen, Germany – Airbus successfully tested the dispenser structure that will hold the twin GRACE-FO (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, Follow-On) satellites during their launch.
Once the satellites are integrated in place, the assembly to the launcher or fit check test is carried out. This test is used to demonstrate the mechanical and electrical compatibility between the satellites, the dispenser and the launcher. Airbus is developing and manufacturing the GRACE-FO satellites on behalf of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Airbus in Spain, a specialist in multi-payload structures for multiple launches, developed the satellite dispenser for the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ). The structure was developed in classical configuration with a central carbon fiber cylinder with the satellites held in place by four hold-down and release mechanisms that each have springs, connectors and necessary harnesses.
JPL, located in Pasadena, California and managed by Caltech on behalf of NASA, in partnership with GFZ will send both GRACE-FO satellites into a polar orbit at an altitude of around 300 miles (500 km) and at a distance of 137 miles (220 km) apart. This is a follow-on to the GRACE mission, which has been successfully operating since 2002. Both satellites will continually take very exact measurements of their separation distance, which changes depending on the Earth’s gravity. In this way, scientists are able to map the Earth’s gravitational fields.