Italy celebrates contribution to Cluster II
30 May 2000Representatives of ESA and Italian industry today attended a specialCluster II press briefing at the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum ofScience and Technology in Milan.The purpose of the event was to inform the media about the current statusof the Cluster II mission and the key role that Italian industry has playedin the successful completion of the four Cluster II spacecraft, which arenow undergoing pre-launch preparations in Kazakhstan.
Professor Roger Bonnet, ESA Director of Science, was full of praise for everyone who has worked so hard to rebuild the Cluster mission after the loss of the first four spacecraft in 1996.
"I am very impressed by the work accomplished by our scientists, industry and ESTEC (the European Space Research & Technology Centre) in rebuilding the Cluster satellites," said Dr. Bonnet. "We are now very close to the first launch and I look forward to the deployment of the entire Cluster fleet. Together with the SOHO mission, the Cluster II satellites will help us to understand fully how the nearest star influences our home planet."
His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Giacomo Cavallo, ESA's Head of Science Programme Coordination and Planning, who spoke about the exciting discoveries that scientists expect to make with the Cluster II quartet, and Alberto Gianolio, ESA Cluster II Deputy Project Manager, who detailed the major landmarks on the road towards completion of this ambitious project.
"Cluster II is a truly international enterprise in which Italian industry has played a key role," said Mr. Gianolio. "Contractors and scientific institutions have worked wonders to rebuild the Cluster quartet in less than three years."
The proceedings were opened by Dr. Paolo Micheletta, Chairman of aerospace company LABEN, who gave the welcoming speech. Later in the morning, Dr. Marco Pascucci, LABEN's General Manager, gave an overview of the company's participation in Cluster II and other ESA scientific projects.
"We are very proud to be involved in such a prestigious programme," said Dr. Pascucci.
LABEN's particular contribution includes the command and data handling sub-system, the computer 'brain' for each complex Cluster II spacecraft. This comprises two pieces of onboard data handling hardware - the CDMU (Command Data Management Unit) and the RTU (Remote Terminal Unit). The onboard data handling system uses specially developed software to control each spacecraft and its 11 instruments, prepare data to be transmitted to the ground and execute commands received from the operations centre at Darmstadt.
The computer system also acts as a guardian in case some unexpected system failure should occur. The computer will then place the spacecraft in a safe mode and inform ground controllers about the nature of the malfunction. This safeguard should enable engineers to work around the problem and to restore the spacecraft to normal health.
Using its experience with missions such as Cluster, LABEN is developing a new product named "Leonardo", which will integrate the onboard data handling system and attitude control system on satellites for the first time. "Lift Off" for Leonardo will be in 2002 on board a remote sensing satellite.
LABEN is also a major contributor to other ESA scientific projects including: 7 the EPIC camera and the onboard data handling system for XMM-Newton, the world's most sensitive X-ray observatory. 7 a gamma-ray imager and onboard data handling system for the Integral gamma-ray observatory. 7 the Low Frequency instrument on Planck, a mission that will revolutionise our knowledge of cosmology.
In addition, the company has provided the data management system and three of the four payloads on the extremely successful Italian SAX X-ray satellite.