The UT Spacecraft Control Center located in WRW is in the middle of a complete overhaul in order to provide a premier facility for commanding and controlling student satellite missions, beginning with the expected launch of FASTRAC next year. The Spacecraft Control Center was first established in the fall of 2003 to give students hands-on experience communicating with low-earth orbiting satellites.

The modest station consisted of a 3-meter dish, and two high gain Yagi antennas. This gave students the capability to listen to satellites transmitting on S-band (2.4GHz), and to actively communicate with satellites on both VHF and UHF frequencies.

The radios and control equipment were located in the back room of the Texas Spacecraft Lab (TSL) in an equipment rack. This setup was useful during construction of the FASTRAC satellites because it simplified development and testing of the satellite’s communications systems.

Spacecraft Control Center

Now that the FASTRAC satellites are finished and are preparing for launch, the Spacecraft Control Center is gearing up to be the primary control station for the mission, as well as becoming a flagship satellite communication station designed to support other university satellite missions.

The Spacecraft Control Center equipment has been moved down the hall to a new control room in WRW 403A, which has been remodeled from the carpet upward, thanks in part to a grant from Lockheed Martin. The design of the new Spacecraft Control Center was completed by a senior design team and two student volunteers. This group of five students consisted of Andrew Cave, Jim Coutre, Manuel Gonzalez, Kate Gushwa, and Adam Reeder.

Two control consoles were installed to provide for simultaneous communications with two spacecraft. This is necessary to support the three multi-satellite missions—FASTRAC, ARTEMIS, and PARADIGM—currently under construction by students. Each control console is staffed by two student satellite controllers. One controller is responsible for running the antennas and radios, while the other controller sends commands to the satellite and collects down-linked telemetry.

Situational awareness will be provided on a 50-inch plasma screen and two smaller screens co-located on the far wall of the control room. This system will provide the student satellite controllers with all the information necessary to determine the location and health of the satellites currently being tracked.

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