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Filed under: Project-archive — mgrusin at 11:53 pm on Tuesday, September 8, 2009

DATA-CHASER was a student-designed, student-built, and student-operated space experiment which flew on space shuttle Discovery mission STS-85 in August of 1997.  It was the third space shuttle payload built and operated by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, a group of colleges and universities in Colorado that support student-run space experimentation.

DATA-CHASER consisted of two separate but linked experiments. The first, DATA (Distributed Automation Technology Advancement), tested remote control and autonomy technologies.  During the mission, the hardware onboard the space shuttle was monitored and controlled in real-time from the University of Colorado via the Internet.  At that time, this was a significant advancement over previous shuttle experiments which had to be controlled from NASA centers.  Onboard autonomy software, developed in partnership with JPL, was also tested.  This allowed the payload to make its own decisions when it wasn’t in contact with the ground (although it was monitored in the background for testing purposes).  DATA helped pave the way to simpler, less expensive, and more effective spacecraft operations.

DATA controlled the second experiment, CHASER (Colorado Hitchhiker And Student Experiment of solar Radiation).  Chaser consisted of three instruments: LASIT, SXEE (pronounced “sexy”), and FARUS, which measured the full-disk solar ultraviolet and soft x-ray radiance of the sun.  These wavelengths drive ozone creation and depletion in the upper atmosphere, which in turn affects the amount of ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth’s surface.  The data from this experiment helped benefit atmospheric, climate and environmental research, as well as giving DATA a set of science instruments to exercise.

My role on this mission consisted of coming in late in the project to troubleshoot outstanding onboard firmware issues. This involved ferreting out two power-up reset bugs (whose symptoms were masking each other) and coming up with workarounds. I followed the payload from Colorado to Goddard Space Flight Center in MD, which involved extensive work on the payload bay bridge in a cleanroom environment, and was also lucky enough to tag along on the integration trip to Kennedy Space Center FL, where we got to see space shuttle Discovery closer than I could have imagined.

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