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LSE SPACE SUPPORTS THE TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X MISSIONS, INCLUDED FORMATION SWAP MANOEUVRE IN AUGUST 2013

On 6 - 8 August 2013 the whole LSE Space Multi Mission Flight Support team based at DLR/GSOC (Wessling) supported the formation swap manoeuvre of twin satellites TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X, Earth imaging and mapping twin missions owned and run by DLR.
During the past three years TanDEM-X had been circling around its twin TerraSAR-X, while the latter had been routing in an anti-clockwise direction. After the reversal, it began to circle clockwise. The purpose of this very delicate manoeuvre is to observe Earth regions that were difficult to image from the opposite viewing angle, such as mountain ranges for instance.
First, the two spacecraft were commanded to drift apart and gain a safe distance from each other. During nominal operations the distance between TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X is extremely close - around 150 m (vertical) and 280 m (horizontal). In order to perform all necessary manoeuvres in a secure way, their distance was increased to 10 km.
Then the crucial manoeuvres on TanDEM-X were performed. After the orbit correction was successfully completed, TanDEM-X was rotated by 180° so that its thrusters, once fired, acted in the desired direction in order to catch up its partner again. TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X are now flying in their new close formation after a few days ‘without each other’.

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LSE Space Multi Mission Flight Support team members in DRL control room during the swap manoeuvre Aug 2013.Photo: DLR.

LSE Space supports the TerraSAR-X /TanDEM-X mission in several ways.

The Multi Mission Flight Support Team was involved in both TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X missions LEOP and commissioning phases, and is still in charge of routine monitoring and control of the satellites 24/7.

LSE Space Mission Planning Team is responsible for operating both TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X missions, by generating twice a day, a plan (timeline) containing all on-board activities based on all the mission requirements and constraints, with maximum resource utilization and no conflicts.

Last but not least, the LSE Space Ground Data System Team (GDS) has tested, configured and operated the communication links with the ground stations involved in the TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X LEOPs.
GDS currently supports the missions in their routine operations by monitoring the ground stations and troubleshooting communication problems day-to-day; when ground stations report satellite signal reception problems they advise the project.

Related expertise: spacecraft operations.

Related expertise: ground segment.

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