mission management room

7 Things You May Not Know about GOES-R Mission Management

By Christy Marzec, Mission Management chief system engineer, and Kevin Gibbons, Mission Management deputy chief system engineer
Sep 21, 2016

If you assumed that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) next generation of geostationary weather satellites would require an equally transformative ground system, you’d be right. But we’re willing to bet that you probably are thinking more about processing and handling the vast increase in data that will be streaming from the GOES-R satellite instruments than about overall mission management. So let us bring you up to speed with seven things you might not know about this critical function of GOES-R ground operations.

But first, what exactly is “Mission Management” on the GOES-R program?  Mission Management is one of four key functions of the GOES-R Ground Segment. (The other functions are Product Generation, Product Distribution, and Enterprise Management/Infrastructure.) Mission Management is focused on spacecraft and instrument operational capabilities, including telemetry data acquisition, command and control of the satellites and their instruments, and the complex GOES-R space-to-ground (and back) communication needs.

And when we say complex communication needs, we mean it. On top of normal satellite-to-ground system communications, the GOES-R ground segment receives data from sensors on nearly 20,000 buoys and other terrestrial locations to help with flood forecasting. A search-and-rescue service on board the spacecraft can track boat travelers in harm’s way through the use of emergency beacons and the GOES-R communications system.  The National Weather Service as well will leverage GOES-R and its communications capabilities for emergency broadcast backup messaging. 

Mission Management is also concerned with orbit analysis—is the satellite on course?—along with mission planning and scheduling, and monitoring the health and performance of the mission management assets and satellites. Operators can monitor and control the antenna assets as well and manage the telemetry paths for all the necessary communication links through GOES-R’s Mission Management capabilities.

Now for those things you may not know about GOES-R’s Mission Management.

1 – The design of the Mission Management function enables the management of multiple satellites, each independent of another, whether the satellite is from the same constellation or from separate ones of different orbital configurations. When GOES-R launches, the ground system architecture is ready to fly multiple constellations.

2 – The Mission Management function is architected to support operations across multiple geographically separated sites to help ensure continuity of satellite operations.

3 – Management, monitoring, and reporting on the ground and satellite communications assets for the complex GOES-R mission uses off-the-shelf hardware. This means that no special computers or other technical equipment were built for the GOES-R Mission Management system, saving tremendous cost for the government and the American taxpayer as well as keeping the development of the GOES-R Mission Management system on schedule!

4 – Mission Management facilitates spacecraft mission planning, including maintaining the desired geostationary orbit and attitude for each satellite. These navigation operations provide the orbit for each of the spacecraft (ultimately there will be three GOES-R satellites in orbit) by using telemetry data provided by the spacecraft and tracking data provided by the ground system. Harris-trained personnel from NOAA will use Mission Management capabilities to plan satellite maneuvers, optimize schedules, de-conflict resources, and even re-plan future events as timelines unfold. 

5 – Through the Mission Management function, the GOES-R ground segment is capable of using tracking data from other ground stations, such as the NASA Ground Tracking Network. Each day the orbit and orbit products are updated, with orbit products taking into account orbit events such as eclipses (Earth and moon), the sun’s angle on the spacecraft and instrument apertures, and solar interference for the ground antennas.  In addition, this operation will compute the parameters needed for keeping the satellite in position, managing the spacecraft momentum, and calculating deorbit maneuvers.

6 – Mission Management capabilities will enable operators to send and encrypt commands that not only maneuver the spacecraft, but also support critical functions, such as uploading software and data, and downloading data for the satellite and its instruments.

7 – Mission Management monitors and reports on telemetry and provides remote access to information across the GOES-R enterprise. Engineering telemetry, raw data, ranging data and alarms, warnings and events are archived for the reference and engineering analysis needs of operators and remote user support staff.

As you can see, it takes a complex, highly technical system to help Earth-bound satellite operators keep a mission like GOES-R functioning properly. The advanced Mission Management capabilities of the GOES-R ground system will play an integral part in that. Read more about Harris’ involvement in the GOES-R mission.