July 2, 2008 - GLAST Spacecraft Powered Up and Sending Data
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Date Issued: July 2, 2008
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Menlo Park, CAAfter their journey into the cold reaches of space, instruments on the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope have been woken up ready to begin operations. GLAST, a cooperative effort between NASA and the US Department of Energy, with key international contributions, has started sending signals back to Earth indicating that all systems are powered up and operational.
Data from the Large Area Telescope (LAT), one of two instruments aboard GLAST, is arriving at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center’s Instrument Science Operations Center (ISOC) where it will be monitored, processed, and distributed to the rest of the science team worldwide. The observatory is commanded from the Mission Operations Center (MOC) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and during the present initial on-orbit commissioning phase is staffed by a team from across the mission, including from SLAC.
ISOC manager Rob Cameron from SLAC said, “Powering up the LAT has been even smoother than we had hoped. Everything has worked well—in fact, it’s going great. We’re already receiving high-quality data that we can use to get the instrument ready for the best science return.”
Peter Michelson, of Stanford University, spokesperson and principal investigator for the LAT collaboration, said, “We’re off to a great start and we’re looking forward to a new view of our universe once science operations begin.”
GLAST will explore the most extreme environments in the universe, and seek answers to questions about dark matter, supermassive black hole systems, pulsars, and the origin of cosmic rays. It also will study the mystery of powerful explosions known as gamma-ray bursts.
Steve Ritz, NASA project scientist for GLAST, said, “Shipping data from the spacecraft down to earth, through the MOC to the ISOC, and ready for analysis is a great accomplishment, and it’s thanks to all the detailed testing and rehearsals by the whole mission team before launch.”
SLAC managed the LAT construction project and played a key role in assembling the instrument. With the operations phase of the mission now underway, SLAC plays the central role in LAT operations, data processing, and making scientific data available to collaborators for analysis.
LAT collaboration members from around the world are currently visiting SLAC to assist in the commissioning phase, meeting daily to bring the LAT to its mission-ready performance.
After the 60-day checkout and initial calibration period, the project will begin science operations. The LAT will perform a full-sky survey for the first year of the mission and will rapidly respond to gamma-ray bursts detected by both GLAST instruments.
Eduardo do Couto e Silva, a deputy manager of the ISOC at SLAC, said, “We can't wait to see the gamma-ray sky through GLAST ‘eyes’ and to share with the world what we find in the months and years ahead.”
NASA's GLAST mission is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the US Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the United States.