Software recovers satellite

By: 
November 05, 2001

When the interplanetary probe Giotto lost connection with its ground operations while tracking Halley's Comet, recovering the lost satellite became a primary concern for its manufacturer Laben, an Italian aerospace company. Laben engineers surmised that when dust particles from the comet's tail contacted the probe, it caused the misalignment of the onboard aerial with Earth.

Giotto was millions of miles from Earth. Unlike the international space station, which is sometimes maintained by crews of astronauts, Giotto had to rely on its own system design for any chance of recovery.

The on-board data handling (OBDH) system designed with I-DEAS a design and manufacturing application from SDRC (Milford, OH, now called EDS PLM Solutions), became the critical component in the satellite's recovery. "The link absence was detected by the on-board computer, part of the OBDH, and re-established," says Laben's Operations Manager, Demetrio Masaro. "As soon as the connection was lost, the event triggered a software routine that initiated a maneuver to 'search ground'."

The Giotto satellite was later directed toward another comet, Grigg-Skjellerup. Such missions help map the universe for interplanetary space exploration.

For more information about mechanical design software from SDRC: Enter 538

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