Postmortems

Three hours to save Integral

ESA had it’s “Apollo 13” like moment when it only had hours to save its spacecraft. And they did it while under ‘Work from Home’ conditions.

On 22 September, around midday, ESA’s Integral spacecraft went into emergency Safe Mode. One of the spacecraft’s three active ‘reaction wheels’ had turned off without warning and stopped spinning, causing a ripple effect that meant the satellite itself began to rotate.

As a result of the spacecraft turning, data were only reaching ground control patchily and the batteries were quickly discharging. With just a few hours of power left, it seemed possible that the 19-year-old mission could be lost.

The Integral Flight Control Team, together with Flight Dynamics and Ground Station Teams at ESA’s ESOC mission control, teams at ESAC and Airbus Defence & Space, set to work. With quick thinking and ingenious solutions, they found the problem and rescued the mission.
[…]
“Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. This was very close, and we were immensely relieved to get the spacecraft out of this ‘near-death’ experience,” recalls Andreas Rudolph, Head of the Astronomy Missions Division in ESOC’s Mission Operations Department.

“Most of the Control Team were working from home at this point – I was following operations from the train! – and worked until four in the morning to get the spacecraft fully stable, back into position and facing the Sun to recharge its batteries.”

1 Like