Oct. 26, 2012 • On Oct. 21, 2012, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft entered the thermal vacuum chamber at the Orbital Science Corp.’s facility in Gilbert Ariz. During this portion of environmental testing, the giant chamber will have all the air pumped out and go through several cycles of extreme hot and cold temperatures to test the satellite’s performance in space-like conditions.
LDCM will orbit Earth 438 miles (705 kilometers) above Earth’s surface where only the thinnest amount of atmosphere is present. At that altitude, LDCM and its electronics need to maintain their functionality as they pass from the sunlit side of Earth to the dark 14 times per day. Onboard heaters and coolers help stabilize temperatures for both the spacecraft and its instruments. These will be tested during the thermal vacuum test, as well as worst case scenarios where the heaters turn off temporarily and the instruments and electronics have to come back from the extreme cold that seeps in.
The test is expected to last approximately one month. This is the last environmental test before the spacecraft is shipped to its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., where it will be mounted on top of an Atlas V rocket, provided by United Launch Alliance. Launch is scheduled for Feb. 11, 2013.
+ NASA LDCM website