Hand-in-Glove: Lynx/Atsa Armrest Camera a Perfect Fit
Mojave, California and, Tucson, Arizona, September 6, 2012 — A team of Planetary Science Institute scientists and students from The Citadel, Trident Technical College, and Francis Marion University recently visited XCOR Aerospace to verify the design and make needed modifications to the Atsa Armrest Camera--or AAC. The AAC will be used in the Lynx Mark I suborbital reusable launch vehicle (sRLV). Atsa, which means “eagle” in the Navajo language, is a groundbreaking, fully reusable and hand-operated telescope for use on-board the Lynx family of sRLVs.
Atsa combined with Lynx will provide highly affordable space-based observations above the limiting atmosphere of Earth. This unique concept allows Atsa to bypass many of the operational constraints of satellite telescope systems such as the inability to observe objects close to the Sun.
The creators of Atsa worked with XCOR design engineers on the initial fitting. PSI Senior Scientist and Atsa co-inventor Faith Vilas noted that the visit to XCOR “produced a smooth first fit of the Atsa Armrest Camera. As AAC is the engineering testbed for the Atsa Suborbital Observatory, the success of this visit is of high importance to all of us.” Vilas also underscored the value AAC brings to suborbital flights overall. “As a hand-guided camera designed as a proof of concept to test target acquisition and tracking for human-operated suborbital astronomy, AAC is both small and powerful. And due to the anticipated low cost and high frequency of Lynx flights, and the durability of AAC, it opens up a world of possibilities for observations in suborbital research. For example, through operations onboard Lynx we will acquire multispectral images of targets, such as Venus and Mercury, in the visible to near-infrared spectral range – out to about 900 nanometers,” Vilas said.
PSI Associate Research Scientist, Citadel Associate Professor of Physics and Atsa co-inventor, Luke Sollitt, added that the XCOR visit provided many insights. “We learned a great many lessons about payload accommodation on Lynx, about the integration process, and about what changes we need to incorporate to finish a flight-ready instrument,” Sollitt said. “We look forward to returning in a few months with the next version of the AAC to do fit testing with the flight cockpit.”
XCOR Program Manager Khaki Rodway noted the value of the collaboration for XCOR. “We are extremely pleased to be teamed with PSI on this cutting-edge project. The capabilities of Lynx allow PSI and Citadel investigators to fly frequent, flexible Atsa missions when it suits their research needs. Those factors shorten development time of the camera and enable more data acquisition.”
“Atsa is a true reflection of what Lynx and XCOR are all about, and that’s why we enjoy partnering with PSI,” added XCOR Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nelson. “Lynx will be known for aircraft-like operations: no engine overhaul or vehicle restoration between flights. That means we can meet a customer’s low cost, quick turnaround and high reliability requirements; Atsa needs all three. In the end, more flights for less money equal many more observations.”
Vilas and Sollitt led the four-day project at XCOR, assisted by Danielle Barrett of Trident Technical College, Todd Rhodes of Francis Marion University, and Daniel Pittman from The Citadel. Larry Smith of Fidem Technica provided mechanical engineering support to the Atsa team.
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About XCOR Aerospace: XCOR builds safer, more reliable and reusable rocket-powered vehicles, propulsion systems, advanced non-flammable composites and rocket piston pumps. XCOR works with aerospace prime contractors and government customers on major propulsion systems, while also building Lynx. Lynx is a piloted, two-seat, fully reusable liquid rocket-powered vehicle that takes-off and lands horizontally. The Lynx-family of vehicles serves three primary missions depending on their specific type including: research & scientific missions, private spaceflight, and micro satellite launch. Lynx production models (designated Lynx Mark II) are designed to be robust, multi-mission (research / scientific or private spaceflight) commercial vehicles capable of flying to 100+ km in altitude up to four times per day. Lynx production models are available to customers in the free world on a wet lease basis. (www.xcor.com).
About Planetary Science Institute: Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Planetary Science Institute is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to solar system exploration. It is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, where it was founded in 1972.
PSI scientists are involved in numerous NASA and international missions, the study of Mars and other planets, the Moon, asteroids, comets, interplanetary dust, impact physics, the origin of the solar system, extra-solar planet formation, dynamics, the rise of life, and other areas of research. They conduct fieldwork in North America, Australia and Africa. They also are actively involved in science education and public outreach through school programs, children’s books, popular science books and art.
PSI scientists are based in 18 states and the District of Columbia, Australia, Canada, Latvia, Russia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
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