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Frontiers December 2013—January 2014 Issue

PHOTOS: (Left) A Delta IV rocket carrying a Boeing-built GPS IIF-3 satellite blasts off from Cape Canaveral in Florida last year. UNITED LAUNCH ALLIANCE (Above) To complete delivery of a satellite, Mission Director Carrie Hartman, left, counts on support from team members such as Henry “Mac” McClintock Jr., Computer Operations, in the Boeing Mission Control Center in El Segundo, Calif. BOB FERGUSON/BOEING Chris Cutroneo has been involved in satellite missions for more than 30 years, including a range of assignments as a mission director. He currently is manager of Space & Intelligence Systems’ Mission Systems Engineering and Operations, the Mission Control Center organization. The mission director has a multifaceted role, he said. “One very big element is to be able to engage effectively with our customers. “The second part of it,” he continued, “is that the mission directors need to be able to guide their team, which is fairly large, from launch to hand-over to the customer. People skills are as important as technical expertise.” The Mission Control team can range in size from 40 to 60 people, representing the various skills needed throughout the mission. The mission director’s second-in-command are the flight directors, who work in shifts around the clock until the satellite is handed over. The spacecraft engineer is responsible for sending commands to the spacecraft at the direction of the flight director. Other team roles address key elements and subsystems, including astrodynamics, vehicle dynamics, attitude control, liquid propulsion, power, thermal, telemetry and command, and facilities. Together, they execute the sequence of steps to activate the satellite and deploy components like the solar arrays. To train, Mission Control teams participate in computer-based mission rehearsals. A dynamic satellite simulator is programmed to mimic the satellite’s systems and how the vehicle will respond to different commands. “We have a phrase, ‘test like you fly; fly like you test,’ ” Cutroneo said. “If you make a critical mistake during a mission, there are no second chances.” One member of Cutroneo’s team, Doug Leber, is mission director for Inmarsat-5, one of the international commercial satellite programs that are critical to the continued success of Boeing’s satellite business and a key growth market. Boeing’s Inmarsat-5 team is building four 702HP (high power) spacecraft to join U.K.-based Inmarsat’s fleet of 10 geostationary satellites that provide a wide range of voice and data services to a global customer base. Inmarsat-5 is Boeing’s first commercial contract where all the satellite operations, after separation from the rocket, will be directed from the customer’s mission control center, which, in this case, is in London. Inmarsat personnel, in close consultation with the Boeing team, are serving as mission control lead. Leber said the Boeing team in London is doing the same thing as the Mission Control team in El Segundo, but Inmarsat personnel will send commands to the satellite. “We’re partners in making sure that the satellite is successful,” he said. Mark Dickinson, vice president of Satellite Operations for Inmarsat, said teams from Boeing and his company have worked closely over the past couple of years, culminating in a series of rehearsals in which the teams jointly practiced every aspect of the mission. “The Boeing team has been superb,” Dickinson said. “They are highly experienced and professional and, as the launch date draws closer, the excitement is really building.” Leber joined Hughes Space and Communications, a Boeing heritage company, two decades ago after working in satellite operations for the U.S. Air Force. Successfully placing a satellite into orbit and seeing it become fully operational, Leber said, is “a little like christening a ship”—the final step in a long process. Another member of Cutroneo’s team, Carrie Hartman, is currently serving as mission director for a different international commercial satellite program as well as deputy mission director for a U.S. government military satellite program. One of the most important tasks BOEING FRONTIERS / DECEMBER 2013–JANUARY 2014 47


Frontiers December 2013—January 2014 Issue
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