Advanced Composites on the LDCM Satellite Mission

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, will provide moderate-resolution measurements of Earth’s terrestrial and polar regions in the visible, near-infrared, short wave infrared, and thermal infrared. There are two instruments on the spacecraft, the Thermal InfraRed Sensor (TIRS) and the Operational Land Imager (OLI). LDCM will provide continuity with the nearly 40-year long Landsat land imaging data set, enabling people to study many aspects of our planet and to evaluate the dynamic changes caused by both natural processes and human practices.

Advanced composite materials had their role to play, both in the rocket launch and on the satellite itself, we take a look at the role ATK played in the mission.

For the LDCM satellite, ATK led the design, engineering, fabrication and testing of the spacecraft’s graphite composite structures, among the structures are the Operational Land Imager (OLI) optical and intermediate benches and the spacecraft sensor platform that supports both the OLI and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) for the spacecraft integrator.

For the ULA Atlas V rocket, ATK produced the 10-foot diameter composite heat shield, which provides essential protection for the first stage of the launch vehicle, using advanced fibre placement manufacturing techniques. In addition, ATK manufactured the Reaction Control System (RCS) propellant tank for the Atlas V rocket. The rocket flew in the 401 vehicle configuration with a four-metre fairing, a single-engine Centaur upper stage and no solid rocket boosters. This is the 36th Atlas V launch using ATK-built composite structures.

TenCate Advanced Composites and Hexcel Corporation provided advanced graphite materials used by ATK in the manufacturing of the LDCM and JWST satellite’s graphite composite structures.

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