7 September 2006 New Horizons Pluto lessons learned during ground processing
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Abstract
The New Horizons (NH) Pluto probe was launched on an Atlas V-551 equipped with a five-meter payload fairing (PLF). In-situ Gel-Pak witness plates were used to monitor fall-out at spacecraft level and at Centaur level within the PLF. Based upon the composition of particles captured on a Gel-Pak that witnessed encapsulation and transport to the launch facility significant particle fall-out is associated with fairing materials of construction. The weekly variation of particle fall-out onto subsequent Gel-Pak surfaces over the course of launch preparation indicates that upward transport of particles occurred. Based upon the sum of all Gel-Pak particle counts combined with visual detection of dust on the top deck of New Horizons during installation of the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) our goal of level 450 beginning of life (BOL) was probably exceeded. A big contributor to this excedance was removal of the isolation diaphragm that normally separates the spacecraft form activity below due to mission unique requirements. The launch service provider confirmed detection of upward air movement in previous ground testing of an Atlas V fairing. Future contamination sensitive missions using the Atlas V may want to consider the following: 1) reduced PLF airflow (NH used 280 Lbm/min.), 2) ultraviolet inspection of the PLF, 3) use of isolation diaphragm, 4) in-situ particle counting. Sodium chloride was evident on many particles examined by SEM/EDS, indicating intrusion of the sea coast atmosphere into KSC cleanrooms.
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Patrick Hogue, "New Horizons Pluto lessons learned during ground processing", Proc. SPIE 6291, Optical Systems Degradation, Contamination, and Stray Light: Effects, Measurements, and Control II, 629109 (7 September 2006); doi: 10.1117/12.683449; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.683449
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