The Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer satellite (CHIPSat) was launched on January 12, 2003 and is successfully accomplishing its mission. CHIPS is NASA’s first-ever University-Class Explorer (UNEX) project, and is performed through a grant to the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL). As a small start-up aerospace company, SpaceDev was awarded responsibility for a low-cost spacecraft and mission design, build, integration and test, and mission operations. The company leveraged past small satellite mission experiences to help design a robust small spacecraft system architecture. In addition, they utilized common industry hardware and software standards to facilitate design implementation, integration, and test of the bus, including the use of TCP/IP protocols and the Internet for end-to-end satellite communications. The approach called for a single-string design except in critical areas, the use of COTS parts to incorporate the latest proven technologies in commercial electronics, and the establishment of a working system as quickly as possible in order to maximize test hours prior to launch. Furthermore, automated ground systems were combined with table-configured onboard software to allow for "hands-off" mission operations. During nominal operations, the CHIPSat spacecraft uses a 3-axis stabilized zero-momentum bias "Nominal" mode. The secondary mode is a "Safehold" mode where fixed "keep-alive" arrays maintain enough power to operate the essential spacecraft bus in any attitude and spin condition, and no a-priori attitude knowledge is required to recover. Due to the omnidirectional antenna design, communications are robust in “Safehold” mode, including the transmission of basic housekeeping data at a duty cycle that is adjusted based on available solar power. This design enables the entire mission to be spent in "Observation Mode" with timed pointing files mapping the sky as desired unless an anomalous event upsets the health of the bus such that the spacecraft system toggles back to "Safehold". In all conditions, spacecraft operations do not require any time-critical operator involvement. This paper will examine the results of the first six months of CHIPSat on-orbit operations and measure them against the expectations of the aforementioned design architecture. The end result will be a "lessons learned" account of a 3-axis sun-pointing small spacecraft design architecture that will be useful for future science missions.
We present a status report on CHIPS, the Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer. CHIPS is the first NASA University-Class Explorer (UNEX) project. CHIPS was selected in 1998 and is now scheduled for launch in December of 2002. The grazing incidence CHIPS spectrograph will survey the sky and record spectra of diffuse emission in the comparatively unexplored wavelength band between 90 and 260 Å. These data will provide important new constraints on the temperature, ionization state, and emission measure of hot plasma in the "local bubble" of the interstellar medium.