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Skipper [USU/SDL]

Skipper was an international project initiated by BMDO to measure the bow-shock UV emissions from reentering bodies at different speeds and heights.

Skipper was the third mission in BMDO's Bowshock program. The first two Bowshock missions were suborbital flights on sounding rockets.

The instruments and the bus were built in the USA by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, while the propulsion module, solar power systems were built in Russia by Moscow Aviation Institute (RIAME/MAI). Russia also provided the piggy-back launch on a Molniya-M (Blok-2BL) rocket.

SDL designed, built, and integrated the UV and vacuum-UV (VUV) spectrometers and photometers, wrote all flight software, and developed flight electronics and all ground-based data handling and display hardware. SDL also integrated and tested the Russian power and propulsion subsystems developed by the Research Institute of Applied Mechanics and Electrodynamics of the Moscow Aviation Institute (RIAME/MAI). In addition, SDL integrated the spacecraft to the launch vehicle, established and operated the mission control center at SDL, performed mission operations through AFSCN, and defined link and operations protocols, mission planning, and orbit design.

Mission Objectives were:

  • To measure ultraviolet and visible electromagnetic emissions from an orbiting satellite;
  • to quantify results from the Bowshock 1 and 2 rocket-borne UV experiments, to validate models of chemical processes resulting from the passage of the satellite through the earth's upper atmosphere, and to extend the understanding to a regime of higher velocity and altitude.

Additional objectives were:

  • To develop a close scientific exchange and collaboration between SDL/USU and the Moscow Aviation Institute, who would produce the scientific instrumentation module, develop the spacecraft bus, and coordinate the launch; and
  • to gain new insights into Russian satellite design processes and paradigms.

The instrumentation consisted of;

  • A scanning UV spectrometer, 200 to 400 nm;
  • a scanning VUV spectrometer, 110 to 200 nm;
  • twenty narrow-band photometers, UV and visible; and
  • four gas-filled detectors, 120 and 130 nm (two proportional counters and two ionization cells).

Data was to be collected during atmospheric interfaces near perigee and finally during a planned de-orbit over the Pacific Ocean.

A wiring fault in the power system prevented the charging of the batteries, causing the mission to fail.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Research
Operator: BMDO (ex SDIO)
Contractors: USU/SDL (prime; instrument module), MAI, NPO Lavochkin (bus)
Equipment: 2 scanning spectrometers, 18 UV photometers
Configuration: spin stabilized
Propulsion: hydrazine thrusters
Power: Solar cells, batteries
Mass: 230 kg
Orbit: 813 km × 803 km, 98.6, to be lowered to 130 km × 803 km, 98.6
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
Skipper 1995-072B 28.12.1995 Ba LC-31/6 Molniya-M (Blok-2BL) with IRS 1C


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