SNC's Space Systems builds platforms ideally suited for science missions, able to host a variety of space science instruments and payloads. As an example, our Demonstration and Science Experiment (DSX) spacecraft, based on our SN-200 bus platform, carries a variety of instruments to characterize space environments in the medium-Earth orbit (MEO) flight regime. SNC has performed extensive design development for bus platforms to host solar-observing instruments such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Total Solar Irradiance Sensor, (TSIS) as well as terrestrial observation science instruments such as NOAA's Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy Systems (CERES). Further, we have developed bus designs and performed instrument accommodation studies for NASA Venture, Small Explorer (SMEX) and Explorer class missions, encompassing a number of deep space observation astrophysics missions.


DSX Program: SNC provided the bus and payload modules for AFRL’s DSX mission, which characterizes the medium-Earth orbit environment using unique science instrumentation and large deployables from an ESPA primary structure.

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Demonstration and Science Experiment (DSX) spacecraft will research technologies needed to significantly advance knowledge of operating spacecraft in the harsh MEO radiation environment. The innovative, highly modular DSX spacecraft employs an Evolved Extended Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring as its primary structure, supporting separate bus and payload modules mounted to the ring ports. SNC is the prime contractor for the design, fabrication, testing and delivery of the DSX spacecraft bus, solar array, and power system as well as assisting with payload integration. The two major space vehicle elements of DSX are the Avionics Module, which provides spacecraft bus functionality including command and data handling, power collection and distribution, communications, attitude control and thermal control, and the Payload Module, which hosts the DSX mission payloads. The Bus Module is a DSX-specific variant of our SN-200 bus platform, which was flight-proven on the TacSat-2 Program.

The DSX spacecraft was delivered to AFRL in May, 2009, and SNC has provided engineering support to AFRL’s AI&T activities since that time. DSX is presently awaiting launch, expected in 2015.


CHIPSat Program: SNC's CHIPSat spacecraft was the first in-orbit demonstration using TCP/IP for satellite command and control.

The Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer satellite (CHIPSat) was NASA’s first University Explorer (UNEX) mission and was built by SNC for the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. CHIPSat’s primary mission objective was to study of the hot interstellar gas environment. It was also the first U.S. space mission to demonstrate transmission control protocol and internet protocols for spacecraft command and control.

SNC was responsible for the overall design of all aspects of the CHIPSat satellite, including mechanical structure, thermal control, electrical power and distribution, attitude determination and control, command and data handling, and radio frequency communications. We built several items in-house, including the primary structure, payload adaptor, transition adaptor and power control avionics. Bus integration included fabrication of the mechanical structure, installation of all bus components, development of all required mechanical and electrical ground support equipment and development and verification of a FlatSat test article. We also performed box-level testing of avionics developed in-house, as well as bus functional testing. CHIPSat was delivered by SNC with a one year design life, and operated successfully on-orbit for more than five years. SNC received the CHIPSat payload from UC Berkeley, integrated the instrument to the spacecraft bus, and performed all spacecraft system level performance and environmental testing. Additionally, we developed all mission planning software and flight/mission operations procedures.