Mission Operations Center

The Mission Operations Center (MOC) at UCB’s Space Sciences Laboratory is charged with operating the ICON mission. The MOC is currently operating THEMIS, ARTEMIS, FAST and NuSTAR, all NASA Explorer missions.

UCB MOC with engineers remotely monitoring the pre-launch spacecraft

For ICON, operations began early with the integration of the spacecraft at Orbital, where Berkeley operations engineers worked with the spacecraft engineers in all the initial tests and checkout of the bus. This continued with the arrival of the scientific payload, through integration of the full ICON observatory with the launch vehicle.

ICON launched at 9:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday, October 10, 2019 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. On the opposite coast, the spacecraft launch  was being controlled by the Mission Operations Center in Berkeley, CA. An unexpected challenge and 11th-hour scramble arose when the local utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric, in anticipation of hot weather and dry winds —fire weather—ordered an electrical shutdown in the Berkeley Hills, where SSL is located. After several urgent meetings of launch-related and UCB personnel, SSL and the MOC were able to arrange for back-up power from the campus co-generation plant.

Space Sciences Lab director Steve Beckwith observed, “It was like watching a choreographed performance turn into a jazz improvisation, as problems came up and the individual team members solved them in real time, feeding off one another’s talent and energy,”

ICON was placed into a  27 degree inclination orbit and communications was immediately established between ICON and the UCB MOC using TDRSS, the orbiting NASA communications network. Ground contacts were used from then on to command and operate ICON. Ground contacts with ICON are performed mainly from the Berkeley Ground Station, with backup contacts out of Wallops and Santiago.

The first month after or so after launch the MOC worked on In-Orbit checkout. The onboard orbit and attitude determination systems were calibrated to full accuracy.All four instruments (UC Berkeley's EUV and FUV, UT Dallas's IVM, and NRL's MIGHTI) were turned on and began taking science data.

ICON skin is based on Greytness by Adammer
Background image, courtesy of NASA, is a derivitave of photograph taken by D. Pettit from the ISS, used under Creative Commons license