Feature: February 25, 2015

SAGE III on ISS: European Space Agency Delivers

Earth-observing Component to NASA




A key component of an Earth-observing instrument that will be attached to the International Space Station has been delivered to NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.


The Hexapod Pointing System, or HPS, "will automatically adjust the instrument to compensate for variations in the orientation between the space station and Earth during its orbit, maintaining the instrument perpendicular to the Earth’s surface,” said Andrew Panetta, the hexapod manager for the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III/ISS.


Six linear actuators will extend or retract to manipulate the orientation of SAGE III/ISS, which will measure ozone, water vapor and aerosols in the planet’s stratosphere.

Shown with the Hexapod Pointing System in a clean room at NASA Langley are, from left: Piero Pochettino and Piercarlo Galeazzo of Thales Alenia Space-Italy, Ryan Stanley of NASA Langley, and Francesco Caruso and Nicola Re of Thales Alenia Space-Italy. Image Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman

The European Space Agency (ESA), Thales Alenia Space-Italy (TAS-I), and Compagnia Generale per lo Spazio provided the hexapod.


“TAS-I was responsible for the development, design, integration, and test of the Hexapod Pointing System," said Piercarlo Galeazzo, the TAS-I system engineering manager. "This is a very important opportunity for the utilization of the Hexapod Pointing System on the ISS and in conjunction with the SAGE III payload.”


International Cooperation


“ESA, which builds its heritage on international cooperation between its many member states, sees the cooperation with other partners as a way to strengthen our relationships and accomplish missions which we could not do on our own,” said Scott Hovland, head of the ISS Facility and Technology Unit Development and Future Projects Division at ESA.


“The SAGE III-hexapod cooperation is another example of how different countries can provide expertise and hardware to create a system benefitting both parties at a cost to each, much less that what could have been done alone. ESA and European industry are for sure looking forward to a successful mission for SAGE III and the hexapod.”


SAGE III/ISS is scheduled to launch in February 2016 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a SpaceX rocket.


SAGE III/ISS will be the first instrument to measure the composition of the middle and lower atmosphere from the space station, and is the latest instrument in one of NASA's longest running Earth-observing programs.


Previous SAGE instruments include SAGE, launched in 1979, followed by SAGE II in 1984. SAGE II gathered data for more than 20 years, and the information it collected was part of the effort that led to a global ban on chlorofluorocarbons in 1987.


Chlorofluorocarbons were used in air-conditioning units and aerosol spray propellants that contributed to the Earth's shrinking layer of protective ozone, which has begun to recover after the chlorofluorocarbon ban.


Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. built the SAGE III/ISS instrument in Boulder, Colorado.


Michael Finneran

NASA Langley Research Center


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