Feature: May 19, 2015

SAGE III/ISS Surges Past Integration and Pre-environmental Reviews

In this April 13 photo, technicians and engineers work to install, or integrate, SAGE III/ISS flight components. Image credit: NASA/Kristyn Damadeo

A space instrument designed to expand mankind’s knowledge of the Earth’s atmosphere and protective ozone layer has cleared two important hurdles in its journey toward a February 2016 launch date.


Right now, NASA’s Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III on the International Space Station, or SAGE III/ISS, rests in a clean room in Building 1250 at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Ultimately, though, it will be installed on the International Space Station after blasting into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.


Before that happens, SAGE III/ISS must undergo an exhaustive battery of tests and reviews. That process is moving ahead steadily, project leaders say. Earlier this month, SAGE III/ISS passed two major milestones.

First, the instrument got a green light after a May 7 System Integration Review.


Two key parts of the SAGE III/ISS were delivered for integration earlier this year: a European-Space-Agency-developed Hexapod pointing platform and a NASA-Langley-developed Interface Adapter Module. The Hexapod keeps the instrument pointing in the right direction as the ISS maneuvers in space. The Interface Adapter Module serves as the system’s brain.


Since February, a team of approximately 50 engineers and technicians worked in shifts and through weekends to install — or integrate, in engineer language — the SAGE III/ISS flight components. Those parts included an instrument assembly, disturbance and contamination monitoring packages and instrument control electronics, along with the Hexapod and Interface Adapter Module.


The team finished connecting these parts to the flight ExPRESS Pallet Adapter provided by the International Space Station Program on May 5. The team also tested all the flight elements.

SAGE III/ISS, pictured here, is now being put through a series of rigorous environmental tests meant to prove the instrument can endure the extreme conditions of launch and space. Image credit: NASA/Todd Ferrante

Project Engineer Joseph F. Gasbarre speaks during a May 13 review for SAGE III/ISS. Image credit: NASA/David C. Bowman

After the May 7 integration review, the SAGE III/ISS crew received kudos from Standing Review Board Chairman Michael Blythe. He commended the team on its knowledge, hard work, documentation and ability to meet schedule.


The second big hurdle cleared by SAGE III/ISS was a Pre-Environmental Review, or PER, which was completed May 13. That review paves the way for the team to begin a series of environmental tests proving that the instrument can withstand the harsh conditions it will encounter during launch and in space.


Environmental tests, which are already in progress, will measure how SAGE III/ISS holds up against vibration, thermal vacuum, and electromagnetic interference.


“We shake it, we bake it and we radiate it,” said Project Manager Mike Cisewski.


Testing the entire instrument payload is one of the last steps before SAGE III/ISS is packed up and shipped to NASA Kennedy Space Center this fall to await launch.


Like the System Integration Review, the Pre-environmental Review went off without a hitch.


Gary Fleming, NASA Langley’s senior technologist for measurement systems, led the board that conducted the Pre-environmental Review. He told the project team that its report was impressive; especially considering it only had a few weeks to prepare it.


“The team is ready to proceed to environmental testing,” Fleming said. “Congratulations. Good job.”


Later, Fleming said he was struck by the team’s preparation and dedication. “This is a large and complex project,” Fleming said. “The team has risen to the challenge of developing this instrument.”


Cisewski said he was proud of how the workers overcame obstacles and stuck to aggressive schedule. “None of this is easy,” he said. “But the team we have is superb. If I had to rate the team on a scale of 1 to 10, it would receive an 11. They have put in the extra effort to make the project a success.”


These two recent reviews represent an important step forward, but the hard work is far from over. Upcoming tests will require more effort and ingenuity. “This kind of pace might go all the way to October,” Cisewski said. “We don’t want to miss our ride.”


Sam McDonald

NASA Langley Research Center


More on SAGE III on ISS

Video: SAGE III Time Sequence IP Integration