March 17th, 2011

Since its arrival at KSC at the end of August 2010, AMS-02 operations were devoted to last mechanical integration and mostly to tests and simulations. Software is continuously implemented to enhance interface communication, remote control and data storage process.

To test AMS-02 procedures, from the switching on right after the launch till the long term data collection, we worked at POCC with flight spare hardware alternately turned on, in order to simulate the configuration with different elements of AMS-02 operating: the goal was to check onboard software and control interfaces.

Given that lots of signals will be exchanged between AMS-02 and NASA’s server, a very important issue is the testing of  the entire interface with NASA data communication and acquisition systems.

Alessandro Basili on Endeavour's wing tests for shuttle-AMS-02 interface: NASA data stream through the blue cables.

During one-week shuttle interface test (SIT) hold at OPF from August 29th to September 3rd 2010, we linked shuttle’s cables with AMS-02 laptop to verify Endeavour’s connections and find the correct configuration. We were  really working close to the shuttle as seen  in the picture above. Our test team was composed by Tim Urban (test conductor), Alexei Lebedev (system expert), Peter Dennet (communication systems), Vladimir Koutzenko (communication systems), Mike Capell (Crew Specialist) and Alessandro Basili (Commander); the NASA team was connected at the other end of the data stream. Tests are usually conducted by dozens of people operating from different places and talking using ‘voice loops’, that is using  earphones and microphones and a specific language full of acronyms and coded words.

A break from testing in the commander cabin.

Another test called “POPIT” was performed at VAB where we checked the launch platform interface of AMS-02 communications till the payload bay closing doors.

Alessandro Basili into the VAB in front of Endeavour's booster ready for the launch platform interface test.

At the end of October 2010, while at SSPF, we verified ISS interface with ISS simulator and finally we tried Houston – Marshall – AMS-02 communications. The 4-computer system that will completely manage the experiment collecting data from the subdetectors, will indeed receive information from the control center: when the slow control electronics will be switched on, a few hours after the launch, it will be of essence to check the heaters performances and monitor the operation of the thermal control system.

What we usually simulate is “a day in the life of AMS-02″, trying to imagine what could happen with the experiment flying to or standing on the ISS and let the onboard pc also manage the anomalous situations. In case of a temporary communication loss the POCC operator must indeed be prepared and choose the right procedure to be followed; a three fold data back-up will be operating at all times.