Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Space Industry and Business News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

An Interview With Michael Fehringer GOCE System Manager

Michael Fehringer, GOCE System Manager
by Staff Writers
Paris, France (ESA) Sep 04, 2008
Michael Fehringer is responsible for overseeing the system design of the GOCE mission, which means ensuring that the satellite and related data-processing facilities all meet the scientific and technical requirements that were originally laid down when the mission was selected.

Michael Fehringer, an Austrian national, has been working for the GOCE Project at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands since 2004.

Fehringer gained his Masters and PhD in Physics from the Technical University of Vienna, Austria. Prior to his role as System Manager, which he took up in October 2007, he worked as a System Engineer for the GOCE Project where he was responsible for the electric propulsion system and mission analysis.

ESA: Would you explain the role of a System Manager?

Michael Fehringer: The System Manager has to make sure that the satellite and related data-processing facilities meet the scientific and technical requirements that were set out at the beginning of the project and form that basis on which the mission was originally selected for implementation.

The term 'system' indicates that the emphasis is on making everything work together, from the individual spacecraft subsystems, payloads, ground processing and - not to forget - making sure the satellite flies in the correct orbit. The System Manager is supported by a team of engineers who each take responsibility for the procurement of individual subsystems.

ESA: GOCE is an unusual satellite in a number of ways, one being that it orbits the Earth in a very low orbit, why is this necessary?

Michael Fehringer: GOCE orbits the Earth at a low altitude to achieve the best possible data. The gravitational force between two bodies decays with the square of their distance. So, for example, doubling the distance between two bodies reduces the attraction by a factor of four. The main GOCE instrument, the gradiometer, determines the second derivative of the gravitational potential, and the mathematical method to get to the final gravity map is further benefited from a low orbit.

ESA: What are the technical challenges to overcome designing a satellite for this low orbit?

Michael Fehringer: Form follows function not only in the world of fashion! To fly low and avoid air drag the best shape for the satellite to be is long, slender and absolutely symmetrical along the direction of flight. However, the challenge was not so much the design itself, but rather how to ensure that GOCE would not 'sink' from this low orbit, which would result in permanently having to counteract air drag and this would interfere with the science measurements.

The trick is to use the main instrument, the gradiometer, to also measure drag and feed the result into an electric propulsion system that, in turn, counteracts the drag exactly. The air drag that GOCE experiences is roughly equivalent to what one would feel holding a mass of a bit less than 1g in your hand.

ESA: The term 'Sun-synchronous orbit' is often mentioned but what does this mean?

Michael Fehringer: In our case Sun synchronous means the satellite is 'always' in sunlight. As the Earth moves around the Sun throughout the year, GOCE's orbital plane turns with it such that it always faces the Sun. We exploit this to permanently have solar power and a stable thermal environment.

However, 'always' is not exactly true. GOCE will fly at altitudes just above 260 km and the proper inclination of the orbit for Sun synchronicity for the mission is 96.7 degrees. This means the plane is inclined by 6.7 degrees in respect to a true polar orbit. The drawback is that, every spring we will experience an eclipse period of 135 days where we will be in the Earth's shadow for up to 28 minutes per orbit.

ESA: What has been the most rewarding aspect of being involved with the GOCE mission?

Michael Fehringer: Given what the workload has been for quite some time and a summer passed without much holiday - indeed there has to be something special about the mission. Being part of the Project seeing an incredibly demanding satellite being built in all its glory has to be a boy's dream come true. Still, the personal experiences are the most rewarding ones and I've had the privilege to work with some great people throughout the project.

ESA: Where will you be at launch?

Michael Fehringer: I will be at ESA's Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. The Launch and Early Operations Phase, the LEOP, is considered the most critical of a mission and I will be there to support the team. The operations are run by the ESOC Flight Operations Team conducted by the Spacecraft Operations Manager headed by the Operations Director. I will be with the ESOC team in the main control room and my role is to liaise with and coordinate support from industry and ESA colleagues.

Related Links
GOCE mission
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Film created to protect small spacecraft
Lakewood, N.J. (UPI) Sep 3, 2008
U.S. researchers say they have developed a thin film designed to protect small spacecraft from temperature extremes, corrosion and micrometeor impacts.

  • Hypertext Hits Print: The Future Of Books
  • Carnegie Mellon System Thwarts Internet Eavesdropping
  • Tiny nation of Niue gets laptop for every child
  • 'Phoney' queues used to spur Polish iPhone launch

  • GeoEye-1 Satellite Launch Delayed Due To Hurricane Hanna
  • Arianespace To Launch Koreasat 6
  • Inmarsat Selects ILS Proton To Launch S-Band Satellite For Europe
  • Forecast International Projects 50 Billion Dollar ELV Market

  • Chinese airlines fly into headwinds in Olympic year
  • The M2-F1 - An Aircraft Without Wings
  • China's Tianjin building runway for Airbus test flights: report
  • NASA evaluates new wing sensor

  • DataPath Wins Suppport Contract For US CENTCOM SatComm Hubs
  • Satellite's Data Collection Will Support Warfighter
  • Boeing Awarded E-6B Upgrade Contract
  • Defense Support Program Satellite Decommissioned

  • An Interview With Michael Fehringer GOCE System Manager
  • Film created to protect small spacecraft
  • North Korea marks long-range missile test
  • Eyes turn to dawn of 'visual computing'

  • Orbital Appoints Frank Culbertson And Mark Pieczynski To Management
  • Chris Smith Named Director Of Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory
  • AsiaSat Appoints New General Manager China
  • NASA names aeronautics administrator

  • Ball Aerospace Begins Integration Of WorldView-2 Imaging Instrument
  • Hanna Not Moving Much Near North Of The Caicos Islands
  • Arctic Ice On The Verge Of Another All-Time Low
  • Changing The World, One Student At A Time

  • The Cleanest, Greenest Courier in London is E-lectric
  • OnStar Opens Crisis Assist Emergency Services For Gustav Victims
  • Rockford Map Publishers Selects TerraGo To Enhance Plat Books
  • u-blox GPS Technology To Power Microsoft MapPoint 2009 USB Stick

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright Space.TV Corporation. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space.TV Corp on any Web page published or hosted by Space.TV Corp. Privacy Statement