What will happen if the launch of the IMAGE satellite is delayed?

If the reason for the delay has to do with problems with any aspect of the spacecraft, then the delay will cost the IMAGE mission about $30,000 per day to correct. This is a penalty fee levied on any mission that has a schedule slippage from the agreed launch date which is decided years in advance. IMAGE can 'slip' up to 2 months before its primary science mission has to be revised. This is why the last year before launch is so tense, and why frequent meetings have to be convened to make certain that any problems that creep up in building the instruments are properly managed and eliminated quickly. As of November 1998, all instruments are on track to deliver their flight-ready hardware to Southwest Research bu December, 1998. From then on, there are a number of additional payload tests that have to be passed. Any slippage at this point can easily lead to problems with the launch date, especially if the mission has used up nearly all of its 'buffer' of time which was originally budgeted for problem management. Currently, IMAGE is down to literally no margin at all of schedule slippage margin remaining.

At the August 1997 Mission Critical Design Review, Program Scientist Bill Gibson summarized the current mission timetable..a 170 page document of deliverables and due dates, and noted that there were only about 2 weeks left of leeway in getting to the planned launch date on time. As of June 1997 Bill Gibson stated we no longer have 'positive margins' on all instruments with FUV showing no remaining reserves for a January 1999 delivery to SwRI. HENA also has a very small reserve. Schedule slips are usually associated with cost problems. Any launch delays could be very costly because it costs about $1 million per month to keep the full IMAGE team active.

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