May 26, 2000

Six ABLE antennas successfully deployed on board NASA's IMAGE Spacecraft

Six deployable antennas built by AEC Able Engineering Company (ABLE) of Goleta, CA for NASA's Imager for Magnetopause-to-Auroral Global Exploration (IMAGE) spacecraft have fully deployed and are ready for the 2 year mission to continually study the Earth's magnetic field.

The octagon shaped IMAGE spacecraft measures 7.4 ft in diameter by 4.9 ft in height with the antennas retracted, and weights 1,089 lbs. On board, and extending from the top and bottom of the spacecraft, are 2 ABLE CoilABLETM Booms, each 33 feet long when fully deployed. Four additional ABLE wire deployers, each deploying 820 ft of antenna wire in the spin plane radially from four sides of the spacecraft, complete the antenna system for the Radio Plasma Imager (RPI) antenna system. The IMAGE spacecraft spins at 0.5 RPM thus creating centrifugal forces to tension the deployed wires. The deployed size of the spacecraft and antenna combination, 66 ft tall by 1647 ft tip-to-tip (182 ft longer than the height of the Empire State Building), make the IMAGE spacecraft among the largest deployed systems ever in space.

The IMAGE spacecraft, carrying several scientific payloads including the RPI, will allow scientists to study the global response of Earth's magnetosphere to changes in the solar wind over a 2 year minimum mission. The RPI instrument is like a radar designed to map the earth's magnetic field. The goal of the mission is to help researchers better understand and predict magnetic storms, which can affect space systems, power grids and communications. The spacecraft mission was selected in 1996 as NASA's first Medium-class Explorer Missions (MIDEX), with Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio, Texas having overall spacecraft and mission responsibility for the Goddard Space Flight Center mission. Able provided the 6 deployable antennas under a contract to the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the lead institute for the RPI. The spacecraft was built and tested by Lockheed Martin, Sunnyvale, CA. IMAGE was launched aboard a Delta II launcher from Vandenberg AFB, CA on March 25th, 2000. The spacecraft was placed in a 1000 km by 46,000 km orbit, with an inclination of 90 deg and a 14.5 hr period.

AEC Able Engineering Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pressure Systems, Inc (PSI). The PSI family of companies consist of 4 dedicated space components and subsystems suppliers, and includes PSI, the leading independent designer and manufacturer of titanium propellant and pressurant tanks for the space industry, PCI, the leading producer of advanced structural composite assemblies for spacecraft, DCI , a top supplier of spacecraft thermal management components and subsystems, and AEC Able, the major supplier of space deployable structures, spacecraft mechanisms, and solar array systems. The principal owner of PSI, Windward Capital Partners, is a privately owned, New York based investment firm.


For further information, contact:
Gary Heinemann , AEC Able Engineering Company
Tel: (805) 685-2262