The mission of the United States Air Force Research Laboratory to study Earth’s Van Allen radiation belt and its impact on the spacecraft ended after its original planned life of one year in orbit. The
Demonstration and Science Experiment (DSX) spacecraft was built and managed by the laboratory (also known as AFRL) and was launched on June 25, 2019 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. DSX is called “the largest unmanned structure in space” by the Air Force. It was launched as part of the Department of Defense space test program and is designed to operate in medium-Earth orbit for at least one year. However, according to an AFRL statement, the mission’s execution time was almost a year longer than expected until May 31.
“We have performed more than 1,300 experiments with DSX, much more than we thought,” said Michael Starks, who led the restoration of the AFRL radiation belt, in a statement. “This has made a huge contribution to understanding how the space environment affects our spacecraft and how we protect ourselves from it-this is a mission that only AFRL can complete.
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DSX spacecraft is almost the length of a football field, making it the largest and most autonomous spacecraft in history placed in space Unmanned satellite. The mission was originally conceived by AFRL researchers in 2003 to explore the dynamics of the Earth’s radiation belt, which in turn helps to develop more resilient spacecraft. The
DSX is equipped with a variety of scientific instruments for space weather experiments to measure the relationship between extremely low frequency radio waves and high-energy radiation belt particles in the medium-Earth orbit environment. According to the statement, the satellite has two huge deployable antenna arms-one 262 feet (80 meters) long and the other 52 feet (16 meters) long, making it one of the largest deployable structures in orbit. The 4,444 members of the DSX team, including scientists, engineers, operations and support personnel involved in the project, gathered at Cortland Air Force Base on June 7 to celebrate the satellite’s scientific mission and widespread success.
“When I think of DSX, several things come to mind. First, our country and our allies will evaluate the vast amount of scientific data collected in the next few years. DSX has always been the epitome of scientific mission.”. Eric Felt, director of the AFRL Spacecraft Council, said in a statement. “Secondly, the perseverance of this team is amazing-the laboratory persisted for 18 years and saw the spacecraft encountered many difficulties from birth to death-the promise of the long journey paid off.”
During the celebration. , The team members shared their memories of mission work and reflected on their experiences, including some of the challenges faced by the project.
“We have experienced many challenges, including financial and technical challenges. One of the challenges we face is that we have to launch into medium-Earth orbit, which is not often used, but is essential for this task,” said Mark Scherbarth, chief engineer of the AFRL Comprehensive Experiment and Evaluation Department. Said in the press release. From the cradle to the grave of DSX, we have persisted in many difficulties and changes in the direction and division of leadership; every leader stands behind him.” The
DSX mission returned 706 days of data for scientists Evaluation. The mission exceeded the expected time in orbit and collected key data to better understand the space environment in which the satellite operates. In turn, this information can be used to build better spacecraft in the future.

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