This year, team Geared Up! Has added Orbital ATK as a new sponsor. Along with our wonderful mentor and considerable grant, we were also invited to a tour of Orbital ATK’s Satellite Manufacturing Facility. In mid-November, Team Geared UP!, along with a few other local teams, visited the facility. There, we were split into two groups. One would see the control rooms first, and the other would see the manufacturing building.
Before we entered the manufacturing building, however, we had to put on lab coats, hairnets, and shoe covers, in order to make sure that we didn’t affect the materials in the manufacturing area. One of the reasons why we had to cover our body, hair, and feet, is because the manufacturing area is a very sterile and clean environment, with only 15,000 particles per square feet. Right as we were about to enter the manufacturing facility, we went in front of a wall that displayed some of Orbital’s major projects from the past and present. Among those satellites were payload carriers, mapping satellites, and so on.
While in there, we got to see some satellites that were being put together, and learned a few things about how they are made. There were satellites at various stages in the assembly process, with some being wired up, and others during the testing stage. These satellites are put in extreme testing environments in order to replicate the extremes of space. The satellites are shaken vertically and horizontally, each in their own respective shaker tables. They also have systems that are able to test the freezing temperatures of space, along with an enormous vacuum chamber for vacuum testing.
We saw the control building, where they showed us their mission control center for satellites. We were lucky enough to visit this part of the facility while it was live, as one of their satellites was docked at a space station and they were monitoring it from there. On one of the walls of the control room were live video feeds of the satellite docked in space. Afterward, the groups met in a vacant control room where we asked questions and talked for a little while. Overall, this was a great learning experience and allowed us to strengthen our relations with the engineering community.