In January 2005, IBEX was selected by NASA as a small explorer mission. It had competed with around 40 other missions to receive funding for a concept study report. Five missions were selected from that group of 40 to refine their plans, build and test prototype instruments and research any forseable complications. At the end of the concept study period, each of the five missions held a site visit for a committee of NASA reviewers. During that visit, reviewers toured facilities, viewed protoypes and reviewed detailed plans for the upcoming missions. After the site visit, only one mission was chosen for immediate funding (IBEX!)
December 2005 - January 2006
IBEX flight system finite element model
Mission Preliminary Design Review
The IBEX Preliminary Design Review (PDR) was held at SwRI in December 2005 (Payload) and January 2006 (all other Mission aspects). Each of these PDR sessions covered design, planned implementation and requirements (factors that specify how various parts of the mission must perform in order to do the science required by the mission.) The Payload PDR covered the IBEX-Hi and IBEX-Lo sensors and Combined Electronics Unit (CEU). The Mission PDR covered the spacecraft bus mechanics, propulsion system, solid rocket motor, mission design & operations, and integration & testing.
Imaging the edge of our solar system...and beyond
In mid-March the IBEX mission went through our official Confirmation Review at NASA Headquarters. The costs, schedule, and other programmatic issues were reviewed. The review went great and we were unanimously recommended for Confirmation. The IBEX Confirmation Review represents a major step forward and a real acknowledgement of both the hard work that the team has been doing and the great shape that our mission is in!
Complete Engineering Test Unit of TOF Electronics for IBEX-Lo
Mission Critical Design Review
In September we had our Critical Design Review (CDR), the major milestone that marks the end of designing and passage into the full build phase for all parts of our mission. It was a marathon 4-day meeting where the team presented essentially all aspects of our designs and plans to a group of about 20 independent technical experts. This committee identified some small concerns and potential improvements, but all-in-all, we passed our CDR with flying colors!
October - November 2007
Payload delivered to Orbital
In October, the IBEX Payload (the two sensors, IBEX-Lo and IBEX-Hi plus the Combined Electronics Unit) was ready to be integrated and tested with the rest of the spacecraft. These tests included functional, mass measurement, spin balancing, vibration and shock testing as well as Thermal Vacuum Cycling/ Thermal Balance tests. This testing took place at Orbital Sciences in Virginia.
At Orbital, the Payload is integrated into the Spacecraft (right) and ultimately with the Solid Rocket Motor (middle) and adapter cone (left).
L1011 and Pegasus on runway. Image courtesy of Orbital Sciences Corporation.
Spacecraft delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base
At this time the spacecraft is connected to the solid rocket motor and they are integrated onto the Pegasus Launch Vehicle. The whole system is tested and then the Pegasus is mounted under the L-1011 plane that will fly everything to Hawaii and then Kwajalein.
NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer mission, or IBEX, successfully launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean at 1:47 p.m. EDT, Sunday. IBEX will be the first spacecraft to image and map dynamic interactions taking place in the outer solar system.