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The mission design process in designing space missions generally begins with a statement of the mission objectives, mission classification and programmatic constraints.

According to NASA, missions are categorized and given a classification from A through D in accordance with NMI 8010.1A, which establishes the level of risk acceptable in executing the mission and the minimum assurance requirements to be implemented.

The mission classification guidelines allow room for interpretation of how the mission is to be implemented. Strict attention must be given to the mission classification when developing cost estimates. Higher classification levels typically require more hardware to provide robustness, redundancy, and operational flexibility to enhance the probability of mission success.

A decisive factor for planning missions in low Earth orbit and for all launches of rockets or other spacecraft is the thorough knowledge and understanding of atmospheric conditions.

For example, atmospheric density especially has a major influence on aerodynamic drag and the corresponding torques; therefore, it has considerable influence on the attitude of rockets and spacecraft.

Temperature and composition are important characteristics of the atmosphere as well, and an understanding of these factors is useful when judging material degradation caused by atomic oxygen.

Many people ask: Why bother with space at all? Designing space missions plays into the bigger picture of how space offers us a global perspective. The higher you are, the more of Earth’s surface you can see.

For thousands of years, kings and rulers took advantage of this fact by putting lookout posts atop the tallest mountains to survey more of their realm and warn of would-be attackers. Throughout history, many battles have been fought to “take the high ground.”

Space takes this quest for greater perspective to its ultimate end. From the vantage point of space, we can view large areas of Earth’s surface. Orbiting spacecraft can thus serve as “eyes and ears in the sky” to provide a variety of useful services.

Want to Learn more? Tonex offers Designing Space Missions and Space Environment Training, a 3-day course that focuses on conceptual understanding of space missions, space environment, mechanics, maneuvers, propulsion and control systems used in all space missions.

For more information, questions, comments, contact us.

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