UCSD's Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences

Support Capabilities

An Example of CASS Work

CASS - A center of excellence in research support at UCSD


I.A. What is CASS?

The Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS) is an interdisciplinary Organized Research Unit (ORU) at the University of California at San Diego. Formed in 1979, CASS handles large technical projects involving hardware construction for NASA's space missions. The specific objectives of CASS are to provide an interdisciplinary center of excellence at UCSD for research in Astrophysics and Space Science and to provide an organization which can support the technical projects and personnel needed to develop forefront instrumentation for space and ground based research.

CASS provides major instruments for both ground-based observatories and for space missions and now has several space experiments under development for launch in the mid and late 1990's. CASS' technical staff consists of about 30 personnel, including engineers, technicians, and computer specialists, and there are another 10 people in the administrative and secretarial support areas. Research personnel number approximately 60.

In order to maintain the professional staff between major projects and also to provide cross-fertilization of ideas and skills, CASS occasionally undertakes subcontracts with outside organizations. We complement other's existing technical personnel and facilities in meeting the challenge of excess work. Examples of past undertakings are provided below. The purpose of this presentation is to set forth the capabilities within CASS to carry out such subcontracting to the benefit of all concerned.

I.B. CASS & Large Technical Contracts

I.C. CASS Research and Development Support

I.D. Special Facilities

I.E. Other Considerations


II.A. Completed CASS Projects

Over the last 25 years, CASS and its predecessor research groups have made a specialty of developing detectors for the rigorous space regime. CASS instruments were flown on three Orbiting Solar Observatories (OSOs), Pioneer 9 and 10, Apollo 16 and 17, Spacecraft Charging (SCATHA), High Energy Astronomy Observatory (HEAO 1) and others. In the case of the Pioneers, these instruments are still working after 15 years; in most other cases our instruments were still functional upon re-entry of the carrier spacecraft.

II.B. On-going CASS Projects

The Digicon detectors used on both FOS and GHRS spectrographs on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) were invented by current CASS personnel. UCSD was the prime contractor of one of the HST instruments, the Faint Object Spectrograph (FOS), a highly reliable science instrument on HST. Other current projects include the High Energy X-Ray Telescope Experiment (HEXTE), a 900-lb. cluster of CASS-built detectors and electronics due for launch in 1995 on the X-Ray Timing Explorer (XTE) into low Earth orbit. A particle and fields sensor for Hydra will also be launched at the end of 1995. Current, near- or non-space instruments include future instrument prototypes being readied for balloon flights to 130,000 ft, which has been an on-going activity for the past 25 years. In addition, the Long-Wave Spectrometer (LWS) has been delivered for the recently-completed and world's-largest telescope at the Keck Observatory on Mona Kea, Hawaii. This is a 96x96 array imaging spectrometer operating in the mid-infrared. Another IR detector, the "Golden Gopher", is now operational at Mt. Lemmon. It is an 80x64 element camera operating at 10-20 microns.

II.C. Past CASS Subcontracts

In 1982 CASS put its expertise in designing and fabricating detectors at the service of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The detectors used to detect celestial x-rays by the faint flash generated in crystalline detectors were found equally proficient at detecting faint bioluminescence in the oceanic depths. An array of detectors was submerged deep in the Pacific for Project Bioluminescence. CASS personnel also designed Space Lab support systems for the UCSD School of Medicine's Astronaut Lung Function Experiment (ALFE), helping with experiment equipment layout, ground support equipment and associated software. More recently, CASS built all eight modules for the cosmic gamma ray Burst and Transient Survey Experiment (BATSE) aboard the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO). Ground-based and airborne near-IR to mid-IR cameras were also built for NASA.

II.D. Current CASS Subcontracts

We are building the mechanical portions of the Electron Drift Experiment (EDI) for the multi-satellite Cluster mission to study interplanetary particles and fields. This is the first electron detector able to view an entire hemisphere. In support, we have developed a PC-controlled automated test facility that runs autonomously for up to 10 hours in determining the optimum HV settings for various detector regimes.



IV.A. Test Facilities

Large (1m dia. x 3 m long) fully instrumented thermal-vacuum chamber, smaller hyper-clean UV-test chamber (0.7 m3), other small chambers; on-campus vibration and shake tables; electromagnetic field measurements; radiation shielding and susceptibility testing; computerized test beds allowing optimization of detector operating parameters and modes in a nearly unattended (setup every 10 hours in current use) manner, reducing test personnel and costs.

IV.B. Computers

Network of UNIX and VMS workstations and PCs with direct connection to the on-campus SD Supercomputer Center, campus LAN, and the InterNet. The central CASS microVAX III system has a large number of peripherals and operates on a recharge basis. Considerable support for VMS and UNIX systems is available. Outside subcontracts may either use their own dedicated computers, with whatever degree of interconnection to other CASS systems is desirable, or they may use the central recharged system.

IV.C. Shops

CASS uses several of the eleven excellent machine shop facilities available on campus on a recharge basis. CASS maintains its own electronic capabilities, due to the specialized nature of electronics required for ground-based telescopes and space flight hardware. There are within CASS extensive capabilities for the design, construction and test of space instruments.

IV.D. High-Bay Facility

Access to the Physics High-Bay Facility. This 9500 square foot facility has a 20 ton traveling crane, with 40 foot clearance, and an 80 foot bay with a 5 ton hoist to hang and test complex payloads. The High Bay area also has a liquid H e facility, a 3 MeV Van de Graf accelerator for producing energetic particle beams and a 7x7x12 foot hot/cold altitude chamber for testing instrumentation.
Interested? Contact: R. B. Smith, CASS Executive Officer,
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0424
(619) 534-3933, rb@ucsd.edu

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