NASA flight projects are broken up into 5 phases, A-E. Phase A is Concept Development, Phase B is Preliminary Design, Phase C is Detailed Design, Phase D is Fabrication, Assembly, Test & Launch Operations, and Phase E is Operations & Sustainment.
My Cassini work that I mentioned in my previous entry falls under Phase E. I have recently been assigned to do some work on Juno which is in Phase D. The telecom panel is set for testing in early 2010, but before that can happen, a lot of preparation needs to take place. The test that I am going to design is a combination thermal balance/qualification test. In short, a thermal balance test simulates expected flight conditions and tests whether the system functions properly and that thermal control performs adequately to keep components within allowable flight temperatures. A qualification test generally drives temperatures to qualification limits and its purpose is to test hardware for defects and robustness.
In order to complete this test, a number of pre-test tasks need to take place. A model of the subsystem needs to be developed to get an idea of what to expect during testing, ground support equipment needs to be designed and fabricated and/or procured, instrumentation for the test should be in place, checks to ensure smooth chamber integration, test plans need to be written, and staffing needs to be filled for the actual test. Currently, the first step for me is to familiarize myself with the telecom panel and come up to speed. As I am doing this, I am also beginning to gather the necessary CAD drawings and information so that I can begin to make a detailed thermal math model for future simulation purposes.