Payload Integration and Processing

COURSE NO.: 2050


Payload Integration and Processing is a practical course on understanding the mission integration and launch vehicle/spacecraft systems integration process from mission concept through launch.  The course examines all mission integration functions, structure of the integration team and roles and responsibilities of team members.  All aspects of the ground processing, testing and checkout of the spacecraft/space vehicle payloads leading up to and throughout the launch campaign are covered including ground systems, communications, launch countdown, integrated testing and consolidated operations. The course also closely examines the mechanical and electrical interfaces, processes, contamination control, contract and non-contract deliverables, analysis data products and other relevant subjects that can impact spacecraft/space vehicle design and project schedules if not understood, properly managed and properly planned. An overview is also provided that covers upper stages, functional aspects of launch vehicle systems and mission design. System integration challenges and various technical aspects of secondary and multiple payload accommodations, including a brief exploration into cubesats, are also explored. The course provides a wealth of lessons learned from the integration of payloads onto multiple launch vehicles.


Each attendee receives extensive notes and reference materials.


Spacecraft and launch vehicle integration engineers and managers, contract managers, acquisition and legal staff as well as other professionals requiring a working knowledge of the spacecraft/space vehicle system integration processes associated with expendable launch vehicles.


This course will provide you with tools necessary to cost effectively and efficiently develop a space mission that is compatible with the appropriate launch vehicle system. Learn how to perform the trades necessary to select a launch vehicle or set of vehicles, compatible with your project. You will be provided with the tools and knowledge necessary to develop a realistic set of project level expectations. Learn how to proceed and develop plans, budgets and schedules for deliverables, meetings, interfaces, hardware and associated testing. Learn how to identify and manage risks resulting from incompatibilities in project development schedules and launch vehicle contract schedules. Learn how to estimate launch vehicle performance capability, identify launch vehicle hardware and configurations that will impact performance. You will develop an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of key individuals, US Government agencies and key Mission Integration managers. Become familiar with documentation and requirements needed for launch site and launch campaign planning, and payload processing facility requirements and acquisition.  Become much more familiar with the technical workings of launch vehicles, vehicle contractors, ground processing, powered flight and how interactions with the spacecraft project can be optimized.


  1. Introduction to Payload Integration and Processing

Terminology, definitions, Overview of the Spacecraft and Launch Systems integration process, Roles and Responsibilities, Key Individuals and skill sets, Project Organizational structures, Requirements flow and development

  1. Launch Vehicle Compatibility

Mission design and development, trajectory and performance, mass to orbit performance curves and caveats, vehicle selection, an overview on vehicle certification, methods of contracting the vehicle and related services, key negotiating points, the payload processing facility, overview of current operational and emerging launch systems.

  1. Launch Vehicle Structure and Interfaces.

General performance capability overview. Launch vehicle selection criteria. Design constraints. Functional and physical interfaces, payload planners guides, separation systems and adaptors, fairings, mission unique hardware, first flight items, electrical interfaces.

  1. Documentation, Meetings, Schedules

Interface Control Document (ICD) development, meetings and reviews, mission integration schedules, deliverables, data products and analysis products, requirements and verifications, launch site services, procedures and plans.

  1. Payload Processing and the Launch Campaign

Fit checks, pathfinders, ground systems, communications, special tests, verification of launch vehicle provided harness and communications, consolidated operations, transport and launch vehicle mate, launch countdown rehearsals, launch decision flow, poling.

  1. Special Integration Challenges

Dual and Secondary payloads, ridesharing, cubesats, accommodating multiple payloads and special accommodation hardware, magnetic and contamination sensitive missions, upper stages and kick motors, and overview of nuclear payloads.

  1. Lessons Learned

Payload Integration lessons learned from previous missions

  1. Review and Wrap-up


Steven R. Vernon has accumulated over 25 years of Spacecraft Design and Launch Vehicle payload integration and management experience. He has led launch campaigns for multiple successful space missions, launched from Eastern and Western ranges. His broad experience includes single and multiple payload missions launched on several United Launch Alliance vehicles including Atlas V, Delta II and Delta IV, and the Orbital Sciences Minotaur expendable vehicles.  He has lead the spacecraft design, assembly, test and launch operation campaigns for both nuclear and conventional powered space missions.  In addition, Mr. Vernon has led system integration and design tasks for several new and modified upper stage systems. He also sits on review boards and is supporting funded studies for sponsors in the civilian and military space communities including studies focused on emerging launch vehicles and systems. He has participated in many first flight articles and mission unique launch vehicle hardware development projects that have successfully flown. Mr. Vernon has authored or co-authored over 25 formal publications.


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