After launch, a careful process begins to prepare the satellite for operation. Immediately after separating from the launch vehicle, the onboard flight computer will power on and deploy the UHF antennas to establish a communication link with the team on the ground. Once a link has been established, the solar panels will deploy and begin powering the spacecraft. During this time, the onboard Attitude Control System will stabilize the spacecraft to prepare for the final preparation step. Once CatSat is ready, ground control will send the signal for the satellite to take its first on-orbit picture, using an engineering camera onboard. Spacecraft health checkouts will continue until the ground controllers are certain that all systems are working nominally.
After the spacecraft checkouts are completed, the instrument commissioning begins. The first instrument to be tested is HDCam. CatSat will image the Earth using the HDCam, then downlink these images through a 10 GHz patch antenna, to ensure the system is working properly. Once the camera and patch antenna are functional, attention turns to the WSPR antenna. The antenna will deploy from its stowed position and begin gathering data.
For the first few days, the data from the WSPR antenna will be downlinked solely through the 10 GHz patch antenna. Once the ground team determines that the spacecraft is ready and commissioning can continue, the spacecraft will activate IADS. With the inflatable antenna deployed and in place, data and images will no longer be downlinked through the patch antenna. When all components have been deployed and verified as healthy, CatSat operations will continue with HD imaging, WSPR data collection, and spacecraft management.