Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Deep Space 1 -- Futuristic Space Probe Powered By A Solar-Electric Propulsion System

Date:
October 21, 1998
Source:
University Of Colorado At Boulder
Summary:
A University of Colorado at Boulder professor is part of a science team working with a miniaturized, futuristic space probe capable of navigating its own way through space and powered by a solar-electric propulsion system.

A University of Colorado at Boulder professor is part of a science team working with a miniaturized, futuristic space probe capable of navigating its own way through space and powered by a solar-electric propulsion system.

The spacecraft, Deep Space 1, will attempt close flybys of an asteroid and possibly two comets, said CU-Boulder Associate Professor Fran Bagenal of the astrophysical and planetary sciences department. One of 15 science team members selected for the mission by NASA, Bagenal, with the help of Frank Crary, of CU's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, will analyze data collected on charged particles and magnetic fields surrounding the asteroid and comets.

Deep Space 1 is scheduled for launch Oct. 25 aboard a three-stage Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Weighing only 1,000 pounds, the craft is packed with miniature instruments and devices designed to test 12 innovative technologies.

"The most exciting part of this mission to me is the ion-drive propulsion system," Bagenal said. "This is the first time it will be used for deep-space travel to propel a spacecraft out of the sun's gravity."

The propulsion system relies on the generation and bombardment of a chamber of xenon gas with hot, negatively charged electrons. The chamber is heated by solar energy that has been converted to electricity. As the electrons strike the xenon atoms, they knock off atom electrons, resulting in positively charged atoms, or ions.

The ions then are accelerated by an electric field to high speeds and expelled out the rear of the engine at about five miles per second, creating 3,000 tiny beams of thrust. Although the thrust is small -- increasing the speed of the craft by about 30 feet per second each day -- it eventually will propel the spacecraft to a speed of 8,000 miles per hour. The spacecraft will turn itself off periodically, allowing it to coast through space for weeks at a time.

"The ion-drive system would make being on Deep Space 1 like being in a car, rather than on the top of a rocket," she said. "It can drive around the solar system, changing its trajectory as it navigates using its computers and images of the stars taken by the on-board camera."

Because of the weight problem in lofting missions to the outer solar system, "we squeezed all the instrumentation way down," she said. "But if it works, we will move into a new era of space flight, going to a lot of new places more swiftly and easily."

Two primary instruments on board the craft are a camera and a particle detector, said Bagenal. The camera, which can take images in the visible, ultraviolet and infrared spectrums, weighs about 28 pounds -- or about six times less than the camera currently on the way to Saturn aboard NASA's Cassini mission. Deep Space 1 is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The particle detector, weighing less than seven pounds, is about four times lighter than the particle detector aboard Cassini, she said. "Both of these instruments are small, light and have high performance capabilities."

Bagenal, who also has worked as a mission scientist on NASA's Voyager and Galileo missions with charged particles and magnetic fields, is particularly interested in the effect of the solar wind. The solar wind is believed to knock atoms off asteroids and comets in a process known as "sputtering," possibly ionizing them in the process.

The Deep Space 1 encounter with Asteroid 1992KD is expected to occur in July 1999, perhaps passing as close as three miles, she said. If all goes well, the craft is then expected to fly close by a burned out comet and an active comet. With the orbits of 250 asteroids and 250,000 stars stored in its computer memory, the craft can execute trajectory changes without the need for commands from Earth.

"This is a check-out mission to test new technology," said Bagenal. "There is no point in sending such radical technology into the outer solar system until we try it out and see if it succeeds in the inner solar system."

Bagenal said she is fairly optimistic the spacecraft will work. "We need to learn from these cheaper, faster test missions so we can move on to doing important science in other areas of space."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Colorado At Boulder. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Colorado At Boulder. "Deep Space 1 -- Futuristic Space Probe Powered By A Solar-Electric Propulsion System." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 October 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981021080439.htm>.
University Of Colorado At Boulder. (1998, October 21). Deep Space 1 -- Futuristic Space Probe Powered By A Solar-Electric Propulsion System. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981021080439.htm
University Of Colorado At Boulder. "Deep Space 1 -- Futuristic Space Probe Powered By A Solar-Electric Propulsion System." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981021080439.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Hello Georges

Space to Ground: Hello Georges

NASA (Aug. 18, 2014) Europe's ATV-5 delivers new science and the crew tests smart SPHERES. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) The Chasqui I, hand-delivered into orbit by a Russian cosmonaut, is one of hundreds of small satellites set to go up in the next few years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, August 15, 2014

This Week @ NASA, August 15, 2014

NASA (Aug. 15, 2014) Carbon Observatory’s First Data, ATV-5 Delivers Cargo, Cygnus Departs Station and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins