Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Deep Space 1 Spacecraft Keeps Going . . . And Going . . .

Date:
August 16, 2000
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
It has the little engine that could, and the pint-sized power plant on board NASA's Deep Space 1 probe has been doing it longer and more efficiently than anything ever launched. The spacecraft, designed to test new technologies, has run its unique ion propulsion system for more than 200 days (4,800 hours).

It has the little engine that could, and the pint-sized power plant on board NASA's Deep Space 1 probe has been doing it longer and more efficiently than anything ever launched. The spacecraft, designed to test new technologies, has run its unique propulsion system for more than 200 days (4,800 hours).

"The ion propulsion engine on Deep Space 1 has now accumulated more operating time in space than any other propulsion system in the history of the space program," said John Brophy, manager of the NASA Solar Electric Propulsion Technology Applications Readiness project, at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

Unlike the fireworks of most chemical rockets using solid or liquid fuels, the ion drive emits only an eerie blue glow as ionized (electrically charged) atoms of xenon are pushed out of the engine. Xenon is the same gas found in photo flash tubes and many lighthouse bulbs.

The almost imperceptible thrust from the system is equivalent to the pressure exerted by a sheet of paper held in the palm of your hand. The ion engine is very slow to pick up speed, but over the long haul it can deliver 10 times as much thrust per pound of fuel as more traditional rockets.

Previous ion propulsion systems, like those found on some communications satellites, were not used as the main engines, but only to keep the satellites on track. Deep Space 1 is the first spacecraft to use this important technology as its primary means of propulsion. The NASA Space Electric Rocket Test 2, launched into Earth orbit in 1970, had the previous record for ion propulsion, thrusting for about 161 days.

"The importance of ion propulsion is its great efficiency," says Dr. Marc Rayman, project manager for Deep Space 1. "It uses very little propellant, and that means it weighs less so it can use a less expensive launch vehicle and ultimately go much faster than other spacecraft."

The ion particles travel out at about 109,000 kilometers per hour (68,000 miles per hour). However, Deep Space 1 doesn't move that fast in the other direction, because it's much heavier than the ion particles. By the end of the mission, the ion engine will have changed the spacecraft's speed by about 11,000 kilometers per hour (6,800 miles per hour).

"This opens the solar system to many future exciting missions which otherwise would have been unaffordable or even impossible," added Dr. Rayman.

The technology is so efficient that it only consumes about 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of xenon per day, taking about four days to expend just one half kilogram (about one pound).

The only other system that has operated longer is a ground- based replica of the spacecraft's engine. The ongoing extended- life test, being done in a vacuum test chamber at JPL, has run its ion propulsion system for almost 500 days (12,000 hours) and is scheduled to complete nearly 625 days (15,000 hours) by the end of the year.

The Deep Space 1 ion engine could have a total operating time of more than 583 days (14,000 hours) by the end of its mission in the fall of 2001.

With its primary mission to serve as a technology demonstrator -- testing ion propulsion and 11 other advanced technologies -- successfully completed in September 1999, Deep Space 1 is now headed for a rendezvous with Comet Borrelly. NASA extended the mission, taking advantage of the ion propulsion and other systems to target a risky, but exciting, encounter with the comet in September 2001.

But early in this bonus mission Deep Space 1 suffered a serious setback with the loss of its star tracker navigation system. Rather than abandon the project, NASA engineers managed a deep-space rescue. They sent new software, on-the-fly, turning an onboard camera into a navigation instrument -- all while Deep Space 1 was 321 million kilometers (200 million miles) from Earth.

Deep Space 1 was launched in October 1998 as part of NASA's New Millennium Program, which is managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

More information can be found on the Deep Space 1 Home Page at http://nmp.jpl.nasa.gov/ds1/ .


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Deep Space 1 Spacecraft Keeps Going . . . And Going . . .." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 August 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/08/000816073945.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2000, August 16). Deep Space 1 Spacecraft Keeps Going . . . And Going . . .. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/08/000816073945.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Deep Space 1 Spacecraft Keeps Going . . . And Going . . .." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/08/000816073945.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, 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