Deep Space 1, the first spacecraft in NASA's New Millennium Program of missions to flight-test new technologies, blasted into space at 8:08 a.m. Eastern time today from Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL.
Deep Space 1 separated from the Delta II launch vehicle about 550 kilometers (345 miles) above the Indian Ocean and was sent on its way to test 12 technologies in coming months. The spacecraft is on a trajectory to fly by asteroid 1992 KD in July 1999, allowing further validation of two science instruments.
All critical spacecraft systems, such as power, temperature and attitude control were performing well, the spacecraft team reported from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. Two technologies -- large solar arrays and a new radio transmitter/receiver -- were validated within the first two hours after launch. "The Deep Space 1 spacecraft is in fine health and is ready to begin its mission of technology validation," said Deputy Mission Manager Dr. Marc Rayman at JPL.
Telemetry was received from the spacecraft through NASA's Deep Space Network at 1 hour, 37 minutes after launch, and 13 minutes later it was determined that the spacecraft's two solar arrays had been deployed. A key new technology, the spacecraft's ion engine, will be tested for the first time in approximately two weeks.
The New Millennium Program is designed to test new technologies so that they can be confidently used on science missions of the 21st century.
UPDATED OCT. 25, 1998 -- Deep Space 1 mission continuing smoothly
Early signs indicate a successful start to NASA's Deep Space 1 mission, launched Saturday, October 24, at 8:08 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) from Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL.
"Everything is going well," said Deputy Mission Manager Dr. Marc Rayman at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.
The Delta II launch vehicle's third stage fired at 9:01 a.m. EDT to place Deep Space 1 on its trajectory around the Sun. The flight team is continuing to analyze data from the spacecraft to determine details of the trajectory.
The third-stage burn is estimated to have sent Deep Space 1 traveling away from Earth at a speed of 39,600 kilometers per hour (24,600 miles per hour) relative to Earth. Forty-eight hours after launch, the spacecraft's velocity relative to Earth will have dropped by about 85 percent due to the pull of Earth's gravity.
The flight team is spending the first two days after launch transitioning the spacecraft from launch to flight configuration. Two of the new technologies that the mission was designed to flight-test have already been validated -- its solar concentrator arrays, which use cylindrical lenses to concentrate sunlight onto 3,600 solar cells; and a small deep-space transponder, or radio transmitter/receiver.
About seven hours after launch, the flight team sent commands instructing the spacecraft to transmit stored data capturing spacecraft conditions from the time of launch until the first signal was received at a ground station near Canberra, Australia, 97 minutes later. These data are expected to tell engineers if any condition on the spacecraft contributed to a delay of about 13 minutes in picking up the first signal. At the time that ground controllers were looking for a spacecraft signal, the flight team was prepared to send contingency commands to the spacecraft, but the signal was eventually received about 5 minutes before the contingency plan would have been put into effect. The slight delay in signal acquisition is not expected to have any impact on the mission.
Data from the spacecraft will also help engineers diagnose occasional unexpected behavior of the spacecraft's star tracker. The device -- not one of the mission's 12 new technologies -- from time to time appears to fail for a second or two, but for the most part is operating normally. This is not expected to impact the mission.
A little more than two weeks after launch, the spacecraft's ion engine may be tested for the first time. Once it is in regular use, the engine will thrust for 50 percent of the primary mission.
Deep Space 1 is the first launch of the New Millennium Program, a series of deep-space and Earth-orbiting missions designed to test new technologies for use on science missions of the 21st century.
Materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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