NASA's Deep Space 1 Team Receives National Award

Press Release From: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Posted: Monday, March 31, 2003

The team that developed and flew NASA's Deep Space 1 spacecraft will receive the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' prestigious Space Systems Award. The award will be presented on April 2, 2003, during the Responsive Space Conference in Redondo Beach, Calif.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics is honoring the Deep Space 1 (DS1) team from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "For the outstanding performance of the team during design, implementation, test, operations, and extended mission including space flight test of 12 important, high-risk technologies."

"It is rather unexpected," said Marc Rayman, who was a project manager for DS1 at JPL. "People usually do not come to work here for the recognition. Rather, they're here because they think space exploration is exciting. Our reward is to get to participate in a grand adventure. How many jobs do you get to do that? On the other hand, it is great to be recognized for our hard work by one's peers," he said.

The work began in 1995, when NASA chose JPL to design and build a spacecraft that would flight-test new, cutting-edge systems the agency wanted to consider for future space missions. Launched on Oct. 24, 1998, the 486-kilogram (1071 pound) DS1 was designed and built in just three years. Soon after reaching space, DS1 began testing 12 different trailblazing technologies. Among those were an ion engine, an autonomous navigation system that computed and corrected Deep Space 1's course without intervention of human controllers on Earth, and a solar array that concentrated sunlight for extra power.

All 12 high-risk technologies checked out so well, that NASA extended DS1's mission, so it could visit one of the solar system's least understood inhabitants, a comet. But before the spacecraft could get there, its all-important star tracker failed. From 300 million kilometers (185 million miles) away, the DS1 team successfully analyzed the problem, reconfigured the computer, and developed a new way to pilot the spacecraft.

On Sept. 22, 2001, DS1 took the most detailed pictures of a comet nucleus to date. The images and other scientific data of comet Borrelly are used by planetary scientists and mission planners preparing for future comet missions.

After the Borrelly fly by, NASA extended the DS1 mission, so the team could run the spacecraft's cutting-edge technologies through an even more exotic, demanding series of tests. On Dec. 18, 2001, after more than three years in space and two trips around the sun, the DS1 team sent one final set of instructions, the spacecraft's radio transmitter was switched off, and NASA's record-shattering Deep Space 1 mission ended.

"I think you can compare Deep Space 1 with the X-15 rocket plane that was flight-tested in the 60s," Rayman said. "Just as the X-15 paved the way for future aerospace vehicles like the Shuttle, Deep Space 1 paved the way for future spacecraft that will take us to Mars, Jupiter and beyond, and accomplished some exciting scientific discoveries along the way."

JPL managed the mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA. Spectrum Astro Inc., Gilbert, Ariz., was JPL's primary industrial partner in spacecraft development.

More information about NASA's Deep Space 1 spacecraft is available on the Internet, at:

For more information about NASA's space and science programs on the Internet, visit:

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