Press Release

NASA’s Deep Space 1 Team Receives National Award

By SpaceRef Editor
March 31, 2003
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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

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:

SpaceRef staff editor.