Press Release

Rockwell Science Center Receives Contract for Comet Mission

By SpaceRef Editor
March 26, 2001
Filed under ,

The Rockwell Science Center (RSC) announced today that it has
received a contract from Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. to
provide infrared image sensors for a NASA discovery mission that will
study the interior of a comet. The sensors, which can detect light in
the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, are commonly
used as the “eye” of astronomical telescopes.

The comet mission, called Deep Impact, will be performed by a
flyby spacecraft and impactor built by Ball Aerospace. The impactor, a
mostly copper spacecraft weighing 350 kg (770 pounds), will be
released from the flyby spacecraft about 24 hours prior to its
collision with the comet, Tempel I. An RSC imager in an infrared
spectrometer on the flyby spacecraft will be used to study the
composition of the comet’s surface prior to impact and its interior

The Deep Impact spacecraft will be launched in January 2004, and
the impactor will encounter Tempel I on July 4, 2005, about 80 million
miles from Earth.

Deep Impact is the first mission to study the interior of a comet
which astronomers believe contains material unchanged since the
formation of the solar system. The impactor, traveling faster than
22,000 miles per hour prior to the collision, will create a crater on
Tempel I as big as a football field and deep as a seven-story

The RSC imager contains over one million picture elements. Imagers
built by Rockwell are being used for astronomy in most of the world’s
ground-based telescopes; imager technology developed by RSC is also
employed on the Hubble Space Telescope. “This program provides another
opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of these imagers and their
varied scientific uses,” said Derek Cheung, Rockwell’s Vice President
for Research and Director of the Science Center.

“We are very pleased to have the superior technology from the
Rockwell Science Center utilized on the program. It is a key
ingredient in the success of the mission,” said John Marriott, Deep
Impact Program Manager at Ball Aerospace.

The Rockwell Science Center is a leader in advanced technologies
in electronics, imaging and optics, material and computational
sciences, and information technology. Its broad range of initiatives
includes contract research, commercialization of high-value products,
and licensing of selected technologies.

Rockwell is a $7 billion electronic controls and communications
company with global leadership market positions in industrial
automation, avionics and communications, and electronic commerce. The
company employs about 40,000 people at more than 450 locations serving
customers in more than 80 countries.

SpaceRef staff editor.