Status Report

Deep Space 1 Mission Status 2 01-21-2000

By SpaceRef Editor
January 21, 2000
Filed under





PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Deep Space 1, which successfully completed its prime mission of testing advanced technologies late last
September, has added a new accomplishment during its extended mission. On January 14, the mission team
directed the spacecraft to point its main
antenna toward Earth in a complex and innovative maneuver.

This challenging maneuver allowed the spacecraft to transmit a large volume of important science and
engineering data to the operations team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Further,
the maneuver was accomplished without the use of one of Deep
Space 1’s primary sensors, the star tracker. The star tracker, which failed in November, was used to help
determine the
spacecraft’s orientation by tracking the positions of stars. It was a new and advanced sensor, but was
not one of the 12 advanced technologies that were the focus of Deep Space 1’s successful
primary mission.

Prior to this maneuver, Deep Space 1 was pointed toward the Sun. Without the star tracker, the
spacecraft did not know which direction to turn to search for another target; in this case, the Earth.
Working with NASA’s Deep Space Network, the operations
team watched the radio signal grow in strength as the spacecraft antenna pointed closer to Earth and then
fade as it went past. After two sweeps, engineers calculated what time the next one
would occur. Then, accounting for the time it takes a radio
signal sent from Earth to reach the spacecraft and for how long it takes to tune to the correct frequency
and transmit an
instruction, a code was sent to trigger commands stored in the
spacecraft’s computer that would halt the rotation. Spacecraft, like sailboats, cannot “stop on a dime.”
But engineers had taken that into consideration and designed the commands to include an instruction to
rotate back to the desired point. The design
worked perfectly and the spacecraft was right on target.
Commands were sent to Deep Space 1 to transmit stored onboard
data at a high rate. Some of the information returned included observations of Mars from November.

“This was an exciting and interesting problem to solve and represents another challenge for the mission
that has so
successfully accomplished so many remarkable feats. And our
success in keeping the antenna pointed toward Earth shows that we are well on the way to developing an
effective solution,” said Dr. Marc Rayman, Deep Space 1’s chief mission engineer.

Now that the spacecraft can point its main antenna reliably toward Earth for extended periods, the
mission team will be able to develop new computer programs to operate Deep Space 1 without the star

Deep Space 1 is now over one and two-thirds as far from
Earth as the Sun is and over 650 times as far as the moon. At
this distance of more than 252 million kilometers (about 156
million miles), radio signals traveling at the speed of light
take almost 28 minutes to make the round trip.


SpaceRef staff editor.