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[Mission Flight Plan | Encounter with Comet Wild 2 | Data Collection | Drop Test | Earth Return]

Coma and Nucleus Imaging

The raison d'être for STARDUST is its ability to provide unique new knowledge of comets and interstellar particles. The mission will also provide excellent imaging, however, both optical navigation in support of the dust collection and for the study of nucleus morphology. The camera has the ability to investigate the large scale distribution of dust and associated gases in the general coma as well as in jets. It also will permit observation of the areas on the nucleus which are the source of the dust. There are advantages in studying a comet somewhat less active than Halley in that the spacecraft can fly closer to the nucleus and not be so readily overwhelmed optically or physically by the outflowing dust. The imaging results also will determine the size, shape, and albedo of the nucleus. Close to the nucleus, STARDUST will provide detailed nucleus morphology comparable to the Deep Space 1 images of Comet Borrelly, and 10 times better resolution than the Giotto pictures of Halley.
A six kilometer nucleus would fill one pixel at 100,000 km, about 4.6 hours before closest approach. In sum, the slow flyby speed and close nucleus approach distance of STARDUST provide superior imaging, beter in resolution and more images than any prior cometary mission, without in any way compromising the primary goal of collecting cometary samples and interstellar dust.  

Dust Collection - Spacecraft Encounter Configuration


Comet Dust Collection

The comet samples will be collected during a 6.1 km/s flyby of Comet Wild 2. At this flyby speed, coma dust in the 1 to 100 micron size range will be captured by impact into ultra-low continuous varying density aerogel. Particle collection at this speed has been extensively demonstrated in laboratory simulations and Shuttle flights and we have shown that the comet dust collection can be done with minimum amount of sample alteration.

Spacecraft Configuration for Comet Particle Collection


Interstellar Dust Collection

Interstellar Dust Capture Profile
Based on recent studies [3], interstellar particles are assumed to enter the heliosphere with a velocity of 30 km/s from the upstream direction of 7.7°±5°, 259°±15° ecliptic latitude and longitude. The flight paths of the interstellar dust grains are modified by solar gravity, solar pressure, electromagnetic interaction with the interplanetary magnetic field, and various other complex processes not well or easily formulated. If one considers only the simple effects of solar gravity and solar pressure, the velocities of interstellar dust grains of various sizes can be calculated as a function of , where is the ratio of solar pressure to solar gravity.

Interstellar Dust Collection Strategy
The strategy of interstellar dust collection is (1) to collect at the part of the spacecraft orbit where dust impact velocity is relatively low (<25 km/s), (2) to orient the collector in a specific direction so that the flux for the desired interstellar dust is maximized, and (3) to avoid pointing toward the sun in order not to intercept particles. Total duration of interstellar dust collection will be about 6 months.

Mission operation during the intersterllar dust collection period is similar to cruise phase due the passive nature of the collector design. Although the interstellar dust collector will need to be steered in specific directions to maximize the interceptions of desired interstellar dust grains, tight attitude control is not required because the uncertainty in the interstellar dust radiant direction may be as large as 30°.

Spacecraft Configuration for Interstellar Particle Collection




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[Mission Flight Plan | Encounter with Comet Wild 2 | Data Collection | Drop Test | Earth Return]
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