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The Stardust spacecraft was launched on February 7, 1999 from the Kennedy Space Center.

traj_s.gifThe first orbital loop was a 2-year VEGA path with a 171 m/s delta-V trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) near aphelion - the point in the path farthest from the sun. Delta-V is the amount of change in velocity needed to alter the spacecraft's course. This delta-V will set up the Earth swingby to expand the orbit into the 2.5-year loop. The spacecraft will fly this longer orbital path twice.

At 160 days before encountering Comet Wild 2, a small delta-V of 66 m/s will set up the Comet Wild 2 flyby. This will occur on 1 Jan 2004, at 1.86 AU and 97.5 days past Wild 2 perihelion passage. The spacecraft will approach the comet at 6.2 km/s from sun side with a 70 degree phase angle. Coma fly-through will be on the sun side at a planned distance of 300 km from the nucleus. This flyby occurs five years after launch. The return of the samples to Earth takes place two years later. Altogether, three orbits will be made around the sun. This helps minimize the delta-V requirements for the mission, further enabling the use of the lighter version of the Delta II launch vehicle. Additionally, the three orbits will provide adequate the time for a comprehensive collection of interstellar dust.


Last updated January 4, 2004
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