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McDonnell Douglas to Provide MED-LITE Launch Vehicle for STARDUST


HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., Oct. 8 /PRNewswire/ --
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has named the next two firm launches under their contract with McDonnell Douglas to provide launch services for medium-light-class (Med-Lite) payloads for NASA's Mixed Fleet Program.

The missions, called "Deep Space One" and "STARDUST," are scheduled for launch in 1998 and 1999, respectively.

The first of NASA's "New Millennium" program missions, Deep Space One will test advanced technologies designed to explore the solar system and examine the asteroid "McAuliffe" and comet "West-Kohoutek-Ikemura."

Deep Space One will be the first spacecraft to use solar electric propulsion as its primary source of thrust. Large solar arrays will give a positive electrical charge to atoms, called ions, of xenon gas. Conventional spacecraft rely on solid or liquid propellants which provide faster acceleration but require much larger amounts of fuel at a greater cost. Deep Space One, on the other hand, will require only 145 pounds of propellant used over several months to achieve a speed of 70, 000 miles an hour.

The STARDUST mission will focus on collecting minute particles of space dust, mainly from the comet "Wild-2," as well as particles from asteroids and other interstellar objects. To collect samples the spacecraft will use strips of a porous, sponge-like substance called aerogel, a silicon-based solid.

STARDUST will travel to the edge of the solar system on a seven-year round trip journey. Upon its return to Earth in 2006, STARDUST will release a special capsule designed to re-enter the atmosphere, where the aerogel samples will be collected by scientists for analysis.

The rockets used for the Med-Lite program are scaled down versions of the Delta II, with the capacity to launch up to 7,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit.

The Med-Lite contract includes five firm launches: Deep Space One, FUSE, Mars Lander and Mars Orbiter in 1998 and STARDUST in 1999. NASA holds options for up to nine more launches through 2004.

SOURCE McDonnell Douglas


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