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STARDUST Status Report

January 5, 2001

During the holiday period there were numerous Deep Space Network (DSN) tracking passes. All subsystems onboard the spacecraft are performing normally.

The STARDUST spacecraft is within 4,000,000 km from the Earth and closing rapidly. The spacecraft will make its closest approach to Earth on January 15, at 11:15 Universal time. There is a small possibility that STARDUST may be visible from Earth after flyby using sophisticated telescopes with CCD detectors. Additional information will be available on the STARDUST website.

In preparation for the Earth Gravity Assist, the Command Loss Timer was changed to three days from its usual value of nine days. The CLT is an onboard countdown clock based on the last successful command received by the spacecraft. When the CLT reaches zero or when there is no communication from Earth for nine days -- the safe mode executive assumes there is a problem somewhere in the spacecraft's uplink path and requests safe mode. The SME will then autonomously swap components in the uplink path, pausing in between swaps, until a command is received. Since STARDUST is rapidly approaching EGA, the command loss time was reduced to three days to allow a faster recovery in the unlikely failure of an uplink component. This strategy will allow the spacecraft team to respond to a failure and ensure that critical commands are successfully sent to the spacecraft in a timely manner.

Also, a timer in the SME was changed to ensure that if a safe mode entry occurs, the spacecraft will remain pointed at the Sun and not attempt to communicate with the Earth. If the spacecraft enters safe mode just prior to the closest approach, the batteries would reach their low state of charge limit (50%) because the Earth and Sun are 180 degrees apart. If the spacecraft enters safe mode after closest approach, the SME will command the spacecraft to a power-friendly communications attitude. This change will ensure the spacecraft remains in a safe attitude, pointed at the Sun, until the spacecraft team commands it to "phone home".

This morning, STARDUST successfully completed Trajectory Correction Maneuver #5 (TCM-5), the final targeting for Earth flyby in 10 days. Five Navigation Camera images were taken to assess camera performance after the 2nd heating sequence where both the CCD and mirror motor heaters were turned on for about 1 month. These images will be played back later today. The spacecraft will then be left alone until after Earth flyby.

On January 12, a live interview with Stardust project manager Tom Duxbury will be shown on NASA TV, followed by an animation of the Earth flyby and pictures of the spacecraft. To see the interview, tune to satellite GE-2, Transponder 9C at 85 degrees West longitude, with vertical polarization. Frequency is on 3880.0 megahertz with audio on 6.8 megahertz.

For more information on the STARDUST mission - the first ever comet sample return mission - please visit the STARDUST home page:

Last Updated: November 26, 2003
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