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Stardust-NEXT Mission Status Report

October 29, 2007

Artist rendition of Stardust approaching Earth STARDUST was completing the camera decontamination process last week when it went into safemode while taking images. A message que overflowed, stopping the image sequence and the spacecraft responded by going into safe mode. There was no computer reboot or side swap since this was a minor error.

There is an existing software patch that increases this message que memory space by an order of magnitude. However this patch had been overridden by the on-board hard coded que allocation that became the default after the safemode entry earlier this year. The intent was to uplink this patch again to override the current default and increase this message que memory space by an order of magnitude prior to performing serious imaging (10's of images). The short decontamination imaging sequence just implemented was run through the spacecraft testlab without the patch and worked just fine. The first implementation of this short imaging sequence prior to the camera heating work as well during the spacecraft testlab testing. However, mid-way through the repeat of this small imaging sequence, after the camera heating/cleanup, the message que became full and the spacecraft went into same mode.

Immediately after safe mode entry last week, communications were re-established with the spacecraft and fault history was downlinked along with other error and engineering data, leading to the root cause of the safe mode entry to be identified. Since this safe mode entry occurred, the spacecraft has been taken out of safe mode and placed back into normal cruise operations with the background sequence for the next month uplinked and post-cleanup image telemetry initiated.

The good news is that the root cause was identified and the needed patch already exists and will go up during the next Deep Space Network (DSN) communication session. The post-cleanup images that have come down show that the camera cleanup worked extremely well, with very crisp star images as compared to very blurred images of the same stars before camera cleanup.

The Stardust-NExT (New Exploration of Tempel 1) mission is to flyby the comet Tempel 1 on February 14, 2011 in order to obtain high resolution images of the coma and nucleus, as well as measurements of the composition, size distribution, and flux of dust emitted into the coma. We have developed a reliable plan to update knowledge of the rotational phase of the comet sufficiently well to have a high probability of viewing significant portions of the hemisphere studied by Deep Impact (DI) in 2005 and a high probability of imaging the crater made by its impactor. The impact event produced so much ejecta that DI did not succeed in imaging the crater.

Last Updated: October 29, 2007
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