STARDUST Status Report
June 26, 1998
STARDUST Project Manager
Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations (ATLO) activities: Spacecraft Performance
Tests (SPT #1) with the flight Command Data Handling (C&DH) and Power
Control Assembly (PCA) boxes was successfully completed in less time than
planned. Additional work in preparation of the flight system for environmental
test was completed as planned.
Gradient-density aerogel was successfully qualified through vibration
and shock testing and post-test analysis. "Gradient-density" defines
the continuously increasing density of the aerogel from the impact face
of the tile to the back face. Low-density at the impact face is desired
to provide a "softer" first contact with any "fluffy,"
or more-fragile, dust particles. The greater density of the material deeper
in the tile adds stopping power and keeps required tile thickness to a minimum.
Test capture-firings of particles are scheduled to define the detailed capture
characteristics. Gradient differs from "graded" in that the graded
construction is in "layers" of different densities. In graded
tiles, there is a meniscus or "surface line" between layers. Achieving
qualification of the gradient process is very significant and represents
a technical breakthrough long sought by the international aerogel manufacturing
community. A strong benefit of this achievement to the Stardust Project
is speeding the build-up in inventory. This successful qualification means
now both graded and gradient density tiles are flight qualified. The graded-density
qualification was completed in May.
Permission was received from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to place
the Vietnam War Memorial names on the microchip to fly on Stardust. The
Fund agrees that "putting the names of those who fell in America's
longest-lasting war on a microchip -- a mini-Vietnam Veterans Memorial --
and [having] it travel around the [solar system] is a fitting tribute to
Vietnam veterans everywhere. ...... Our participation with Stardust will
be another interesting adjunct to the Wall's legacy -- of healing and education."
For more information on the STARDUST mission - the first ever comet sample
return mission - please visit the STARDUST home page: http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov