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STARDUST Status Report

June 26, 1998

Ken Atkins
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:

Last Updated: November 26, 2003
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