STARDUST Status Report
August 14, 1998
STARDUST Project Manager
Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations (ATLO) activities: The principal activities this week were completion of pre-environmental test functional testing, frequency survey, dynamic propellant simulation load, and acoustics testing. The frequency survey and the acoustic tests were about checking the spacecraft's ability to avoid any natural harmonics that could damage it, or seeing if any induced vibration (waves) can damage it, respectively. Some of you may recall old film clips showing how a suspension bridge over a river was destroyed when winds excited some unstable natural frequencies in the bridge structure. The vibration caused the bridge to swing and gallop so wildly it crashed. We want to be sure Stardust doesn't have anything like that in its character. So....we test. Then in the acoustics case we want to be sure things like vibrations from the rumbling rocket engines transferring up to where we are riding in the shroud don't shake apart our spacecraft. So....we test. In both cases this week, we were very successful. Our bird looks pretty tough! The flight system continues to show no hardware functional problems as we prepare for the environmental test. The environmental test is when we put the whole system in a big vacuum chamber and simulate just what Stardust will see in the hostile environment of deep space......hot, cold and nothing to breathe.
We also had some great work by the Aerogel Team this week. They completed successfully loading the aerogel tiles into the cometary side of the flight aerogel collector. Recall that the collector is a two-layered assembly. A thinner tray holding the aerogel to collect the interstellar particles is attached back-to-back with the thicker tray holding the cometary aerogel tiles. It's sort of like two ice trays in your refrigerator with the bottoms glued together. One of course being much thinner. The team now is working hard on getting the interstellar tray filled. Once that's done they will be ready to ship it to Lockheed Martin in Denver.
Outreach: STARDUST Name Count: 1,149,427. This "taking of reservations" has been extremely exciting and lots of fun. We get some great mail from folks asking about things like "in-flight meals" and "luggage handling policies." And we have received some poignant thoughts about the heros who fell in Vietnam. It's an honor for us to provide honor and remembrance. Now we must begin the process of transferring names onto the silicon chip meeting the schedule for us all to get to the "gate" and aboard the Sample Return Capsule. Stay tuned to the web site to keep up on how that process is done and perhaps see some pictures of it.
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