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STARDUST Status Report

December 18, 1998


Ken Atkins
STARDUST Project Manager

Merry Christmas from the STARDUST Team.

These last few weeks have been busy but with significant progress. As you have seen, if you've been following the action on the webcam (, the spacecraft has been opened so that some of the electronic boxes that didn't come with the spacecraft earlier could be installed and some additional heaters for the propellant lines could be added. With this all done the spacecraft was closed up again and moved to its tilt and rotation fixture. Then the new flight software (STARDUST's "brain") was loaded into its computers. Power was applied and functional testing began. The fault protection functions (e.g. emergency procedures) such as electrical load shedding, power management, and attitude control were given preliminary tests. Command sequencing for launch, communications, and trajectory correction were also in the test mix. STARDUST was then tilted to horizontal so the sample return capsule (SRC) could be opened inside an environmentally controlled "glovebox." Last week our Science Principal Investigator, Professor Don Brownlee, came down from Seattle to do a final inspection, aided by the project quality inspector, of the aerogel. The sample return capsule (SRC) was commanded to open and the collector was deployed. He gave a solid "thumbs up" for the readiness of the collector and the capsule was closed for the last time. Yesterday, STARDUST was moved back to its vertical handling dolly and the solar arrays (that change sunlight to electricity) were installed.

After the successful launch last week of the Mars Climate Orbiter from Pad 17A, the launch teams have begun to refurbish the pad for the erection of our Delta II rocket. The rocket itself is now here at Kennedy Space Center and in preparation for beginning the build-up of stages next week.

On the operations front, much work has been done to prepare for the countdown-to-launch and the initial acquistion of STARDUST's telemetry after separation from the launch rocket. With procedures maturing, the team will start rehearsals for the countdown next week. Also, a test was begun of the end-to-end communication link from the spacecraft through the Deep Space Network (DSN).

As you can tell, it's a very exciting time here on the Space Coast in Florida. Some of us were even able to go out to the Shuttle Landing Site last week to see the Shuttle come home from space. We also were "rookie" trainees the week before on consoles for the Mars Orbiter launch. And right after New Years, we'll watch the Mars Lander launch from Pad 17B.

Overlaying all this, of course, is the Christmas and Holiday season. On behalf of all of us on the STARDUST team, I extend best wishes for a blessed and safe time. After the holiday, we'll be just a month away from our launch on February 6. We are looking forward to many of you being here to share that event in person and, for everyone else, be sure to plan to be with us on TV (NASA TV).

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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