MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
STARDUST MISSION STATUS
March 22, 1999
NASA's Stardust spacecraft, launched Feb. 7, 1999 on a
mission to intercept a comet and return a sample to Earth, over
the weekend sent back engineering data,
as the operations team
continued shakedown tests of various spacecraft systems.
Mission controllers successfully commanded the spacecraft to
resume normal operations Friday evening, March 19, after Stardust
entered a low-activity "safe" state the night before. Stardust's
main computer had indicated it was carrying out an excessive
number of functions during testing of the navigation camera and
transmission of its images to Earth on Thursday, triggering fault
protection software that placed the spacecraft in a low-activity
state. When the spacecraft is flown in this "safe" mode, all non-
critical activities are halted and the spacecraft points its
antenna toward Earth and awaits new commands.
Controllers waited until the next telecommunications
opportunity on Friday evening to resume contact with Stardust.
Communications with the spacecraft were resumed as expected and
the spacecraft was commanded to proceed with normal operations.
Engineering data was received from the spacecraft, and the team
is performing detailed analysis of the data to determine what
activities or software could have led the spacecraft computer to
trigger fault protection that placed Stardust in its temporary
Last week, the spacecraft successfully exercised the mirror
on the navigation camera for the first time, moving the device
outward 90 degrees and back. The mirror will allow the navigation
camera to gather close-up images of heart of Comet Wild-2 without
being struck by debris that will be flying off the comet's
nucleus. Stardust encounters the comet in 2004.
Mission scientists were surprised and pleased last week with
Stardust's exceptionally steady orientation in flight. Data from
the navigation camera showed that the spacecraft's "drift," or
the balancing adjustments it makes to maintain its orientation in
space, was about 10 times less than anticipated. This is good
news for scientists using the navigation camera, because the
steadier the spacecraft, the clearer its images because there
will be less smearing due to motion.
The principal investigator for the Stardust mission is Dr.
Donald C. Brownlee of the University of Washington. The mission
is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for
NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. The spacecraft
was built and is operated by Lockheed Martin Astronautics,
Denver. Its instruments were provided by the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and the Max Planck
Institute, Garching, Germany.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology,
Last Updated: November 26, 2003