Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Stardust probe adjusts course on voyage to comet
Posted: Dec. 30, 1999

Artist's concept of NASA's Stardust during its comet rendezvous. Photo: NASA
NASA's Stardust spacecraft destined to capture samples of Comet Wild-2 and return them to Earth has successfully completed its first course correction.

The flight team at Lockheed Martin Astronautics, which built the craft, executed the Trajectory Correction Maneuver A (TCM-A) on Tuesday. Onboard thrusters performed the 11 meter/second burn.

In preparation for the maneuver, the probe's Sample Return Capsule backshell was closed, like it will be for all TCMs. The backshell acted as a flexible body when the 4.45 Newton thrusters were fired. If left in its open position, the backshell could possibly effect the Attitude Control Subsystem stability, NASA said.

The backshell will remain closed until late February when the Aerogel Collector is deployed for the first inter-stellar dust collection period.

Stardust will perform the much larger Deep Space Maneuver-1 (DSM-1) in about three weeks.

The craft was launched aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket on February 7 from Cape Canaveral Air Station.

Rendezvous with Comet Wild-2 is expected in January 2004, with the sample capsule parachuting to the Utah desert floor two years later.

The $166 million mission will take seven years and travel over 3 billion miles.

Scientists say the comet particles could answer questions about the history of our solar system and Earth.

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