MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Beth Murrill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASENovember 12, 1998
STARDUST ARRIVES AT KENNEDY SPACE CENTER FOR LAUNCH PREPARATIONS
NASA's Stardust spacecraft, designed to fly to a comet,
collect a sample and return it to Earth, has arrived at the
Kennedy Space Center, FL, to begin pre-launch processing.
Launch aboard a Delta 7426 rocket is currently targeted for
February 6, 1999 from Cape Canaveral Air Station.
Stardust will be the first spacecraft ever to bring cometary
material back to Earth for analysis by scientists worldwide.
Comets are believed to contain the original building blocks of
the planets and perhaps those of life itself. Early in Earth's
history, comets laden with water ice slammed into the planet,
maybe providing the source of our oceans. When Stardust returns
its pristine comet samples, scientists will be able to examine
for the first time the key ingredients of the original recipe
that created the planets.
The spacecraft was shipped from Lockheed Martin
Astronautics, Denver, CO, aboard a C-17 aircraft and landed at
Kennedy Space Center this morning. Stardust is being built
Lockheed Martin Astronautics and is managed by NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. The principal investigator
of the mission is space particle scientist Dr. Donald Brownlee of
the University of Washington. Dr. Kenneth Atkins of JPL is the
Stardust's main objective is to collect and bring to Earth
particles flying off the nucleus of Comet Wild-2 in January 2004.
It will also bring back samples of interstellar dust including
the recently discovered dust streaming into the solar system from
other stars. The spacecraft will send back pictures of Wild-2,
count the comet particles striking the spacecraft, and produce
real-time analyses of the composition of the material coming off
A unique substance called aerogel is the medium that will be
used to catch and preserve comet samples. When Stardust swings
by Earth in January 2006, the samples encased in a reentry
capsule will be jettisoned and parachute to a pre-selected site
in the Utah desert.
The length of the Stardust main bus is 1.7 meters (5.5
feet), about the size of an average office desk. The spacecraft
weighs 385 kilograms (849 pounds). Among the processing
activities to be performed are installation and testing of the
solar arrays, final installation and testing of some spacecraft
instruments followed by an overall spacecraft functional test.
The spacecraft can then be fueled and mated to the Star 37 solid
propellant upper-stage booster.
Meanwhile, at Launch Complex 17, the Delta II rocket will be
undergoing erection and pre-launch checkout by Boeing. The first
stage is scheduled to be installed into the launcher on January
5, 1999. Four solid-rocket boosters will be attached around the
base of the first stage the next day. The second stage will be
mated atop the first stage on January 8, and the spacecraft
fairing will be hoisted into the clean room of the pad's mobile
service tower January 11.
Stardust will be transported to Complex 17 on January 28 for
hoisting aboard the Delta rocket on Pad A and mating to the
second stage. After the spacecraft undergoes state of health
checks, the fairing can be placed around it three days later.
Launch is currently targeted for February 6 at 4:08 p.m. EST.
The 20-day launch opportunity ends February 25.
Stardust is the fourth under NASA's Discovery Program of
low-cost science missions, following Lunar Prospector, Mars
Pathfinder and the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR). The
goal of NASA's Discovery Program is to launch many smaller
missions with shorter development time that perform focused
science at lower cost.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology,
NOTE TO EDITORS: Images to accompany this release are
available on the web at: