MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: John G. Watson
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEApril 6, 1999
EXOTIC TECHNOLOGIES FINISH ROAD TEST ON COSMIC HIGHWAY
NASA's Deep Space 1 mission has successfully demonstrated
most of its exotic technologies in space -- including an ion
engine that is expected to be 10 times more efficient than
conventional liquid or solid rocket engines -- proving they are
ready for use in science missions of the 21st century.
Of the 12 advanced technologies onboard the spacecraft,
seven have completed testing, including the ion propulsion
system, solar array and new technologies in communications,
microelectronics and spacecraft structures.
"We've taken these technologies around the test track, and
now they're ready for the production line," said Dr. Marc Rayman,
deputy mission manager and chief mission engineer for Deep Space
1 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.
Launched October 24, Deep Space 1 is the first mission under
NASA's New Millennium Program, which features flight testing of
new technology, rather than science, as its main focus. These new
technologies will make spacecraft of the future smaller, cheaper,
more reliable and more independent of human control.
By summer, engineers expect to have finished testing all 12
advanced technologies aboard the spacecraft.
Testing of two technologies that make the Deep Space 1 less
reliant on humans is 75 percent complete, while testing of a
third is scheduled to begin in May. These technologies include a
robotic navigator, called AutoNav, that will guide the spacecraft
to a rendezvous with asteroid 1992 KD on July 29 without active
human control from the Earth.
In addition, Deep Space 1's two advanced science
instruments -- a combination camera/spectrometer and an instrument
that studies electrically charged particles emitted by the Sun
and other sources -- are on schedule, having finished 75 percent of
"What has pleased us more than anything is how well the
technologies have been working in general," Rayman said, noting
that their performance is remarkably close to engineers'
estimates developed before launch.
"Of course, everything hasn't worked perfectly on the first
try," Rayman added. "If it had, it would mean that we had not
been sufficiently aggressive in selecting the technologies.
Diagnosing the behavior of the various technologies is a
fundamental part of Deep Space 1's objective of enabling future
space science missions."
When the ion propulsion system was first activated November
10, the engine shut itself off after 4-1/2 minutes, and engineers
were unable to restart it later that day. During the next attempt
two weeks later, however, the engine started up easily and has
performed flawlessly since then, logging more than 1,300 hours of
Engineers believe the problem was caused by a piece of grit
stuck to high-voltage grids within the ion engine. The grit was
later dislodged, they believe, when parts expanded and contracted
as the ion engine was exposed alternately to sunlight and shade.
Engineers also discovered after launch that stray light
enters the camera/spectrometer, resulting in streaks of light
when pictures are taken with a long exposure. The streaks are a
result of how the instrument was mounted on the spacecraft,
The camera should be able to take acceptable pictures when
Deep Space 1 flies by asteroid 1992 KD this summer, because it
will use short exposures.
Despite such glitches, the great majority of the advanced
technologies have worked extremely well, according to Rayman.
"Mission designers and scientists can now confidently use them on
future missions," he said.
Deep Space 1 will continue testing technologies until its
prime mission concludes on September 18. NASA is considering a
possible extended mission that would take the spacecraft on
flybys of two comets in 2001.
The Deep Space 1 mission is managed for NASA's Office of
Space Science, Washington, DC, by JPL, a division of the
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. Spectrum Astro
Inc., Gilbert, AZ, was JPL's primary industrial partner in