The planned July 1998 launch of NASA's Deep Space 1 technology validation mission from Cape Canaveral, FL, has been rescheduled for October.
The delay is due to a combination of late delivery of the spacecraft's power electronics system, and an ambitious flight software schedule, which together leave insufficient time to test the spacecraft thoroughly for a July launch.
The power electronics system regulates and distributes power produced by not only the solar concentrator array, a pair of experimental solar panels comprised of 720 cylindrical Fresnel lenses, but also by an on-board battery. Among many other functions, it helps the solar array to operate at peak efficiency and ensures that the battery is able to cover temporary surges in power needs so that the ion propulsion system (which needs electricity for its basic operations) receives a steady power supply.
"With a new launch date for this bold mission, we can be more confident that we will be ready to fully exercise our payload of important technologies." Chief Mission Engineer Dr. Marc Rayman of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA, explained. "The entire DS1 team looks forward to this opportunity to make a significant contribution to science missions of the future through the capabilities we are testing on DS1."
Deep Space 1 is the first launch of the New Millennium Program, a series of missions designed to test new technologies so that they can be confidently used on science missions of the 21st century. Among the 12 technologies that the mission is designed validate are ion propulsion, autonomous optical navigation, a solar concentrator array and an integrated camera and imaging spectrometer.
The earlier July launch period for DS1 allowed it to fly a trajectory encompassing flybys of an asteroid, Mars and a comet. By the end of May, the mission design team is scheduled to finalize new target bodies in the Solar System for DS1 to encounter based on an October launch date.
The New Millennium Program and Deep Space 1 are managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.
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