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History: Deep Space 1 June 30, 2009

Posted by gnhsphysics in Astronomy, Space Craft.
Tags: , , ,

EIU Astro is happy to have our first guest contributor for the summer, Paul Holder, whose blog is at: http://gnhsphysics.wordpress.com/

Deep Space 1 was launched from Cape Canaveral on October 24, 1998. During a highly successful primary mission the team tested twelve advanced high-risk technologies in space. In an extremely successful extended mission it encountered Comet Borrelly and returned the best images and other science data ever obtained from a comet. During its successful hyperextended mission, it conducted further technology tests. The spacecraft was retired on December 18, 2001.

Deep Space 1 was the first spacecraft to utilize ion engines. Ion engines use ejected ionized xenon gas instead of chemical propellants. Only a very small amount of xenon is ejected at a time. It may take four days or more just to use one kilogram of xenon. Becasue of this small ejection mass, the reaction force experienced by the spacecraft is also small. If you rest a piece of paper on your hand, the paper pushes on your hand about as hard as the ion engine pushes on the spacecraft.  The benifit of the xenon ion propulsion is that unlike chemical engines, which generally can only be operated for minutes, ion engines can be operated for years. Even though the force that acts on the craft is small, it is applied over a long period and produces a large impulse. The net effect of this is a large change in momentum (velocity), eventually attaining speeds far beyond the reach of chemical propellants.

Ion Propulsion System courtesy NASA

Deep Space 1, using less than 74 kg (163 pounds) of xenon, accelerated by about 4.3 kilometers/second (9600 miles/hour) over a period of 678 days. This is greater than any spacecraft has ever been able to change its speed and a longer duration than any previous propulsion system. This was attained while operating conservatively. DS1 could have achieved still higher velocity, but mission controllers had to fulfill defined mission objectives.

The team that developed and flew NASA’s Deep Space 1 spacecraft received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ prestigious Space Systems Award “For the outstanding performance of the team during design, implementation, test, operations, and extended mission including space flight test of 12 important, high-risk technologies.” The award was presented on April 2, 2003, during the Responsive Space Conference in Redondo Beach, Calif.



1. CBS Radio - July 1, 2009

Ever look at the sky on a warm summer’s eve and wonder what lies beyond the captivating reds and oranges of the sunset? Or, do you ever lie beneath the twinkling stars on a clear night and wonder what it all means? Tomorrow is your chance to have all your questions answered. Neil deGrasse Tyson, world renowned astrophysicist, is doing a live taping of his interactive radio show, Star Talk, tomorrow at 8 PM on Chataboutit.com. Call into the show with your questions and be a part of the answers to the phenomenon of the summer sky.

Star Talk – 8 PM on Thursday 7/2
Call: 877-CHA-T212

Check out Neil on The Colbert Report and Jimmy Fallon



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