Skip to comments.NASA to embark on asteroid-belt mission (DAWN - launch set for just after sunrise Thursday 9/27/07)
Posted on 09/25/2007 6:51:42 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA is about to embark on an unprecedented asteroid-belt mission with a spacecraft aptly named Dawn.
The 3 billion-mile, eight-year journey to probe the earliest stages of the solar system will begin with liftoff, planned for just after sunrise Thursday. Rain is forecast, however, and could force a delay.
Scientists have been waiting for Dawn to rise since July, when the mission was put off because of the more pressing need to launch NASA's latest Mars lander, the Phoenix. Once Phoenix rocketed away in August, that cleared the way for Dawn.
"For the people in the Bahamas, on the 27th will be one day where they can say that Dawn will rise in the west," said a smiling Keyur Patel, project manager from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Dawn will travel to the two biggest bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter rocky Vesta and icy Ceres from the planet-forming period of the solar system.
Ceres is so big as wide as Texas that it's been reclassified a dwarf planet. The spacecraft will spend a year orbiting Vesta, about the length of Arizona, from 2011 to 2012, then fly to Ceres and circle there in 2015.
Dawn's three science instruments a camera, infrared spectrometer, and gamma ray and neutron detector will explore Vesta and Ceres from varying altitudes.
"In my view, we're going to be visiting some of the last unexplored worlds in the inner solar system," chief engineer Marc Rayman said Tuesday.
Because Vesta and Ceres are so different, researchers want to compare their evolutionary paths.
No one has ever attempted before to send a spacecraft to two celestial bodies and orbit both of them. It's possible now because of the revolutionary ion engines that will propel Dawn through the cosmos.
Dawn is equipped with three ion-propulsion thrusters. Xenon gas will be bombarded with electrons, and the resulting ions will be accelerated out into space, gently shoving the spacecraft forward at increasingly higher speeds.
"It really does emit this cool blue glow like in the science fiction movies," Rayman said.
NASA tested an ion engine aboard its Deep Space 1 craft, which was launched in 1998. Ion engines have been used on only about five dozen spacecraft, mostly commercial satellites.
Dawn also has two massive solar wings, nearly 65 feet from tip to tip, to generate power as it ventures farther from the sun. Ceres is about three times farther from the sun than Earth.
NASA put the cost of the mission at $357 million, but said that does not include the Delta II rocket. Officials refused Tuesday to provide the cost of the rocket, saying that was proprietary information.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/
Ping to you, sir.
So how much does the DeltaII rocket cost? Any idea?
Where will this be viewable?
Thank you for such a speedy reply!
The Bahamas.. per the article. :-)
It’s blasting off from a Cape Canaveral pad..
But I wanna view it in the northeast.
Launch Vehicle: Delta II
Launch Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 17-B
Launch Date: September 27
Launch Window: 7:20 a.m. 7:49 a.m. EDT
you’re probably out of luck, not sure the trajectory will give ya a shot at it..
Some of the numbers in the article are confusing to me. Maybe you can clarify. It says at the beginning of the article that it is a 3 billion mile journey. Toward the bottom, it appears to say that Ceres is about three times farther from the sun than the earth is from the sun. This seems like a contradiction.
Delta / Dawn
OK, I’m NOT a Rocket Scientist... but I’ll give it a stab.
It may be distance as a crow flies vs. distance one needs to travel in order to reach an object.
Oh. I thought you were a rocket scientist. Nevermind.
(You’re probably right, though.)
To take you to a mansion in the sky.
This is not the first asteroid mission. I am starting to lose count how many there have been.
The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes:
Flood, Fire, and Famine
in the History of Civilization
by Richard Firestone, Allen West, and Simon Warwick-Smith
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2007
With the final touches now complete on the Dawn spacecraft, the future asteroid orbiter is counting down the remaining hours to blastoff at sunrise Thursday from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The beefed up United Launch Alliance Delta 2-Heavy rocket, equipped with larger solid-fuel boosters, is scheduled to thunder from pad 17B at 7:20 a.m. EDT (1120 GMT). The morning’s available launch window will extend to 7:49 a.m., giving a 29-minute period for the liftoff to occur.
Weather forecasters are predicting a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions. Coastal rain showers and cumulus clouds over the launch area will be the chief worries.
The launch readiness review was conducted Tuesday morning. All systems were reported “go” except for one remaining technical concern about the clearance between the satellite’s high-gain antenna and the acoustic blankets inside the rocket’s nose cone during launch. Engineers completed their analysis and managers ruled Tuesday afternoon that there was no problem for flight.
Launch countdown operations will commence Wednesday evening. Retraction of the mobile service tower from around the 12-story rocket should be completed before midnight.
Thursday’s three-hour Terminal Countdown picks up at 4:20 a.m. EDT. The early-morning count includes fueling of the first stage with highly refined kerosene and supercold liquid oxygen propellants.
A standard pause at the T-minus 4 minute point will give launch managers the opportunity to survey the status before countdown clocks progress into the quickly paced final minutes that see the vehicle switch to internal power, the liquid oxygen tank pressurized and systems armed.
The main engine and six of the nine strap-on solid rocket motors ignite at liftoff to begin Dawn’s ride off the planet. The Delta 2-Heavy features slightly larger solid motors, originally developed for the more-powerful Delta 3 rocket.
Arcing eastward over the Atlantic Ocean, the six solid boosters lit on the ground extinguish 77 seconds into flight as the remaining three motors are ignited moments later. The half-dozen spent boosters are jettisoned at an altitude of 14 nautical miles to fall harmlessly into the sea. The air-lit motors burn out and separate two minutes, 40 seconds after liftoff when the rocket is about 39 nautical miles up.
“If you live in the Bahamas, this is one time you can tell your neighbor, with a straight face, that Dawn will rise in the west,” said Dawn Project Manager Keyur Patel of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Weather permitting, we are go for launch Thursday morning, a little after dawn.”
Once the solids are discarded, the kerosene-powered main engine will continue pushing the rocket above an altitude of 65 nautical miles. The spent stage then jettisons at T+plus 4 minutes, 31 seconds to let the hydrazine-fueled second stage propel the vehicle the rest of the way into space. The two-piece nose cone that shrouded Dawn during the trek through the atmosphere is shed just seconds after the second stage comes to life.
Nine minutes into the ascent, the second stage completes its initial firing. The Delta settles into a 100-nautical mile parking orbit along a trajectory that cruises above the central Atlantic before crossing Africa and the Indian Ocean. The second stage reignites its engine off the west coast of Australia at T+plus 51 minutes. The burn will last more than two-and-a-half-minutes as the rocket begins a northeasterly trek over Australia.
The solid-fueled kick motor that serves as the Delta’s third stage then spins up and pops free of the second stage to ignite for an 85-second firing to propel Dawn out of Earth orbit.
Dawn should be released from the rocket at 8:22 a.m. EDT, some 62 minutes after an on-time blastoff, while flying northeast of Australia near the Solomon Islands.
“After separation, the spacecraft will go through an automatic activating sequence, including stabilizing the spacecraft, activating flight systems and deploying Dawn’s two massive solar arrays,” said Patel. “Then and only then will the spacecraft energize its transmitter and contact Earth. We expect acquisition of signal to occur anywhere from one-and-a-half hours to three-and-a-half hours after launch.”
this is one time you can tell your neighbor, with a straight face, that Dawn will rise in the west, said Dawn Project Manager Keyur PatelWhat a cut-up that guy is. ;') If he's ever tellin' people that dawn rises in the east, he really needs to consider a new line of work, or adult ed classes, or something.
It's also very slow. Leave to NASA to make space exploration extremely dull.
The Rocket is fueled, on the pad venting, weather looks green.
Holding @ T - 10
Everything looks good so far.
FOX NEWS just showed a shot. looks like they’ll show it.
Everything looks good. Rocket fueled, T-10 hold, weather is green.
T - 4
New T 0...Range fouled, ship or boat offshore.
Probable 7:27 listoff.
Hey KevinDavis! Are you watching?
I don’t know man, it looks like it just vented all of its fuel load there.
Holding @ T-4
It look like it’s on fire, doesn’t it? lol
T 0 = 7:34 AM
Look like they are gonna launch just past the bottom of the hour.
Those are clouds
Whew! Looked like a major malfunction of the LOX vent.
T-4 mins ! T-4 mins !
. . . T - 3:59
launch hold released!
The Rocket is fueled, on the pad venting, weather looks green.
Gentlemen, start your engines!
9700 MPH, 52 miles altitude
MECO, fairing jettison, stage II ignition, 80 miles alt, 532 downrange, 1432 MPH
Confirmed: DAWN is in orbit (specs 100.6 apogee, 99.x miles perigee) “Can’t get get any better than that”