Encyclopedia Astronautica
Stardust



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Stardust
American comet probe. One launch, 1999.02.07. Stardust was scheduled to encounter comet Wild-2 early in 2004 and collect samples of cometary dust and volatiles while flying through the coma at a distance of 100 km on the sunlit side of the nucleus.

It would then return the samples to Earth for analysis in 2006.

The Stardust spacecraft was derived from the SpaceProbe deep space bus developed by Lockheed Martin Astronautics. This new lightweight spacecraft incorporated components which were either operating in space or flight qualified and manifested to fly.

The total weight of the spacecraft including the propellant needed for deep space maneuvers was 380 kilograms. The overall length of the main bus was 1.7 meters.

Science Payload

  • Aerogel Sample Collectors - Comet and interstellar particles were collected in ultra low density silica aerogel. More than 1,000 square centimeters of collection area was provided for each type of particle (cometary and interstellar).
  • Comet and Interstellar Dust Analyzer (CIDA) - The CIDA instrument was a time-of-flight mass spectrometer that determined the composition of individual dust grains which collided with a silver impact plate.
  • Navigation Camera (NavCam) - The Navigation Camera was used for targeting the flyby of the Wild 2 nucleus, but also provided high-resolution science images of the comet.
  • Dust Flux Monitors (DFM) - The DFM instrument, mounted on the front of the Whipple shield, monitored the flux and size distribution of particles in the environment.
Sample Return Capsule

The Sample Return Capsule (SRC) was a 60-degree blunt body re-entry capsule for landing the returned sample on Earth. The capsule was encased in PICA and SLA-561 ablator materials to protect the samples stowed in its interior from the heat of re-entry. A parachute slowed its descent to the Earth's surface to prevent damage to the cargo of comet samples.

Propulsion - Because it was on a low-energy trajectory for its flyby of comet Wild 2 and return to Earth, aided by a gravity-assisted boost maneuver as it flew by the Earth for the first time, the Stardust spacecraft needed only a relatively modest propulsion system. This was provided by ultra pure hydrazine (N2H4) monopropellant.

Attitude Control - The Stardust spacecraft was 3-axis stabilized in all mission phases, following separation from the launch vehicle. Stabilization was accomplished using eight 0.45 kgf thrusters and eight 0.1 kgf thrusters mounted in four clusters of 4 thrusters each. The primary attitude determination was via the star camera and the inertial measurement unit (IMU), and was backed up by analogue sun sensors. The IMUs were needed only during trajectory correction maneuvers, and during the fly-through of the cometary coma when stars might be difficult to detect. Otherwise, the vehicle could be operated in an all-stellar mode.

The Stardust spacecraft was 3-axis stabilized in all mission phases, following separation from the launch vehicle. The primary attitude determination was via the star camera and the inertial measurement unit (IMU), and was backed up by analogue sun sensors. The IMUs were needed only during trajectory correction maneuvers, and during the fly-through of the cometary coma when stars may be difficult to detect. Otherwise, the vehicle can be operated in an all-stellar mode.

Command & Data Handling - The RAD6000 central processing 32-bit unit embedded in the spacecraft's Command and Data Handling (C&DH) subsystem provided computing capability for all spacecraft subsystems, including the payload elements. Electronic cards were provided to interface instruments and subsystems to the C&DH subsystem. 128 Mbytes of data storage was provided on the processor card, although the spacecraft used approximately 20% of this for its own internal programs. The rest of the space in the memory was used for science programs and data storage for sending back to Earth 600 megabits (Mb) of images taken by the navigation camera, 100 Mb by the Comet Interstellar Dust Analyzer (CIDA) instrument, and 16 Mb by the Dust Flux Monitor (DFM).

Telecommunications - Primary communication between the Earth and the orbiter was by use of the Deep Space Network (DSN) X-band (up/down) link and the orbiter's deep space transponder developed for the Cassini spacecraft, a 15 Watt RF solid state amplifier, and a 0.6 meter (2 ft) diameter fixed high gain parabolic antenna.

Power - Two non-gimbaled solar arrays were deployed immediately after launch. They provided 6.6 square meters of solar energy to power the Stardust spacecraft. One nickel-hydrogen (NiH2) 16 amp-hour battery using common pressure vessel (CPV) cell pairs provided power during eclipses and for peak power operations. The electrical power control electronics were derived primarily from the Small Spacecraft Technology Initiative (SSTI) spacecraft development.

Thermal Control - The thermal control subsystem used passive methods and louvers to control the temperature of the batteries and the solid state power amplifiers. Passive coatings as well as multi-layer insulation blankets were used to control other temperatures. Where needed, radiators were used to take the excess heat out of the spacecraft components to keep them at their proper operating temperature.

Structure - The Stardust spacecraft structure was in the form of a rectangular box, with approximate dimensions of 1.6 meters long by a square cross-section of 0.66 meters on each side. Panels used graphite fibers with polycyanate as face sheets and aluminum honeycomb as the core.

Redundancy - Virtually all spacecraft subsystem components were redundant with critical items cross-strapped. The battery included an extra pair of cells. A software fault protection system was used to protect the spacecraft from reasonable, credible faults but also had resiliency built into it so many faults not anticipated could be accommodated without taking the spacecraft down.

Whipple Shield - The Whipple shield shadowed the spacecraft to protect it during the high speed encounter with particles in the cometary coma. Bumper shields were composite panels which disrupt particles as they impact. Nextel blankets of ceramic cloth further dissipated and spread the particle debris. Three blankets were used in the main body shield, and two were used in the solar array shields. The composite Catcher absorbed all of the debris for primary particles up to 1 cm in diameter for the shield protecting the spacecraft main body.

Gross mass: 370 kg (810 lb).
First Launch: 1999.02.07.
Number: 1 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • Delta The Delta launch vehicle was America's longest-lived, most reliable, and lowest-cost space launch vehicle. Development began in 1955 and it continued in service in the 21st Century despite numerous candidate replacements. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Delta American orbital launch vehicle. The Delta launch vehicle was America's longest-lived, most reliable, and lowest-cost space launch vehicle. Delta began as Thor, a crash December 1955 program to produce an intermediate range ballistic missile using existing components, which flew thirteen months after go-ahead. Fifteen months after that, a space launch version flew, using an existing upper stage. The addition of solid rocket boosters allowed the Thor core and Able/Delta upper stages to be stretched. Costs were kept down by using first and second-stage rocket engines surplus to the Apollo program in the 1970's. Continuous introduction of new 'existing' technology over the years resulted in an incredible evolution - the payload into a geosynchronous transfer orbit increasing from 68 kg in 1962 to 3810 kg by 2002. Delta survived innumerable attempts to kill the program and replace it with 'more rationale' alternatives. By 2008 nearly 1,000 boosters had flown over a fifty-year career, and cancellation was again announced. More...
  • Delta 2 7000 American orbital launch vehicle. The Delta 7000 series used GEM-40 strap-ons with the Extra Extended Long Tank core, further upgraded with the RS-27A engine. More...
  • Delta 7426-9.5 American orbital launch vehicle. Four stage vehicle consisting of 4 x GEM-40 + 1 x EELT Thor/RS-27A + 1 x Delta K + 1 x Star 37FM with 2.9 m (9.5 foot) diameter fairing) More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • NASA American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA, USA. More...

Associated Programs
  • Discovery The Discovery program was begun by NASA in the early 1990s as the planetary counterpart to the Explorer program. More...

Bibliography
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Webster, Gary, Jagdflieger Homepage, As of May 1999. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Stardust Comet Flyby Press Kit, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Stardust Launch Press Kit, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Stardust Mission to a Comet Fact Sheet, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Stardust Brochure, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, STARDUST Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 4, December 2003 , Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, STARDUST Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 3, January 2001 , Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, STARDUST Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 2, January 2000 , Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, STARDUST Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 1, July 1999 , Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...
  • Cape Canaveral LC17A Delta launch complex. Part of a dual launch pad complex built for the Thor ballistic missile program in 1956. Pad 17A supported Thor, Delta, and Delta II launches into the 21st Century. More...

Stardust Chronology


1999 February 7 - . 21:04 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC17A. Launch Pad: SLC17A. LV Family: Delta. Launch Vehicle: Delta 7426-9.5. LV Configuration: Delta 7426-9.5 D266.
  • Stardust - . Payload: Discovery 4. Mass: 370 kg (810 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: JPL. Manufacturer: Martin. Program: Discovery. Class: Comet. Type: Comet probe. Spacecraft: Stardust. USAF Sat Cat: 25618 . COSPAR: 1999-003A. Stardust was to fly within 100 km of comet 81P/Wild-2 in January 2004 and recover cometary material using an aerogel substance. A return capsule would land on a lake bed in Utah in January 2006, returning the material to earth. The launch went as planned. The second stage ignited at 21:08 GMT and its first burn put the vehicle into a 185 km x 185 km x 28 degree parking orbit at 21:14 GMT. The second stage second burn at 21:25 changed the orbit to planned values of 178 km x 7184 km x 28.5 degrees. The Star 37FM solid third stage ignited at 21:29 GMT and placed the spacecraft into a 2 year period solar orbit. The spacecraft separated at 21:31 GMT. Meanwhile, the Delta 266 second stage burned a third time on its own, until its propellants were depleted, entering a final orbit of 294 km x 6818 km x 22.5 degrees. The Stardust probe flew past Earth at a distance of 3706 km at 1115 GMT on January 15, 2001, and flew near the Moon at a distance of 98000 km at around 0200 GMT on January 16. The gravity assist flyby changed Stardust's heliocentric orbit from 0.956 x 2.216 AU x 0.0 deg to 0.983 x 2.285 AU x 3.7 deg.

2001 January 15 - .
  • Stardust, Earth Flyby - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2002 April 18 - .
  • Stardust At Aphelion (2.72 AU) - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2002 August 5 - .
  • Stardust, Begin of second Interstellar Dust Collection - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2002 November 2 - .
  • Stardust, Asteroid 5535 Annefrank Flyby, Successful - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2002 December 9 - .
  • Stardust, End of second Interstellar Dust Collection - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2003 April 3 - .
  • Stardust Enters Solar Conjuction - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2003 April 18 - .
  • Stardust Exits Solar Conjunction - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2003 December 24 - .
  • Stardust, Aerogel Grid Deployed, Successful - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2004 January 2 - .
  • Stardust, Comet Wild 2 Encounter, Successful - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2004 October 18 - .
  • Stardust at Aphelion - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2005 January 22 - .
  • Stardust Enters Solar Conjunction - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2005 February 8 - .
  • Stardust Exits Solar Conjunction - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

2006 January 15 - .
  • Stardust, Capsule Return To Earth - . Nation: USA. Spacecraft: Stardust.

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