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Topic: Ion Propulsion

NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft launched 10 Years Ago for Vesta, Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ten years ago, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft set sail for the two most massive bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter: giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. The mission was designed to deliver new knowledge about these small but intricate worlds, which hold clues to the formation of planets in our solar system.

“Our interplanetary spaceship has exceeded all expectations in the last decade, delivering amazing insights about these two fascinating bodies,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dawn launched 10 years ago on Sept. 27, 2007. (NASA/Sandra Joseph and Rafael Hernandez)

Dawn launched 10 years ago on Sept. 27, 2007. (NASA/Sandra Joseph and Rafael Hernandez)

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NASA’s Mars Mission Spinoffs Part 3: Harnessing Power

 

Written by Joshua Buck
Public Affairs Officer, NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – It will be the most powerful rocket ever built. More powerful than the mighty Saturn V that took humans to the moon, the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA’s newest rocket currently under development, will have the capability to send astronauts deeper into space than ever before.

With SLS and the Orion capsule, humans will no longer have to dream of walking on Mars: They finally will do it.

While the Dawn spacecraft is visiting the asteroids Vesta and Ceres, NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, has been developing the next generation of ion thrusters for future missions. NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Project has developed a 7-kilowatt ion thruster that can provide the capabilities needed in the future. (NASA)

While the Dawn spacecraft is visiting the asteroids Vesta and Ceres, NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, has been developing the next generation of ion thrusters for future missions. NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Project has developed a 7-kilowatt ion thruster that can provide the capabilities needed in the future. (NASA)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft prepares for Third Mapping orbit of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is using its ion propulsion system to descend to its third mapping orbit at Ceres, and all systems are operating well. The spiral maneuvering over the next five weeks will take the spacecraft to an altitude of about 900 miles (less than 1,500 kilometers) above the dwarf planet.

The spacecraft experienced a discrepancy in its expected orientation on June 30, triggering a safe mode. Engineers traced this anomaly to the mechanical gimbal system that swivels ion engine #3 to help control the spacecraft’s orientation during ion-thrusting. Dawn has three ion engines and uses only one at a time.

This artist concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This artist concept shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures photo of dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft closes in on Ceres, new images show the dwarf planet at 27 pixels across, about three times better than the calibration images taken in early December. These are the first in a series of images that will be taken for navigation purposes during the approach to Ceres.

Over the next several weeks, Dawn will deliver increasingly better and better images of the dwarf planet, leading up to the spacecraft’s capture into orbit around Ceres on March 6th. The images will continue to improve as the spacecraft spirals closer to the surface during its 16-month study of the dwarf planet.

This processed image, taken Jan. 13, 2015, shows the dwarf planet Ceres as seen from the Dawn spacecraft. The image hints at craters on the surface of Ceres. Dawn's framing camera took this image at 238,000 miles (383,000 kilometers) from Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This processed image, taken Jan. 13, 2015, shows the dwarf planet Ceres as seen from the Dawn spacecraft. The image hints at craters on the surface of Ceres. Dawn’s framing camera took this image at 238,000 miles (383,000 kilometers) from Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft closes in on Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has entered an approach phase in which it will continue to close in on Ceres, a Texas-sized dwarf planet never before visited by a spacecraft. Dawn launched in 2007 and is scheduled to enter Ceres orbit in March 2015.

Dawn recently emerged from solar conjunction, in which the spacecraft is on the opposite side of the sun, limiting communication with antennas on Earth. Now that Dawn can reliably communicate with Earth again, mission controllers have programmed the maneuvers necessary for the next stage of the rendezvous, which they label the Ceres approach phase. Dawn is currently 400,000 miles (640,000 kilometers) from Ceres, approaching it at around 450 miles per hour (725 kilometers per hour).

This artist's concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft heading toward the dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft heading toward the dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft out of Safe Mode and back to Normal Operational State

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The Dawn spacecraft has resumed normal ion thrusting after the thrusting unexpectedly stopped and the spacecraft entered safe mode on September 11th. That anomaly occurred shortly before a planned communication with NASA’s Deep Space Network that morning. The spacecraft was not performing any special activities at the time.

Engineers immediately began working to restore the spacecraft to its normal operational state. The team determined the source of the problems, corrected them, and then resumed normal ion thrusting on Monday night, September 15th.

Artist concept of NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting Ceres during an upcoming flyby. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

Artist concept of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbiting Ceres during an upcoming flyby. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft prepares to leave the asteroid Vesta and begin it’s journey to the Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is on track to become the first probe to orbit and study two distant solar system destinations, to help scientists answer questions about the formation of our solar system.

The spacecraft is scheduled to leave the giant asteroid Vesta on September 4th PDT (September 5th EDT) to start its two-and-a-half-year journey to the dwarf planet Ceres.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft arrived at the giant asteroid Vesta on July 15th, 2011 PDT (July 16th, 2011 EDT) and is set to depart on September 4th, 2012 PDT (September 5th EDT). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived at the giant asteroid Vesta on July 15th, 2011 PDT (July 16th, 2011 EDT) and is set to depart on September 4th, 2012 PDT (September 5th EDT). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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