NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for a launch on Dec. 30, 2004 . The spacecraft was shipped from Ball Aerospace & Technologies in Boulder , Colo. , to the Astrotech Space Operations facility located near the Kennedy Space Center .
“Deep Impact has begun its journey to comet Tempel 1,” said Rick Grammier, Deep Impact project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “First to Florida , then to space, and then to the comet itself. It will be quite a journey and one which we can all witness together.”
The Deep Impact spacecraft is designed to launch a copper projectile into the surface of Comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005, when the comet is 83 million miles from Earth. When this 820-pound “impactor” hits the surface of the comet at approximately 23,000 miles per hour, the 3-by-3 foot projectile will create a crater several hundred feet in size. Deep Impact’s “flyby” spacecraft will collect pictures and data of the event. It will send the data back to Earth through the antennas of the Deep Space Network. Professional and amateur astronomers on Earth will also be able to observe the material flying from the comet’s newly formed crater, adding to the data and images collected by the Deep Impact spacecraft and other telescopes. Tempel 1 poses no threat to Earth in the foreseeable future.
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Today at Astrotech, Deep Impact is being removed from its shipping container, the first of the numerous milestones to prepare it for launch. Later this week, the spacecraft begins functional testing to verify its state of health after the over-the-road journey from Colorado . This will be followed by loading updated flight software and beginning a series of Mission Readiness Tests. These tests involve the entire spacecraft flight system that includes the flyby and impactor, as well as the associated science instruments and the spacecraft’s basic subsystems.
Next, the high gain antenna used for spacecraft communications will be installed. The solar array will then be stowed and an illumination test performed as a final check of its performance. Next, Deep Impact will be ready for fueling preparations. Once this is complete, the 2,152-pound spacecraft will be mated atop the upper stage booster, the Delta rocket’s third stage. The integrated stack will be installed into a transportation canister in preparation for going to the launch pad in mid-December.
Once at the pad and hoisted onto the Boeing Delta II rocket, a brief functional test will be performed to re-verify spacecraft state of health. Next will be an integrated test with the Delta II before installing the fairing around the spacecraft.
Deep Impact mission scientists are confident such an intimate glimpse beneath the surface of a comet, where material and debris from the formation of the Solar System remain relatively unchanged, will answer basic questions about the formation of the Solar System and offer a better look at the nature and composition of these celestial wanderers.
Launch aboard the Boeing Delta II rocket is scheduled to occur on Dec. 30, 2004 from Launch Complex 17 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch window extends from 2:39 – 3:19 p.m. EST.
The overall Deep Impact mission management for this Discovery class program is conducted by the University of Maryland , College Park , Md. Deep Impact project management is by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena , Calif. The spacecraft has been built for NASA by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation. The spacecraft/launch vehicle integration and launch countdown management are the responsibility of the Launch Services Program office headquartered at Kennedy Space Center .
Original Source: NASA News Release