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Archive for March, 2006

28-Mar-06 | Dawn gets a reprieve

In a surprising reversal, NASA has reinstated the Dawn asteroid mission, saying that “Our review determined the project team has made substantive progress on many of this mission’s technical issues, and, in the end, we have confidence the mission will succeed.”  Significant testing remains to be completed, but it is now hoped that Dawn will launch in the summer of 2007. (27-Mar-06 NASA Press Release)

03-Mar-06 | FUSE operational

The Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) has returned to operational status after ten months offline, thanks to tenacious programmers and ingenious use of on-board equipment.  After the third of four reaction control wheels failed in December 2004, FUSE was left with insufficient attitude control.  Mission controllers found a way to use its magnetic torquer bars to provide control in two axes, while the remaining reaction control wheel stabilizes the third axis.  “It’s like we had three strong muscles originally, and could point FUSE wherever we wanted to,” said William Blair, FUSE’s chief of observatory operations. “Now we have to control the pointing with one strong muscle and two weak muscles. The revised control software is like a good physical therapist, teaching the satellite to compensate.”  Observations resumed on 1 November 2005.  FUSE launched aboard Delta 271 in June 1999. (Spaceflight Now, 25-Feb-06)

03-Mar-06 | Dawn mission cancelled

NASA has cancelled Dawn, a mission to visit two of the solar system’s biggest asteroids, Vesta and Ceres. The program was put on hold in October 2005 for an independent review, some time after project scientists had asked for an additional $40 million. Clearly the review board’s findings were not favourable; it is not known to this reporter how much of the project’s initial $371 million budget has already been spent on a spacecraft that will never fly. Dawn, part of the Discovery series* that includes such grand successes as Mars Pathfinder and last year’s Deep Impact (as well as the failed CONTOUR in 2002), was intended to launch later this year on a three-stage Delta II-Heavy. (, 02-Mar-06)



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