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Testing Technologies

A Close-up of an Asteroid

Tailing a Comet



Where's DS1 Right Now?


The primary mission of Deep Space 1 was dedicated to testing its payload of advanced, high risk technologies. Three of the technologies had to work within a few minutes of when the spacecraft separated from the rocket that took it into space in order for the mission to get under way. Unlike most interplanetary missions, which have many months of coasting with minimal activity before reaching their destinations, Deep Space 1 immediately began a very intensive period of demanding experiments to characterize the 12 technologies on board. The small team accomplished a tremendous amount during the nine months it took to do most of the testing, surpassing the planned program of experiments.

Following the testing, Deep Space 1 conducted a bonus encounter with an asteroid. Two months later, the primary mission ended, and Deep Space 1 set off to explore comets. Early in the extended mission, a crucial device failed on board. Rather than give up however, the team conducted an amazing rescue from across the solar system, recovering the spacecraft from what should have been a fatal problem.

The extended mission culminated in September 2001 with an amazing and perfect encounter with comet Borrelly, by which time the spacecraft was more than three times its intended lifetime. This provided Earth with its best view ever of a comet.

After the sturdy little ship survived the encounter, the hyperextended mission began. This brought Deep Space 1 back to its roots: all nine of the hardware technologies on board were used (three of the technologies were autonomous software systems, and they were not exercised during the hyperextended mission). This was a bonus opportunity to test these systems after their long operation in space.

Having exceeded both its technology objectives and its science objectives, the spacecraft was retired in December 2001. The transmitter was turned off, but Deep Space 1 remained functional, with the receiver left on.

  • Deep Space 1 launched on October 24, 1998 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

  • By July 13, 1999, it had met or exceeded all of its mission success criteria.

  • On July 28, 1999, Deep Space 1 flew by asteroid Braille (formerly known as 1992 KD).

  • The primary mission ended on September 18, 1999, and the extended mission began.

  • The star tracker failed on November 11, 1999, leaving the craft seriously crippled, unable to point its main antenna to Earth or operate its ion propulsion system.

  • One of the most complex deep space rescues ever conducted was completed successfully in June 2000, when Deep Space 1 was able to fly without its star tracker, and it resumed thrusting with its ion propulsion to reach a comet.

  • On September 22, 2001, Deep Space 1 conducted a flawless encounter with comet Borrelly. After the data were returned, the extended mission concluded and the hyperextended mission began.

  • Deep Space 1 was retired on December 18, 2001.

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