An artist's conception of Deep Space 1
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Image courtesy of NASA
NASA Tests New Technologies with Deep Space 1
News story originally written on October 25, 1998
NASA launched a spacecraft that will test twelve new technologies,
including an ion propulsion drive and an artificial intelligence
navigation system. In testing the new equipment, it will fly past the
KD. If all goes well, the mission may be
extended to include fly-bys of Comets
Wilson-Harrington and Borrelly.
The spacecraft, Deep Space 1, is the first launch from NASA's New Millennium
program, a program which will test new technology with the hopes of
making space travel easier and more affordable. "Deep Space 1 is taking
the risks so that future missions don't have to," said Marc Rayman, chief
engineer and deputy mission manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The engines will ionize xenon gas and accelerate it through an electric
field to speeds of 65,000 mph. The thrust will exert less force than the
weight of a single piece of paper. But, this is still enough to
accelerate the spacecraft about 20 mph each day. Since there isn't air
resistance in the vacuum of space, the speed will continue to build.
Ion-propulsion engines are ten times more efficient than regular
rockets engines. The
probe will use solar energy to ionize the xenon and accelerate it. While
normal rocket engines operate on the order of minutes, the ion engine will
operate on the order of weeks.
Deep Space 1 will also control its own destiny, in a manner of speaking.
It has an onboard navigation system which can locate stars and calculate
its position, rather than relying on ground operators to tell it where it
is. The probe will also determine how close to the asteroid it can safely
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