Mission operators are looking for a signal from Contour, several hours after a scheduled maneuver to send the spacecraft from Earth's orbit onto a path to encounter multiple comets.
Contour's STAR 30 solid-propellant rocket motor was programmed to ignite at 4:49 a.m. EDT and deliver 1,920 meter-per-second boost which Contour needed to escape Earth's orbit. At about 140 miles (225 kilometers) above the Indian Ocean, the spacecraft was too low for NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) antennas to track it at the scheduled time of the burn.
The Contour mission operations team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory expected to regain contact at approximately 5:35 a.m. EDT to confirm the burn, but the DSN has not acquired a signal.
The mission operations team is working through several backup plans to establish contact with the spacecraft, searching along the predicted trajectories for a successful burn.
Contour, a Discovery-class mission to explore the nucleus of comets, was built and managed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., for NASA.
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JPL Navigators Critical For Four Year Comet Tour Across Deep Space
Pasadena - Jul 11, 2002
NASA's Comet Nucleus Tour launched July 3, will rely on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's navigation team to guide the craft on its tricky journey toward two comets to find out how the icy, rocky bodies evolve as they approach the Sun.
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