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Deep Space Tests Out Okay
JPL - December 17, 1998 - Deep Space 1 is currently operating its ion engine after a series of successful technology tests involving its two advanced science instruments and ion propulsion system.

Following the activation of the Plasma Experiment for Planetary Exploration (PEPE) on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 8-9, the instrument demonstrated the ability to measure both electrons and ions in the solar wind. PEPE combines several functions into a unit of lower mass and lower power consumption than on traditional science missions.

On Thursday, December 10, benefiting from the success of PEPE's activation, a more streamlined activation procedure was successfully tested, assuring that PEPE can be turned on easily in the future. PEPE was developed by the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

On Friday, December 11, Deep Space 1 collected data on another of its 12 advanced technologies, the Miniature Integrated Camera Spectrometer (MICAS).

This device is designed both to collect black-and-white pictures and to make measurements in the infrared and ultraviolet.

Data will aid in characterizing the device and in refining software to allow Deep Space 1's autonomous navigation system to use the pictures.

MICAS was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, AZ; SSG Inc., Waltham, MA; the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Tucson, AZ; Boston University Center of Space Physics, Boston, MA; Rockwell International Science Center, Thousand Oaks, CA; and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Also on Friday, the ion propulsion system was turned back on after having been commanded off the previous Tuesday, December 8. The team then attempted to find the highest throttle level at which the spacecraft could operate. At level 85, it became necessary for the spacecraft's batteries to supplement solar array power.

When those batteries reached a predefined level, onboard fault protection software turned off the ion propulsion system later in the day Friday and placed the spacecraft in a safe state. Through this activity, the team has determined that the highest throttle level that can currently be supported is approximately 83; this will decrease as the spacecraft recedes from the Sun.

The operations team commanded the thruster back on at a lower level Monday, December 14. The ion propulsion system will be turned off at the end of this week and again next week for other activities.

Deep Space 1 is now more than 22 times as far away from Earth as the Moon is.

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