[meteorite-list] Dawn Easing into its Final Science Orbit
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2012 17:54:42 -0700 (PDT)
Dawn Easing into its Final Science Orbit
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
June 14, 2012
After successfully completing nearly five months scrutinizing the giant
asteroid Vesta at its lowest orbit altitude, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will
begin its final major science data-gathering phase at Vesta on June 15,
at an average altitude of 420 miles (680 kilometers) above the surface.
Over the past six weeks, Dawn has been gently spiraling up from its
lowest orbit - 130 miles, or 210 kilometers, above the surface - to the
final planned science orbit, known as high-altitude mapping orbit 2.
Observations obtained from this orbit will provide a companion set of
data and images to those obtained during the first high-altitude mapping
orbit phase, completed in October 2011. A key difference will be that
the angle of sunlight hitting Vesta has changed, illuminating more of
its northern region. The principal science observations planned in this
new orbit will be obtained with the framing camera and the visible and
infrared mapping spectrometer.
Following this final science data gathering phase, Dawn will then spend
almost five weeks spiraling out from the giant asteroid to the point at
which Vesta will lose its gravitational hold on the spacecraft. That
departure day is expected to be around Aug. 26. Dawn will turn to view
Vesta as it leaves and acquire more data. Then, Dawn will set its sights
on the dwarf planet Ceres, and begin a two-and-a-half year journey to
investigate the largest body in the main asteroid belt. Dawn will enter
orbit around Ceres in 2015.
Dawn's mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate
in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program,
managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. UCLA
is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp.
in Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace
Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian
Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are
international partners on the mission team. The California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.
To view the new images and for more information about Dawn, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/dawn and http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov .
Priscilla Vega/Jia-Rui Cook 818-354-1357/4-0850
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Priscilla.r.vega at jpl.nasa.gov / jccook at jpl.nasa.gov
Received on Thu 14 Jun 2012 08:54:42 PM PDT