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NASA Spacecraft Readies For Earth And Comet Flyby

May 31, 2010

NASA’s Deep Impact/Epoxi spacecraft has successfully performed a trajectory correction maneuver to refine its orbit prior to an upcoming Earth flyby June 27. The maneuver, along with the Earth flyby, will place the spacecraft on a trajectory to fly past comet Hartley 2 on Nov. 4.

The maneuver began at 2 p.m. EST (11 a.m. PST) today, when the spacecraft fired its engines for 11.3 seconds. While the burn changed the spacecraft’s velocity by only 0.1 meters per second (less than a quarter mile per hour), that was all the mission’s navigators requested to set the stage for an Earth gravity assist on June 27.

“While it was a small burn, it was a big step in getting us to Hartley 2,” said Tim Larson, project manager of NASA’s Epoxi mission. “Humanity’s fifth close-up view of a comet is less than five months away.”

Epoxi is an extended mission of the Deep Impact spacecraft. Its name is derived from its two tasked science investigations — the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI) and the Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterization (EPOCh).

The University of Maryland is the Principal Investigator institution. JPL manages Epoxi for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The spacecraft was built for NASA by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.

Image Caption: Artist’s concept of Epoxi spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL

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