Orbital Sciences’ Dawn Spacecraft Completes Four-Year Journey to Orbit
[Satellite TODAY 07-21-11] Orbital Sciences’ Dawn interplanetary spacecraft has successfully completed its rendezvous and achieved orbit around the solar system’s second most massive asteroid, Vesta, the company announced July 20.
Orbital designed and built the Dawn spacecraft for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and successfully placed the spacecraft in orbit on July 15. As its mission progresses in the next year, Dawn is scheduled to image Vesta’s surface and carry out other scientific surveys. Dawn also aims to map Vesta’s gravity field and will continue to return science data about the asteroid through July 2012, when it will depart Vesta to journey farther out in the asteroid belt.
“The Dawn mission will achieve a ‘first’ in space exploration history when it thrusts out of Vesta’s orbit and continues on its journey to rendezvous in 2015 with Ceres, the solar system’s largest asteroid. This is made possible by the unique onboard ion propulsion system developed by JPL, which Orbital incorporated into its spacecraft design,” Orbital said in a company statement.