Search for CONTOUR Continues
16 Aug 2002
(Source: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)
Mission operators continue to listen for a signal from CONTOUR.
Using its 34-meter antennas, NASA's Deep Space Network stations are scanning the spacecraft's expected path beyond Earth's orbit, attempting to pick up radio signals from CONTOUR's transmitters. The CONTOUR team is also awaiting feedback from several NASA-sponsored and other optical and radar sites that have been searching the skies for signs of the spacecraft.
CONTOUR's STAR 30 solid-propellant rocket motor was programmed to ignite at 4:49 a.m. EDT on Aug 15, boosting the spacecraft out of an Earth parking orbit and onto a trajectory to encounter two comets over the next four years. The spacecraft was too low for DSN antennas to track it during the burn - about 140 miles (225 kilometers) above the Indian Ocean - and the CONTOUR mission operations team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory expected to regain contact about 45 minutes later to confirm the burn. No signal was received, and the team has been working through plans to find the craft along the predicted trajectories for a successful burn.
CONTOUR's onboard computer was carrying a command that, starting at 6 a.m. EDT today, would have turned the spacecraft and pointed another of its four antennas toward Earth. So far, however, no signal has been received.
CONTOUR, a Discovery-class mission to explore the nucleus of comets, was built and managed by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., for NASA. Additional information about CONTOUR is available on the Internet at: