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In-Flight Operation of the Dawn Ion Propulsion System: Status at One Year from the Vesta RendezvousThe Dawn mission, part of NASA's Discovery Program, has as its goal the scientific exploration of the two most massive main-belt asteroids, Vesta and Ceres. The Dawn spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on September 27, 2007 on a Delta-II 7925H-9.5 (Delta-II Heavy) rocket that placed the 1218 kg spacecraft into an Earth-escape trajectory. On-board the spacecraft is an ion propulsion system (IPS) developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory which will provide most of the delta V needed for heliocentric transfer to Vesta, orbit capture at Vesta, transfer among Vesta science orbits, departure and escape from Vesta, heliocentric transfer to Ceres, orbit capture at Ceres, and transfer among Ceres science orbits. The Dawn ion thruster [I thought we only called it a thruster. Both terms are used in the paper, but I think a replacement of every occurrence of "engine" with "thruster" would be clearer.] design is based on the design validated on NASA's Deep Space 1 (DS1) mission. However, because of the very substantial (11 km/s) delta V requirements for this mission Dawn requires two engines to complete its mission objectives. The power processor units (PPU), digital control and interface units (DCIU) slice boards and the xenon control assembly (XCA) are derivatives of the components used on DS1. The DCIUs and thrust gimbal assemblies (TGA) were developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The spacecraft was provided by Orbital Sciences Corporation, Sterling, Virginia, and the mission is managed by and operated from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dawn partnered with Germany, Italy and Los Alamos National Laboratory for the science instruments. The mission is led by the principal investigator, Dr. Christopher Russell, from the University of California, Los Angeles. The first 80 days after launch were dedicated to the initial checkout of the spacecraft followed by cruise to Mars. Cruise thrusting leading to a Mars gravity assist began on December 17, 2007 and was successfully concluded as planned on October 31, 2008. During this time period the Dawn IPS was operated mostly at full power for approximately 6500 hours, consumed 71.7 kg of xenon and delivered approximately 1.8 km/s of delta V to the spacecraft. The thrusting to Mars was followed by a coasting period of approximately 3.5 months that included a Mars flyby in February of 2009. The Mars flyby provided a gravity assist (MGA) for a plane change and approximately 1 km/s of heliocentric energy increase and is the only part of the mission following launch in which a needed velocity change is not accomplished by the IPS. During the coast period IPS was operated for a trajectory correction maneuver and for engineering tests but was not operated for primary propulsion. Closest approach to Mars occurred as planned on February 17, 2009 and was followed by another coasting period of just under 4 months in duration. During this last coasting phase IPS was operated only for routine maintenance activities and for system engineering tests. Deterministic thrusting for heliocentric transfer to Vesta resumed on June 8, 2009. Since resumption of cruise to Vesta IPS has been operated at throttled power levels, most of the time at full power, and with a duty cycle of approximately 93%, leading to an arrival at Vesta in July of 2011 and arrival at Ceres in February 2015. This paper provides an overview of Dawn's mission objectives and the results of Dawn IPS mission operations through one year from the spacecraft's rendezvous with Vesta.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
External Source(s)
Garner, Charles E. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Rayman, Marc D. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
May 26, 2015
Publication Date
July 25, 2010
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion and Power
Space Communications, Spacecraft Communications, Command and Tracking
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Meeting Information
AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference(Nashville, TN)
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