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DART bumped into target satellite during test
Posted: Sat, Apr 23, 2005, 11:15 AM ET (1515 GMT)
DART spacecraft illustration (OSC) As NASA announced the formation of a mishap investigation board to examine the partial failure of the DART spacecraft a week ago, agency officials confirmed that DART apparently bumped into its target spacecraft during the test. DART (Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology) was launched on a Pegasus booster April 15 to carry out a 24-hour mission to rendezvous with an inactive satellite, MUBLCOM, and come within five meters of the spacecraft. The following day NASA officials said the mission had ended early with the spacecraft still nearly 100 meters away because the spacecraft had run low on propellant. During a quarterly earnings conference call Thursday, J.R. Thompson, president of Orbital Sciences Corporation, DART's prime contractor, said it appeared that DART bumped into MUBLCOM during the test. NASA officials confirmed late Friday that the two spacecraft apparently did make contact, enough to slightly alter MUBLCOM's orbit but not hard enough to damage either spacecraft. NASA announced Friday the formation of a mishap investigation board that will be charged with determining what went wrong with the mission, which was designed to test technologies to permit the automated rendezvous of spacecraft without any human intervention. The panel will be chaired by Scott Croomes of NASA Marshall, with representatives from NASA, DARPA, and Air Force Space Command.
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