Deep Space 1

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Deep Space 1 (DS1) of the NASA New Millennium Program is a spacecraft dedicated to testing its payload of advanced, high risk technologies. Launched on 24 October 1998, three of twelve technologies on board had to work within a few minutes of separation from the carrier rocket for the mission to continue. The Deep Space mission carried out a flyby of asteroid 9969 Braille which was selected as the mission's science target. Its mission was extended twice to include an encounter with comet Borrelly and further engineering testing. Problems during its initial stages and with its star tracker led to repeated changes in mission configuration. While the flyby of the asteroid was a partial success, the encounter with the comet retrieved valuable information.

The Deep Space series was continued by the Deep Space 2 probes, which were launched in January 1999 on Mars Polar Lander and were intended to strike the surface of Mars.




The Autonav system, developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, takes images of known bright asteroids. The asteroids in the inner Solar System move in relation to other bodies at a noticeable, predictable speed. Thus a spacecraft can determine its relative position by tracking such asteroids across the star background, which appears fixed over such timescales. Two or more asteroids let the spacecraft triangulate its position; two or more positions in time let the spacecraft determine its trajectory. Existing spacecraft are tracked by their interactions with the transmitters of the Deep Space Network (DSN), in effect an inverse GPS. However, DSN tracking requires many skilled operators, and the DSN is overburdened by its use as a communications network. The use of Autonav reduces mission cost and DSN demands.

The Autonav system can also be used in reverse, tracking the position of bodies relative to the spacecraft. This is used to acquire targets for the scientific instruments. The spacecraft is programmed with the target's coarse location. After initial acquisition, Autonav keeps the subject in frame, even commandeering the spacecraft's attitude control. The next spacecraft to use Autonav was Deep Impact.

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