In its maiden flight on February 21, Aerojet's Mark VI-D Attitude Control System flawlessly positioned a science experiment 180 miles in space to observe a white dwarf star. The seven-minute experiment was deployed by a NASA sounding rocket launched from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, at 9 p.m. PST.
Aerojet's Mark VI ACS consists of electronics and software that control the precise orientation of the experiment after it separates from the sounding rocket in space. The Mark VI-D is an advanced version of the 20-year-old Mark VI, with enhanced digital components (hence the ``D'' designation).
``The Mark VI-D is a level above all other sounding rocket attitude control systems. It offers NASA and scientists more accurate and stable targeting for space-borne astronomical experiments,'' said Scott Jennings, Aerojet Mark VI-D program manager.
The science experiment, conducted by the Naval Research Laboratory, observed the white dwarf star G191-B2B with a high-resolution spectrometer and camera. Due to the high resolution of the science instruments, a low jitter rate was required for mission success, which could be achieved only with the Mark VI-D's precise control of the onboard cold gas thrusters.
This mission was a re-flight of a Feb. 24, 2000 mission that was terminated by range safety officials before the Mark VI-D could be activated.
The sounding rocket program is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. PRC, a subsidiary of Litton Industries, Inc., leads the Sounding Rocket Operations Contract team.
In May 1999, Aerojet won a $9 million, four-year contract from PRC to provide Mark VI attitude control systems and support services for up to 10 years.
Aerojet, a GenCorp company, is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader principally serving the space electronics, missile and space propulsion, and smart munitions and armaments markets. Aerojet's Web site address is http://www.aerojet.com .