CONTOUR Spacecraft Arrives at KSC for Launch Preparations

Press Release From: Kennedy Space Center
Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2002

The NASA Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) spacecraft arrived at the Kennedy Space Center April 24 and was transported to the Spacecraft Assembly and Encapsulation Facility-2 (SAEF-2) in the KSC Industrial Area today to begin final preparations for launch.

CONTOUR will provide the first detailed look into the heart of a comet - the nucleus. The spacecraft will fly as close as 60 miles (100 kilometers) to at least two comets, taking the sharpest pictures yet of the nucleus while analyzing the gas and dust that surround these rocky, icy building blocks of the solar system. For the first time, COUTOUR will help assess the diversity of comets and unravel the mysteries of how they evolve. The Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., built CONTOUR. They will also be in control of the spacecraft after launch.

Beginning on April 29, the CONTOUR integration and test team will undertake a system performance test to verify that all spacecraft systems are functioning to their design capabilities. The week of May 6, using facilities located at KSC's MILA tracking station, the Deep Space Network (DSN) compatibility test will be performed to verify CONTOUR's ability to communicate with the worldwide system of deep space tracking stations operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

On May 13, a five-day mission simulation will begin, once again using ground station facilities at MILA to connect the spacecraft at KSC with the CONTOUR mission operations control center located at the Applied Physics Laboratory. The mission operations team will follow a compressed timeline simulating the flight of CONTOUR, remotely commanding all of the spacecraft's systems and instruments.

On May 20, mechanical prelaunch preparations will begin, followed by installation of the spacecraft's solid rocket motor, attachment of the eight solar panels, and performance of a solar array lighting test. The spacecraft will then be placed on a spin-table for spin balance measurements. CONTOUR can then be loaded with its hydrazine fuel. A weight and center of gravity determination will be done and a final spin balance test will be performed.

Finally at SAEF-2, the CONTOUR spacecraft will be mated with a solid propellant upper stage that serves as the third stage of the Delta booster.

The Boeing Delta II launch vehicle is at Cape Canaveral undergoing pre-erection check out. Buildup of the launch vehicle on Pad A at Space Launch Complex 17 is scheduled to begin on May 28.

CONTOUR will be transported to the pad and erected atop the Delta II on June 19. After a spacecraft functional test, there will be the integrated vehicle/spacecraft flight program verification simulated flight. Upon successful completion, the spacecraft will be closed out for launch and the vehicle nose fairing installed around the spacecraft.

CONTOUR is scheduled for launch on July 1, 2002 during a 12-second launch window that extends from 2:56:14 - 2:56:26 a.m. EDT.

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