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Douglas Isbell

Headquarters, Washington, DC September 19, 1995


(Phone: 202/358-1753)

Diane Ainsworth
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
(Phone: 818/354-5011)

RELEASE: 95-155

NASA CHARTS COURSE FOR FIRST NEW MILLENNIUM FLIGHT

NASA officials have confirmed the basic mission profile


and technology plan for the first launch in the agency's New
Millennium program, and selected the mission's primary
industrial partner and its team leader.

The first of three deep space missions to be flown by


the year 2000 under the New Millennium technology validation
effort will feature a 1998 launch of a small spacecraft
destined for a flyby of an asteroid and a comet.

Spectrum Astro, Inc., of Gilbert, AZ, has been


selected as the primary industrial partner on the first
mission team, which will be led by David Lehman of NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA. Lehman most
recently served as technical manager of the attitude and
information management subsystem on the Mars Pathfinder, a
NASA Discovery program mission due for launch in December
1996.

Final decisions on the details of the first New


Millennium mission -- such as its exact launch date and the
target asteroid and comet to be visited -- will be made
following several weeks of intense systems design work by
the mission team, due to begin in early October.

The proposed 220-pound spacecraft will demonstrate a


variety of advanced technologies that help enable many
ambitious deep space and Earth-orbiting missions envisioned
by NASA for flight early in the next century. The
spacecraft also will be the first to rely on solar electric
propulsion for its main source of thrust, rather than
conventional solid or liquid propellant-based systems.

Technologies likely to be demonstrated on this first


flight include a miniaturized deep space antenna and related
telecommunications equipment, advanced solar arrays and
lithium ion spacecraft batteries, and low-mass spacecraft
structures.
The spacecraft's science instrument payload will include a
miniaturized imaging spectrometer that will make chemical
maps of the target asteroid and comet. New mission
operations techniques will give the spacecraft independent
decision-making abilities that are unprecedented for such a
deep space mission.

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"These technologies represent significant leaps over


the existing state of the art for deep space vehicles," said
Kane Casani, New Millennium program manager at the JPL.
"We'll have a very capable yet very advanced flight computer
as well as a prototype multispectral science instrument
that is at most 1/10th of the mass of similar instruments on
the Voyager probes. The autonomous navigation capabilities
will deliver performance equivalent to sailing a ship across
the Atlantic Ocean hands-free while arriving at the port in
Europe a few steps away from the dock."

The propulsion-related technology for the mission is


currently under development by two separate programs run by
NASA and the U.S. Air Force Ballistic Missile Defense
Organization. The first New Millennium spacecraft will
serve as the host for this hardware.

Thrust during the mission will be generated by one


11.8-inch diameter "ion-drive" thruster, which expels a
high-velocity beam of Xenon gas from the spacecraft that has
been ionized using the electricity produced by the solar
arrays. Ion-drive systems are much more efficient than
chemical propulsion systems, which typically require two or
more chemical propellants for fuel and oxidizer. Smaller
versions of such thrusters have been used occasionally on
Earth-orbiting satellites for adjusting spacecraft attitude
or executing small orbit changes, but no space vehicle has
yet employed solar electric propulsion as its primary means
of thrust.

"This idea has been around for decades, and the


dramatic benefits of ion propulsion for a wide variety of
deep space missions are well known, but NASA science mission
managers have never felt that the technology was mature
enough to be used for the first time on their mission,"
Casani said. "With important contributions from other
technology development programs, New Millennium will take on
this challenge and bring full-scale solar electric
propulsion out of the lab and into space once and for all."

Depending on the launch date, the primary asteroid and


comet flyby mission will last 12 to 18 months. "Spacecraft
health permitting, an extended mission of one to two years
should be possible, allowing the spacecraft to pass by one
or more additional small bodies in the solar system," said
Rex Ridenoure, New Millennium program architect at JPL.

The New Millennium program is managed by JPL for


NASA's Offices of Space Science, Office of Space Access and
Technology and Office of Mission to Planet Earth,
Washington, DC.

-end-

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