Spacecraft Set for Earth and Comet Flybys

NASA says its Deep Impact/Epoxi spacecraft successfully performed a trajectory maneuver to refine its orbit prior to an upcoming Earth flyby.

The maneuver will place the spacecraft on a trajectory to fly past Earth June 27 prior to its Nov. 4 flyby of comet Hartley.

The trajectory maneuver, on Friday, involved the spacecraft’s engines being fired for 11.3 seconds, NASA said. While the burn changed the spacecraft’s velocity by less than a quarter-mile per hour, that was all the mission’s navigators requested to set the stage for an Earth gravity assist.

“While it was a small burn, it was a big step in getting us to Hartley 2,” said Tim Larson, project manager of NASA’s Epoxi mission. “Humanity’s fifth close-up view of a comet is less than five months away.”

The University of Maryland is the principal investigator for the mission, while NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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