FLYBY Spacecraft - Comet Tempel I

FLYBY Spacecraft - Comet Tempel I American History Famous Historical Events Aviation & Space Exploration STEM Astronomy

The unmanned “Deep Impact” mission to Tempel 1 (a comet) included a flyby spacecraft and an on-board impactor.

The mission's impactor crashed, spectacularly, into Tempel 1. The purpose of the impact was to study the make-up of this particular comet and, hopefully, to draw conclusions about other comets.

What about the other significant piece of hardware which was part of the mission:

  • How does NASA define a “flyby spacecraft?”
  • What are some of the more-famous examples of flybys?

NASA answers those questions for us:

Flyby spacecraft conducted the initial reconnaissance phase of solar system exploration. They follow a continuous solar orbit or escape trajectory, never to be captured into a planetary orbit.

They must have the capability of using their instruments to observe targets they pass. Ideally, their optical instruments can pan to compensate for the target's apparent motion in the instruments' field of view.

They must downlink data to Earth, storing data onboard during the periods when their antennas are off Earthpoint. They must be able to survive long periods of interplanetary cruise.

Flyby spacecraft may be designed to be stabilized in 3 axes using thrusters or reaction wheels, or to spin continuously for stabilization.

Our prime example of the flyby spacecraft category is the pair of Voyager spacecraft, which conducted encounters in the Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune systems...

Other examples of flyby spacecraft include:

  • Stardust Cometary Sample Return
  • Mariner 2 to Venus
  • Mariner 4 to Mars
  • Mariner 5 to Venus
  • Mariner 6 and Mariner 7 to Mars
  • Mariner 10 to Mercury
  • Pioneers 10 and 11 to Jupiter and Saturn
  • New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission

This artist’s illustration depicts the Flyby Spacecraft used in the Tempel 1 “Deep Impact” mission. NASA describes it with these words:

The flyby spacecraft for the Deep Impact Mission. The spacecraft carries a solar panel (right), a high-gain antenna (top), a 370-kilogram self-guided impactor (not visible), a debris shield (left), and science instruments for high and medium resolution imaging, infrared spectroscopy, and optical navigation (yellow box and cylinder, lower left).

The spacecraft is about 3.3 meters long, 1.7 meters wide, and 2.3 high, and has a total payload mass of 1020 kilograms.

Click on it for a better view.

Media Credits

Artist’s illustration by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp; online, via NASA, JPL, University of Maryland and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.


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"FLYBY Spacecraft - Comet Tempel I" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Feb 20, 2020.
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