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Deep Impact: Integration Briefing
Tiffany Nail:
And thanks to Mr. Kennedy for introducing today's show. Hi, I'm your host, Tiffany Nail, launch services specialist for NASA. We're glad you've joined us for today's webcast highlighting Deep Impact -- NASA's exciting mission to a comet.

We're coming to you live from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Just a short distance away at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Boeing Delta II launch vehicle stands ready to send Deep Impact on its journey to Comet Tempel 1. Why is NASA putting a spacecraft on a collision course with a comet? Stay tuned -- you're about to find out.

This promises to be an amazing mission, and now it's time to go behind the scenes! We have an exciting show lined up for you today. Two of the mission's key players will explain the delicate choreography it takes to join the spacecraft with the launch vehicle. After a briefing from the Delta weather officer, NASA launch manager Omar Baez will stop by to brief us on how the spacecraft and launch vehicle were prepared for the mission. Finally, Dr. Lucy McFadden, professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland, will take us through the amazing science of Deep Impact and answer your questions submitted ahead of time to our Question Board.

How was the Deep Impact spacecraft installed on the Delta II launch vehicle? Very carefully! Let's hear from two experts who can explain this delicate process. Here are Mike Stelzer, mission integration manager, and Tom Shaw, JPL launch vehicle integration manager.

Mike Stelzer:
My name is Mike Stelzer, I'm with the launch service program, and I'm the Deep Impact mission integration manager. With me today is Tom Shaw from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he's the launch vehicle integration manager for the Deep Impact mission. We're outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center and we're here at the Astrotech facility. In the control room behind us is the Deep Impact mission, and we're just a few short days away from bringing the spacecraft and the launch vehicle together for the first time. But this journey just didn't start a few weeks ago. This started many years ago with the idea proposed for this mission, and I'll let Tom Shaw talk a little bit about that.

Tom Shaw:
Over eight years ago, a professor at the University of Maryland proposed to NASA Headquarters a mission in which a mass would be impacted into a comet and whatever splashed out, for us to be able to analyze that and determine for the first time ever what the makeup of the inside of a comet was, rather than just looking at it on the outside. NASA Headquarters assigned the Jet Propulsion Laboratory the responsibility to manage the project. We have teamed with Ball Aerospace, who are our spacecraft system contractors. They have gone through the analysis, design, production of the spacecraft and we're now here at Astrotech with final processing in preparation for going to the launch pad in just a few days. Now, Kennedy Space Center has the same or similar teaming arrangement, and I'll let you tell about that, Mike.

Stelzer:
Well, it's a big challenge getting the right rocket for the right spacecraft. We had to go out and select a vehicle that would get the Deep Impact spacecraft in front of that comet at the right time, at the right point in space. And to do that we selected the Boeing Delta II vehicle, and so, over the past few years, we've been working with the Boeing team, along with the spacecraft team, to get these two -- the launch vehicle and the spacecraft -- integrated together.

Shaw:
Spacecraft is that marvelous machine that we design and build, put together and send on its way, that performs throughout the life of the mission, that sends back the science information or whatever we send it out there to do. In order to get there, we need some help from our partners on the launch vehicle side, and if you'd like to tell us what one of those is...

Stelzer:
OK, the launch vehicle is what gives the spacecraft the initial boost to get it off Earth and on its way. And from a comparison standpoint, our job is...from the launch vehicle is over within an hour, under an hour, so beyond that point, the other six months of the journey is where the spacecraft will do its guidance and its final targeting into the comet.

Shaw:
I do the function that represents the glue between two elements of NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Kennedy Space Center, so that my job, along with my counterpart, is to see to it that those two elements play right together to get this mission on its way.

Stelzer:
Even prior to the design of the spacecraft and the acquisition of the launch service, we start working with JPL to identify the requirements that we're going to need to do on our side with procuring the launch service, and what they're going to need to do to be compatible with the launch service that we can provide. So, easily outside of three to four to five years, as Tom mentioned, this mission started some eight years ago with the concept of impacting a comet, so...

Shaw:
Right. Their standard, if you will, takes us at least three years worth of time before a launch, and that's if there's not any delays or changes along the way. That 36 months or so, we are seriously working with Kennedy Space Center on a regular basis.

Stelzer:
As Tom said, it takes a huge team of people, but there's many systems to make a mission successful. So we have engineers and scientists working in the thermal with acoustics, with loads, ensuring that the EMI -- the Electromagnet inductstics -- and the radio frequency compatibility between the spacecraft and launch vehicle during ground testing and during ascent, so that all those different systems work together, so it's a lot of systems and it's a lot of people all working together. We have most of our crew here at the Kennedy Space Center, but Jet Propulsion Laboratory is out in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and the spacecraft is being built in Boulder. Our launch vehicle is put together in Huntington Beach out in California, and also a team in Decatur, so you're right, it's a challenge bringing all these different organizations together. But what I've found is launch business is fun, so we have a highly motivated crew, very professional, very top notch, so getting together -- whether we need to fly out to California or they come down here, or getting together by telephone to talk through all these different systems, all the different requirements and the issues -- you have some challenges with it, but the professional crew we've got keeps it moving and keeps it fun.

The first part of the journey is making sure that we hit that right target, that right spot in the sky with our launch service. So we have three stages, so getting a good burn in the first stage, the second stage, and we'll spin up a third stage and burn that, and then we'll release the spacecraft. So we're looking to get them with a good start with the launch service. But from that point on, it's really turned over to JPL to guide it on its way to the comet.

Shaw:
And we do have what they call trajectory correction maneuvers along the way, that we check the path that we are flying on, which has seen lots of analysis and lots of design to know what path that we need to take to get from here to the point the comet's going to be a few months hence...that if we are not exactly on the path that we need, we can do a performance burn, actual propulsion burn while the spacecraft, to change its path a little bit and so doing, we keep on refining the path that we take to get to that exact point the third of July to release the impactor spacecraft to let it get in front of the comet and get run over.

Stelzer:
That's it from the payload processing facilities at Astrotech outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center.

Shaw:
And we're looking forward to a successful launch. Back to you.