Kennedy News

George H. Diller
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Sept. 17, 2004
Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report
Mission: Swift
Launch Vehicle: Delta II
Launch Pad: 17-A Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Launch Date: Oct. 26, 2004
Launch Window: 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. EDT

Launch of the Swift observatory has been rescheduled for Oct. 26 based on the recovery schedule developed after Hurricane Frances. The date is subject to change based on the track of Hurricane Jeanne next week. The one-hour launch window extends from 1-2 p.m. EDT.

Swift is in the clean room at NASA's Hangar AE on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft was removed from its shipping container on Thursday, where it had been reinstalled as a precaution for Hurricane Frances. The spacecraft is covered in a protective double bag and will remain so until the threat from Hurricane Jeanne can be determined. However, some electrical testing can still be performed in the interim.

The stacking of the Boeing Delta II launch vehicle on Pad 17-A has been rescheduled to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 21 with the hoisting of the first stage onto the launch pad. Attachment of the three strap-on solid rocket boosters is scheduled for Sept. 22. The payload fairing will be lifted inside the clean room with the mobile service tower on Sept. 23. The second stage will be hoisted into position atop the first stage on Sept. 25.

The Swift observatory will pinpoint the location of distant yet fleeting explosions that appear to signal the births of black holes. Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known in the universe, emitting more than 100 billion times the energy that the Sun does in a year. Yet they last only from a few milliseconds to a few minutes, never to appear in the same spot again.

The Swift satellite is named for the nimble bird, because it can swiftly turn and point its instruments to catch a "burst on the fly" to study both the burst and its afterglow. This afterglow phenomenon follows the initial gamma-ray flash in most bursts and it can linger in X-ray light, visible light and radio waves for hours or weeks, providing great detail for observations.

Swift is a medium-class Explorer mission managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The observatory was built for NASA by Spectrum Astro, a division of General Dynamics. The Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for Swift's integration with the Boeing Delta II rocket and the countdown management on launch day.

Mission: DART
Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL
Launch Pad: Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Launch Date: Oct. 19, 2004
Launch Window: 2:19:13 p.m. - 2:26:13 p.m. EDT (11:19:13 a.m. - 11:26:13 a.m. PDT)

At Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Pegasus XL launch vehicle completed its buildup and testing is in progress. The first of three Pegasus Flight Simulations was completed Aug. 18 and the second on Sept. 9. The final simulation is scheduled to be conducted on Sept. 30.

The upper stage that will provide maneuvering for the spacecraft during mission operations is scheduled to be mated to DART this week. Installation of the Advanced Video Guidance Sensor (AVGS) hardware, the primary technology demonstration experiment, was completed into the satellite Sept. 15 after arriving at Vandenberg Sept. 12. The optical characterization testing and final performance verification test will be conducted later this month.

DART was designed and built for NASA by Orbital Sciences Corporation as an advanced flight demonstrator to locate and maneuver near an orbiting satellite. The DART spacecraft weighs about 800 pounds and is nearly 6 feet long and 3 feet in diameter. The Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL vehicle will launch DART into a circular polar orbit of approximately 475 miles.

The DART satellite provides a key step in establishing autonomous rendezvous capabilities for the U.S. Space Program. While previous rendezvous and docking efforts have been piloted by astronauts, the unmanned DART satellite will have computers and cameras to perform its rendezvous functions.

Once in orbit, DART will make contact with a target satellite, the Multiple Paths, Beyond-Line-of-Site Communications (MUBLCOM), also built by Orbital Sciences and launched in 1999. DART will then perform several close-proximity operations, such as moving toward and away from the satellite using navigation data provided by on-board sensors. The entire mission will last only 24 hours and will be accomplished without human intervention. The DART flight computer will determine its own path to accomplish its mission objectives.

Status reports are available at:


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