Kennedy News

George H. Diller
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Oct. 7, 2004
Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report
Mission: DART
Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL
Launch Pad: Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Launch Date: No Earlier Than Oct. 26, 2004
Launch Window: 11:13:32 a.m. - 11:20:32 a.m. PDT (2:13:32 p.m. - 2:20:32 p.m. EDT)

The DART satellite and Pegasus XL launch vehicle were successfully re-mated on Oct. 1 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Verification testing is now under way to validate the alternate method of monitoring the upper stage hydrazine fuel tank pressure.

Final testing of the Advanced Video Guidance Sensor hardware, the primary technology demonstration experiment, has been successfully completed. The final Pegasus/DART launch and mission simulation is under way today.

The DART Mission Readiness Review will occur on Oct. 15 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. At the conclusion of a successful review, the Oct. 26 launch date should become firm.

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-Sight 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.

Mission: Swift
Launch Vehicle: Delta II
Launch Pad: 17-A Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Launch Date: No Earlier Than Nov. 8, 2004
Launch Window: 12:04 p.m. - 1:04 p.m. EST

The launch of Swift is scheduled to occur on Monday, Nov. 8 from Pad 17-A on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch time is 12:04 p.m. EST at the opening of a one-hour launch window. The stacking of the Boeing Delta II launch vehicle on Pad 17-A continues this week.

Swift is in the clean room at NASA's Hangar AE on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Two Observatory Operational Simulations are underway this week. The final installation of the flight blankets to provide thermal stability during the mission was completed on Oct. 3. A "first motion" solar array deployment test is scheduled to occur on Oct. 11 and will be followed by an illumination test.

The stacking of the Boeing Delta II first stage on Pad 17-A occurred Oct. 1, followed by attachment of the three strap-on solid rocket boosters on Oct. 2. The payload fairing was lifted into the clean room of the mobile service tower on Oct. 4. The second stage will be hoisted into position atop the first stage once the wind at the launch pad falls within allowable limits.

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.

Status reports are available at:


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