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Michael Braukus                                                                                                        October 12, 2004
NASA Headquarters
(Phone: 2026/358-1979)

George H. Diller
Kennedy Space Center
(Phone: 321/867-2468)

Kim Newton
Marshall Space Flight Center
(Phone: 256/544-0034)

Barry Beneski
Orbital Sciences Corporation
(Phone: 703/406-5528)

KSC Release: 78-04

PEGASUS/DART Photo Opportunity Oct. 15 at Vandenberg AFB

NASA's Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART), to be launched Oct. 26, will be featured in a news media opportunity on Friday, Oct. 15 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. DART will be seen mated to the Orbital Sciences Pegasus rocket during activities to encapsulate the satellite into the launch vehicle fairing.

DART is an advanced flight demonstrator that will autonomously locate and maneuver near an orbiting satellite. The DART spacecraft weights 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 headquartered in Dulles, Va., 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.

For this event in Hangar 1555, standard clean room protocol will be observed. Those planning to attend are requested to wear long pants. Shorts or tank tops are not permitted. Closed-toe shoes are also required. Clean room attire (bunny suits) will be furnished. Quality control personnel may request cleaning of photographic equipment with alcohol wipes that will be provided. No suede, leather or vinyl attire or accessories are permitted. Please do not wear perfume, cologne or makeup. No graphite pencils, food, tobacco, lighters, matches or pocket knives will be permitted inside the clean room. Because of the solid propellant of the Pegasus launch vehicle, no cellular telephones, pagers, wireless microphones or two-way radios can be allowed inside Hangar 1555.

Electronic flash photography is permitted. The lighting in the facility with the Pegasus rocket is high pressure sodium (orange). Within the clean enclosure that surrounds the spacecraft on the nose of the Pegasus, the lighting is standard fluorescent.

Spokespeople from NASA and Orbital Sciences will be available to discuss the DART spacecraft and Pegasus launch vehicle and to answer questions.

On Friday, Oct. 15, media will depart at 8:30 a.m. from the Vandenberg Air Force Base main gate for Hangar 1555 escorted by USAF 30th Space Wing Public Affairs.

DART is scheduled for launch aboard the Pegasus XL rocket on Oct. 26 at the opening of a 7-minute launch window that extends from 11:13:32 a.m. - 11:20:32 a.m. EDT. Pegasus deployment will occur over the Pacific Ocean approximately 100 miles west-northwest of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., from the Orbital Sciences L-1011 carrier aircraft.

The DART project is managed for NASA by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The DART spacecraft and Pegasus XL rocket are built by Orbital Sciences Corporation. Spacecraft/launch vehicle integration and launch countdown management are the responsibility of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


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