Spacecraft and Instruments

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The Stardust mission spacecraft is derived from the SpaceProbe deep space bus developed by Lockheed Martin Astronautics.

This lightweight spacecraft incorporates components, virtually all of which are either currently operating in space or are flight qualified and manifested to fly on upcoming missions.

There are three dedicated science instrument payloads on Stardust: the Aerogel Dust Collectors, the Cometary and Interstellar Dust Analyzer and the dust flux monitor. All other science data is obtained from engineering functions that are required for the operation of the spacecraft.

diagram of Stardust spacecraft
Image above: Diagram of Stardust. Image credit: NASA/JPL.
+ Click for labeled diagram

The total weight of the spacecraft including the propellant needed for deep space maneuvers is 380 kilograms. The overall length of the main bus is 1.7 meters, about the size of an average office desk.

The Stardust spacecraft encountered comet Wild 2 early in 2004 and collected samples of cometary dust and volatiles while flying through the coma at a distance of approximately 250 km. on the sunlit side of the nucleus. It will then return the samples to Earth for analysis in 2006.

Related links:
›  Dust collector with aerogel
›  Cosmic and interstellar dust analyzer
›  Sample return capsule
›  Aerogel