Team attempts to restore communications with Deep Impact spacecraft

Sep 11, 2013
Artist's concept of NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ground controllers have been unable to communicate with NASA's long-lived Deep Impact spacecraft. Last communication with the spacecraft was on Aug. 8, 2013. Deep Impact mission controllers will continue to uplink commands in an attempt to reestablish communications with the spacecraft.

Mission controllers postulate that there was an anomaly generated by the spacecraft's software which left the vehicle's computers in a condition where they are continuously rebooting themselves. If this is the case, the computers would not continue to command the vehicle's thrusters to fire and hold attitude. Lack of attitude hold makes attempts to reestablish communications more difficult because the orientation of the spacecraft's antennas is unknown. It also brings into question the vehicle's electrical power status, as the spacecraft derives its power from a that is fixed, with its cells pointing in one direction.

Deep Impact is history's most traveled deep-space comet hunter. It successfully completed its original mission and a subsequent extended mission.

Launched in January 2005, the spacecraft traveled about 268 million miles (431 million kilometers) to the vicinity of comet Tempel 1. On July 3, 2005, the spacecraft deployed an impactor, which was essentially "run over" by the nucleus of Tempel 1 on July 4. Sixteen days after the , the Deep Impact team placed the spacecraft on a trajectory to fly past Earth in late December 2007. The extended mission of the Deep Impact spacecraft culminated in the successful flyby of comet Hartley 2 on Nov. 4, 2010. In January of 2012, the spacecraft performed, from a distance, an imaging campaign of comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd), and in 2013, an imaging campaign of comet ISON.

To date, Deep Impact has traveled about 4.7 billion miles (7.58 billion kilometers) in space.

Explore further: Total lunar eclipse before dawn on April 4th

More information: solarsystem.nasa.gov/deepimpact

Related Stories

Deep Impact spacecraft completes rocket burn

Oct 05, 2012

(Phys.org)—NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft completed a firing of its onboard rocket motors earlier today. The maneuver began at 1 p.m. PDT (4 p.m. EDT), lasted 71 seconds, and changed its velocity by 4.5 ...

NASA prepares for EPOXI mission comet flyby

Oct 28, 2010

In one of its final mission trajectory correction maneuvers, the EPOXI mission spacecraft has refined its orbit, preparing it for the flyby of comet Hartley 2 on Nov. 4. The time of closest approach to the ...

NASA spacecraft on final approach toward comet

Nov 02, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The EPOXI mission spacecraft has refined its path toward a Nov. 4 flyby of comet Hartley 2, successfully performing its final maneuver today at 8 a.m. PDT (11 a.m. EDT). The spacecraft burned ...

NASA spacecraft burns for another comet flyby

Nov 23, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Eighty-six days out from its appointment with a comet, NASA's Stardust spacecraft fired its thrusters to help refine its flight path. The Stardust-NExT mission will fly past comet Tempel 1 ...

NASA's EPOXI mission sets up for comet flyby

Sep 30, 2010

Earlier yesterday, navigators and mission controllers for NASA's EPOXI mission watched their computer screens as 23.6 million kilometers (14.7 million miles) away, their spacecraft successfully performed its ...

Recommended for you

Total lunar eclipse before dawn on April 4th

18 hours ago

An unusually brief total eclipse of the Moon will be visible before dawn this Saturday, April 4th, from western North America. The eclipse happens on Saturday evening for Australia and East Asia.

Cassini: Return to Rhea

Mar 30, 2015

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015.

Comet dust—planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'

Mar 30, 2015

A team of scientists has a new explanation for the planet Mercury's dark, barely reflective surface. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers suggest that a steady dusting of carbon from p ...

It's 'full spin ahead' for NASA soil moisture mapper

Mar 30, 2015

The 20-foot (6-meter) "golden lasso" reflector antenna atop NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory is now ready to wrangle up high-resolution global soil moisture data, following the successful ...

What drives the solar cycle?

Mar 30, 2015

You can be thankful that we bask in the glow of a relatively placid star. Currently about halfway along its 10 billion year career on the Main Sequence, our sun fuses hydrogen into helium in a battle against ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.