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April 19, 1991
Frank O'Donnell Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (Phone: 818/354-5011) RELEASE: 91-59 GALILEO ANTENNA DEPLOYMENT STUDIED BY NASA Intensive analysis of the problem that prevented deployment of the Galileo spacecraft's high-gain antenna is continuing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. A "tiger team" of specialists from a variety of engineering disciplines -- including industry representatives -- has been assembled to study the problem and how to correct it. Galileo Project officials say they expect to carry out considerably more analysis and ground tests before determining a date to make another deployment effort. The deployment difficulty poses no immediate problems for the spacecraft, which otherwise is functioning properly. The problem arose Thursday, April 11, 1991, when commands to unfurl the umbrella-like antenna were issued by Galileo's computers. The deployment action -- very similar to opening a conventional umbrella -- was expected to be concluded in less than 3 minutes. Data from Galileo, however, indicate that the antenna unfurled partially but did not completely unfold. One side of the antenna appears to be deployed more fully than the other side, suggesting that some restriction may be
affecting a portion of the antenna's movement. -more Data that the JPL team has been studying include readings from the spacecraft's sun sensor and from its spin detectors, which offer engineers information on the current state of the antenna. In addition, data from Galileo's power system provide details on how the deployment attempt proceeded and possible clues on the nature of the restriction. Engineers say that continued analysis of the data -- and tests of identical antenna equipment on the ground -- are important to avoid any action that could damage onboard equipment. The 16-foot-diameter, high-gain antenna -- a modified version of the design used in NASA's Earth-orbiting Tracking & Data Relay Satellites -- has a surface made of gold-plated molybdenum wire woven into a mesh. The mesh is stretched across 18 graphite-epoxy ribs and connected with quartz cords. The antenna has been stowed behind a sun shield since Galileo's launch in October 1989 to avoid heat damage while the spacecraft flew closer to the sun than the orbit of Earth. The antenna deployment mechanism is driven by a set of redundant motors which turn a worm gear. This gear pushes a nut connected to levers which spread the antenna's ribs, much as an umbrella is opened. Unfurling of the antenna will enable Galileo to send scientific data to Earth at much higher rates over greater distances than it can with the two low-gain antennas it has used since launch. Project officials say Galileo will still conduct its planned flyby of the asteroid Gaspra on October 29 even if the antenna is partially deployed. In that event, pictures and other data would be stored on the spacecraft's onboard tape recorder and relayed to the ground when Galileo approaches for its flyby of Earth in December 1992.
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