Douglas Isbell Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1753


September 19, 1995

Diane Ainsworth Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA (Phone: 818/354-5011) RELEASE: 95-155 NASA CHARTS COURSE FOR FIRST NEW MILLENNIUM FLIGHT NASA officials have confirmed the basic mission profile and technology plan for the first launch in the agency's New Millennium program, and selected the mission's primary industrial partner and its team leader. The first of three deep space missions to be flown by the year 2000 under the New Millennium technology validation effort will feature a 1998 launch of a small spacecraft destined for a flyby of an asteroid and a comet. Spectrum Astro, Inc., of Gilbert, AZ, has been selected as the primary industrial partner on the first mission team, which will be led by David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA. Lehman most recently served as technical manager of the attitude and information management subsystem on the Mars Pathfinder, a NASA Discovery program mission due for launch in December 1996. Final decisions on the details of the first New Millennium mission -- such as its exact launch date and the target asteroid and comet to be visited -- will be made following several weeks of intense systems design work by the mission team, due to begin in early October. The proposed 220-pound spacecraft will demonstrate a variety of advanced technologies that help enable many

ambitious deep space and Earth-orbiting missions envisioned by NASA for flight early in the next century. The spacecraft also will be the first to rely on solar electric propulsion for its main source of thrust, rather than conventional solid or liquid propellant-based systems. Technologies likely to be demonstrated on this first flight include a miniaturized deep space antenna and related telecommunications equipment, advanced solar arrays and lithium ion spacecraft batteries, and low-mass spacecraft structures. The spacecraft's science instrument payload will include a miniaturized imaging spectrometer that will make chemical maps of the target asteroid and comet. New mission operations techniques will give the spacecraft independent decision-making abilities that are unprecedented for such a deep space mission. -more-2"These technologies represent significant leaps over the existing state of the art for deep space vehicles," said Kane Casani, New Millennium program manager at the JPL. "We'll have a very capable yet very advanced flight computer as well as a prototype multispectral science instrument that is at most 1/10th of the mass of similar instruments on the Voyager probes. The autonomous navigation capabilities will deliver performance equivalent to sailing a ship across the Atlantic Ocean hands-free while arriving at the port in Europe a few steps away from the dock." The propulsion-related technology for the mission is currently under development by two separate programs run by NASA and the U.S. Air Force Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. The first New Millennium spacecraft will serve as the host for this hardware. Thrust during the mission will be generated by one 11.8-inch diameter "ion-drive" thruster, which expels a high-velocity beam of Xenon gas from the spacecraft that has been ionized using the electricity produced by the solar arrays. Ion-drive systems are much more efficient than chemical propulsion systems, which typically require two or more chemical propellants for fuel and oxidizer. Smaller

versions of such thrusters have been used occasionally on Earth-orbiting satellites for adjusting spacecraft attitude or executing small orbit changes, but no space vehicle has yet employed solar electric propulsion as its primary means of thrust. "This idea has been around for decades, and the dramatic benefits of ion propulsion for a wide variety of deep space missions are well known, but NASA science mission managers have never felt that the technology was mature enough to be used for the first time on their mission," Casani said. "With important contributions from other technology development programs, New Millennium will take on this challenge and bring full-scale solar electric propulsion out of the lab and into space once and for all." Depending on the launch date, the primary asteroid and comet flyby mission will last 12 to 18 months. "Spacecraft health permitting, an extended mission of one to two years should be possible, allowing the spacecraft to pass by one or more additional small bodies in the solar system," said Rex Ridenoure, New Millennium program architect at JPL. The New Millennium program is managed by JPL for NASA's Offices of Space Science, Office of Space Access and Technology and Office of Mission to Planet Earth, Washington, DC. -endNASA press releases and other information are available automatically by sending an Internet electronic mail message to In the body of the message (not the subject line) users should type the words "subscribe pressrelease" (no quotes). The system will reply with a confirmation via E-mail of each subscription. A second automatic message will include additional information on the service. Questions should be directed to (202) 358-4043.