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DART Mission Ends Prematurely.
NASA's DART mission, which launched on Friday to test automated docking techniques, was prematurely shut down on Saturday when the spacecraft ran out of fuel. DART launched perfectly on board a Pegasus XL rocket and reached within 90 meters of its target, an inactive satellite already in orbit. It was supposed to make several close approaches to the satellite, but it didn't even have enough propellant for one pass. Mission controllers aborted the mission and fired its deorbit rockets to put it into a decaying orbit where it will burn up. An investigation team has been assigned to figure out what went wrong.
The Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) spacecraft that was successfully launched Friday at 10:25 a.m. PDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., experienced an on orbit anomaly late Friday.
After a successful rendezvous, acquisition of the target spacecraft, and approach to within approximately 300 feet, DART placed itself in the retirement phase before completing all planned proximity operations, ending the mission prematurely.
NASA is convening a mishap investigation board to determine the reason for the DART spacecraft anomaly.
A teleconference with DART project managers is scheduled for 11 a.m. PDT. Media who want to participate must register by calling the DART Newsroom at 805/605-3051.
The DART spacecraft was a flight experiment attempting to establish autonomous rendezvous capabilities for the U.S. space program. While previous rendezvous and docking efforts have been piloted by astronauts, the DART spacecraft completed the rendezvous and acquisition with no human intervention, relying on a variety of sensors and analyses to complete these functions.
For more information about DART on the Internet, visit:
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