Stardust update: trajectory correction successful
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla
01-02-2011 22:03 CST
Now that Stardust has images of its target comet to work with, the mission was able to figure out their relative positions more precisely, and they've gone ahead with an important rocket firing that shifts the spacecraft's aimpoint past the comet closer to the number that they want. In an update posted to the JPL website late today, they said that the 130-second maneuver began at 21:00 January 31 UTC, changed the spacecraft's speed by 2.6 meters per second, and consumed about 300 grams of the precious remaining fuel. The burn shifted the predicted flyby distance by 3,000 kilometers (they plan to pass it at an altitude of about 200 kilometers). The time of closest approach is predicted to be 8:56 p.m. PST on February 14 or 04:56 UTC on February 15; the time could still shift by a minute or two as the final burns are performed. They still have 13.5 million kilometers to go until they get there.