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Sat, Apr 16, 2005

On-Orbit Anomaly Ends DART Mission Early

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.

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. 

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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