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Ball Aerospace Instruments Capture Images of Deep Impact's Independence Day Fireworks
July 4, 2005
BOULDER, Colo. – Deep Impact, the spacecraft pair designed and built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., accomplished its remarkable goal of colliding with deep-space comet Tempel 1 and excavating material from the nucleus of the comet. Together, the Flyby spacecraft and the Impactor spacecraft feature some of the most sophisticated technology ever developed for deep space flight, including three advanced instruments for imaging the comet.
Deep Impact employs the Medium Resolution Imager (MRI); a High Resolution Imager (HRI); and an Impactor Targeting Sensor (ITS). The HRI is the primary science instrument for the mission, composed of a telescope with a 30-centimeter (11.8 inch) aperture, an infrared (IR) spectrometer, and a multi-spectral CCD camera.
The Impactor, a battery-powered ‘smart’ probe, separated from its Flyby ‘mothership’ approximately 24-hours prior to encounter. Its optical camera then successfully enabled an autonomous navigation system to target the comet’s nucleus.
Multiple Ball Aerospace-built instruments were also involved in recording the Deep Impact collision. All three of NASA’s Great Observatories – Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra – were tasked for the event. Ball Aerospace played a significant role in all of these observatories. The Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, built by Ball Aerospace and installed in HST in 2002, will perform spectroscopic observations and gather imagery at the time of impact. The Spitzer Space Telescope, observing in the infrared, will look for changes in the chemical composition of the comet’s coma. Ball Aerospace designed the Cryogenic Telescope Assembly (CTA) for Spitzer, which launched in August of 2003. The Chandra X-ray Observatory will look for emission of X-rays during encounter. Ball built the Chandra’s science instrument module and fine aspect camera.
Other Ball-built technologies involved in viewing the collision with the comet include NASA’s Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS). It will observe Tempel 1 during the months of June and July to monitor changes in water production from the comet before and after the impact.
Ball Aerospace is known for its capabilities in designing sophisticated instruments, cameras and spacecraft for space applications. The company has built seven instruments for Hubble, including COSTAR, the corrective optics that fixed the Hubble Space Telescope’s flawed vision. Together with the instruments on Deep Impact, a total of seven Ball telescopes will contribute to the science of the Deep Impact mission.
“Deep Impact’s complexity and degree of difficulty cannot be overstated,” said David L. Taylor, president and CEO of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. “Our company is known for developing technology for the most difficult challenges. The performance of the Deep Impact spacecraft and the combined efforts of the other observatories involved demonstrates the enormous capability of our talented and creative engineers and scientists.”
The encounter with Tempel 1 occurred nearly 83 million miles from Earth and at closing speeds approaching 23,000 miles per hour. After imaging the encounter and sailing through the tail of the departing comet in a protected shield mode, the Flyby spacecraft continues to perform flawlessly.
Ball Aerospace was teamed with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Maryland on the Deep Impact mission. Images generated from Earth and space-based observatories will be analyzed in the coming months and resulting discoveries being released as they become available. Deep Impact is the eighth mission in NASA’s Discovery Program, and the first mission to attempt to impact with a comet nucleus in order to probe beneath its surface.
For more information about the company’s technology and the Deep Impact mission, visit www.ballaerospace.com.
Ball Corporation (NYSE: BLL) is a supplier of metal and plastic packaging products, primarily for the beverage and food industries. The company also owns Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., which develops sensors, spacecraft, systems and components for government and commercial markets. Ball Corporation employs more than 13,200 people and reported 2004 sales of $5.4 billion.
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