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Dawn′s exploration of Vesta

Authors
Journal
Acta Astronautica
0094-5765
Publisher
Elsevier
Volume
94
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2013.08.003
Keywords
  • Dawn
  • Ion Propulsion
  • Solar Electric Propulsion
  • Asteroid
  • Vesta
  • Operations
Disciplines
  • Astronomy

Abstract

Abstract On 16 July 2011, after completing nearly four years of interplanetary flight, Dawn entered orbit around (4) Vesta, the second most massive body in the main asteroid belt. Dawn used solar electric propulsion to spiral to six different orbits to accomplish its science campaign. Although the transfers to progressively lower orbits presented significant challenges, all were executed smoothly. During its nearly 14 months in orbit, Dawn spiraled down to 210km above the surface and back up before initiating the gradual departure to travel to dwarf planet (1) Ceres for a 2015 rendezvous. Dawn′s exploration of Vesta has shown it to be geologically complex and fascinating, resembling terrestrial planets more than typical asteroids. Among the principal features is a 500-km-diameter impact basin within which is the second tallest mountain known in the solar system. This paper presents Dawn′s operations at Vesta and summarizes the principal findings.

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