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Dawn glitch to delay spacecraft's arrival at Ceres
Posted: Sat, Sep 20, 2014, 4:53 PM ET (2053 GMT)
Dawn spacecraft illustration (UCLA/W. Hartman) A problem with the ion propulsion system on NASA's Dawn spacecraft placed the spacecraft in safe mode for several days and will result in the spacecraft arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres a month later than planned. Dawn went into safe mode on September 11, shutting down its ion engine. Engineers determined that a high-energy particle likely disabled an electronic component in the propulsion system, similar to what happened to the spacecraft three years ago. The spacecraft resumed normal operations on September 15 under a revised thrust plan. That revised plan means Dawn will arrive at Ceres in April of next year, about a month later than originally planned. Dawn launched in 2007 on a mission to study the two largest bodies in the main asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres. Dawn went into orbit around Vesta in 2011 and left a little more than a year later, using its ion engine to travel to Ceres.
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