WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS FOR WEEK ENDING 17 OCTOBER 2003:
GRAVITY PROBE B LAUNCH STATUS
- The GP-B spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday, December 6, 2003 at approximately 5:52 PM PST.
- The dewar, which is now 96.3% full of superfluid helium has been brought to a pre-launch temperature of 1.648 Kelvin. In preparation for installation of the solar arrays, final topping off and sealing of the dewar will begin this weekend.
- Testing of the SQUID readouts (Superconducting QUuantum Interference Device) continued this week, and the tests are going well. The SQUIDS are ultra-sensitive magnetometers that can detect a change in the tilt of a spinning gyroscope to an angle of 0.1 milliarc-seconds—that's equivalent to viewing the width of a human hair at 100 miles!
- All nine solid booster rockets are installed.
- Functional testing of the space vehicle and its systems continues without issue.
- All other space vehicle preparation activities at Vandenberg are proceeding on schedule, as planned.
Photos: The top image is a 'doctored' photo of a Boeing Delta II launch vehicle, with the solid rocket boosters installed, standing on the launch pad. This is the way the vehicle will look (with the faring on top) when the Mobile Service Tower (MST) is pulled back for launch. Right now, the MST surrounds the entire launch vehicle, and the solid rocket boosters can only be seen from inside the MST, as shown in the second photo. Click on the thumbnail of either photo to view view it full size.
GROUND & SPACE NETWORK SIMULATION AT STANFORD
This week, in coordination with the Goddard Space Flight Center, the Gravity Probe B team at Stanford successfully completed a simulation of the ground and space network communications systems.