PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE JET PROPULSION LABORATORY CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
MAGELLAN STATUS REPORT
October 1, 1994
The Magellan spacecraft is performing acceptably with less than two weeks left in its mission. There has been some further minor degradation of the solar panels, but that is offset by decreasing changes from sunlight to shade and the resulting wide variations in temperature.
The termination phase of the mission will begin Tuesday, October 11, on orbit number 15,018. The spacecraft's communication will be switched from the high-gain antenna to the medium-gain antenna, and all control from that point will be in real-time commands.
Magellan will perform orbit-trim maneuvers on each of the next four orbits to quickly lower the periapsis, the closest point to the planet, to 150 kilometers (93 miles). That will enable the gathering of aerodynamic data in the sparsely explored regions of the upper atmosphere. An optional fifth trim maneuver may be performed if needed to lower periapsis to the desired altitude.
It is predicted that communication with the spacecraft will be lost within a few orbits due to depletion of the batteries or attitude control propellant. Magellan may go silent by the evening of October 11, perhaps on or before orbit number 15,025, or it may last a day or two.
As with satellites entering Earth's atmosphere, it is difficult to predict exactly when Magellan will enter Venus's atmosphere. But the spacecraft will be traveling more than 7 kilometers per second (15,658 miles per hour) and will disintegrate from a rapid combination of dynamic force and heat. It is possible that a few pieces, such as the inner hubs of the reaction wheels, may reach the surface as burned cinders lost among the vast lava flows which Magellan revealed.
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