Dawn is back up and running!

The Dawn spacecraft suspended science activities on June 30.  The computer had noticed that the spacecraft’s orientation didn’t match with what had been commanded, so it reset itself into safe mode and awaited commands.  The problem turned out to be much more significant than what struck New Horizons: there’s a mechanical problem with the gimbal on engine #1.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that Dawn has three ion engines.  So after conducting some tests on the gimbaling mechanism for engine #2, engineers have switched Dawn over to that engine, and it is now working its way into the third orbit, the High Altitude Mapping Orbit, which despite the name is actually lower than the current orbit.  It will take five weeks for the ion drive to bring the spacecraft down to an average altitude of 1,500 km (900 miles) above Ceres, so around about Labor Day we can start watching for new imagery at better resolution than any yet!


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